While in Rhodes, Dan and I took a day trip from Rhodes to neighboring Symi Island, as it was ranked as one of the top “things to do” on Rhodes. All, in, it was a good day trip, but I’m not sure its worth the time if you only have a few days on Rhodes. The day trip to Symi is better suited for those spending a full week on Rhodes, IMO. That being said, I did find Symi stunning and would love to return for a few quiet days of relaxation.
WHAT IS SYMI ISLAND?
Symi Island is a tiiiiiny Greek island 25 miles from Rhodes, very close to the Turkish coast. A visit to Symi a popular day trip from Rhodes, due to the islands’ proximity. Despite being neighbors, Symi Island has a totally different feel than Rhodes, being much, much smaller and more Italian than Turkish feeling. While Symi almost exclusively a tourist island now, Symi has historically been known for sponge diving. It’s also well known for its tiny Symi shrimp.
HOW TO REACH SYMI ISLAND?
Symi has no airport, so tourists must fly to Rhodes and then take a boat to Symi. Boats from Rhodes to Symi take about 1.5 hours, with many private companies and passenger ferries making the trip multiple times daily. Ferries are less expensive than private companies, but they take slightly longer and run on strict timeframes. Be sure to confirm times – private boats generally must be booked at least a day in advance and the ferries stop running in the late afternoon.
WHAT TO DO ON SYMI
Symi’s most famous sites are Symi town and the Panormitis Monastery, which are on opposite sides of the island. If you are not staying on Symi, the most efficient way to visit both is to take a day trip with an organized tour company. Otherwise, you will need to find transportation between the two areas. If you are staying on Symi for one or more nights, most people suggesting renting transportation to get around the island.
Monastery of Panormitis
One of Symi’s most famous sights, the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Taxiarchis MIhail Panormitis is an impressive monastery located on the South end of Symi, opposite from Symi town. It was the first stop of our day trip to Symi. The Monastery is a pretty spectacular site, particularly as its all alone in the middle of nowhere. The Monastery it self is from an 18th-century Venetian-style building with the highest baroque bell towner in the world. Be sure to go to the front of your boat to get great pictures of the Monastery on arrival (photo above)!
Tourists can enter the Monastery, which remains a working monastery, walk around its open air courtyard, and visit the tiny chapel inside. The little chapel is decorated with elaborate chandeliers and some interesting paintings, including a “fallen angles” mural on the back wall. The little chapel is much older than the rest of the monastery, and a lady guards the door, ensuring females are appropriately dressed to enter the chapel. If your knees and shoulders are not covered, tourists are required to borrower a scarf from the aforementioned lady to cover same while in the chapel. There is also a tradition with a broom in the chapel. It seems to be some sort of offering to the Archangel. Brooms, as well as other Monastery souvenirs, are sold at the little gift shop next to the Monastery if you are interested.
The Monastery is also home to two museums, which we skipped, and a tiny little cafe and gift shop next door (which sells the mentioned brooms). If you are planning to stay longer than a couple of hours, basic rooms are available for rent next to the Monastery and there is what appeared to be a sit down restaurant in the immediate area, which apparently only opened for dinner during our visit (unclear if this is always or a Covid thing). The whole are seemed very self-catering, so plan accordingly.
Swimming on Symi
Our tour next stopped at the gorgeous St. Georges Bay for swimming. I skipped swimming and sat on the top deck drinking a beer, which I was perfectly happy with. I would note that I believe St. Georges Bay is only accessible via boat, and not all tours, even with ManosGoing stop here. Confirm if this is something you are interested in. Those who wanted to swim, swam for about 30 minutes before the boat departed for Symi Town. As you can see, the water was stunningly beautiful.
The final stop of our day tour was in Symi Town, the main and largest town on the island. Symi Town is a crowded gathering of yellow houses that honestly looks more like Italy than Greece. Filled with restaurants and shops, Symi Town is the perfect place to wander for a few hours, possibly grabbing a bite to eat. We took lots of photos and went into a few shops before picking a lunch spot.
WHERE WE ATE ON SYMI
Diners on Symi will have a good choice in Symi Town, which is filled with cute sea-front restaurants. Outside of Symi town, travelers should do their research, as restaurants are few and far between, sometimes with limited hours. While on Symi, we lunched at ad adorable Italian spot right on the water – Vaporetta. It gave me real Italian feels and made me miss Italy terribly (luckily, we went back in September!). For our lunch, we ordered house wine, which was great, a Greek salad, octopus carpaccio, and a fantastic pesto pasta. All of the food was outstanding. Highly recommend Vaporetta on Symi.
For those visiting Symi, I must also note that Symi shrimp are a popular dish found on the island. Symi shrimp are tiiiiiiny shrimp served in many dishes on the island. They were on Vaporetto’s menu as an appetizer. While we skipped the Symi shrimp, we could see them in the water. Definitely something to consider.
In addition to Vaporetto, we grabbed some snacks on the boat, including beers and a caffe freddo. When in Greece! Most boats and ferries between Rhodes and Symi offer some sort of food on board. Our ship offered a variety of beverages and snack foods, such as chips and cookies.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Manosgoing Tours: We did the Symi day tour that was 40 Euro per person, which included transportation and nothing else. There was a cafe/bar on board selling delicious coffee and drinks, as well as small snacks, like pre-packaged drinks and cookies.
While we took a tour with Manosgoing Tours, there are many, many boats that make the trip between Rhodes and Symi daily, including the large passenger ferries, like Blue Star. The only thing is if you take one of the passenger ferries, you are left to your own devices to get around Symi, and I think it can be tough to get over to the Monastery from Symi Town.