17 Things to Do in Symi Greece: A Local’s Guide for 2024

There are plenty of things to do in Symi Island Greece to warrant staying here for a long weekend or even a week. Most tourists simply sail to the island on a day trip from Rhodes. However since the port area gets crowded during the day, spending a night or two here allows you to experience the island at its best.

Things to do in Symi Island Greece in 2024

Things to do in Symi

Symi Island (Σύμη) is a tiny slice of paradise in Greece’s Dodecanese island archipelago. It is actually closer to mainland Turkey than it is to mainland Greece, with Turkey’s southern coast visible on the boat journey across to the island. 

The island has been occupied for thousands of years and has passed through the hands of various different civilisations during that time. Each of these has left its mark on the unique culture, architecture, and gastronomy of Symi. 

In the past, the island has gone by different names: Kariki, Aigli, and Metaponitis being just a few. Today, it is the lovely island of Symi. 

For centuries, an Acropolis stood on the hill about the port, watching over it defensively and keeping an eye on the horizon to look out for anyone approaching the island by sea. In the 15th century, the Knights of Saint John built a castle over the ruins.

The sunbleached remnants of its defensive walls can still be seen and visited today. 

Get lost in the narrow streets and passageways of Symi’s villages 

Things to do in Symi

Symis’ main village (Ano Symi) is the main draw of visiting the island for a lot of people. It has been built amphitheatrically inside a natural bay and its colourful houses and buildings cascade down the hilltops like a Greek version of Italys Amalfi Coast. 

You want to have your camera at the ready as your boat pulls into the port as the view is breathtaking. (You can get a great panorama from either side of the boat, but you want to make sure that you are standing as everyone rushes to the sides of the boat to take photos as your ship pulls in). 

The narrow cobbled streets and passageways that veer off from the harbour are a photographer’s dream. They conceal ramshackle stores selling everything from antiques, used books, souvenirs, and clothing created by local designers. 

There are cute, higgledy-piggledy bakeries selling crumbling, freshly baked spanakopitas and tiropitas, and little market stalls where perfectly polished fruits and vegetables are piled high. You can easily while away half a day just wandering around the port and taking in the sights. 

(And that’s what most day trippers spend their entire day doing). The village is arguably at its most charming in the early morning or the late evening when the crowds leave, and there are just a few locals pottering about, fishing, or having coffee.

Enjoy a morning coffee and pastry at the port

Things to do in Symi Greece: Have a coffee by the port

Greek coffee culture is huge – to the extent that going for coffee is essentially the national sport of Greece. Traditional Greek coffee (Ellinikos kafes) is essentially the same as Turkish or Arabic coffee. 

It is prepared in a copper biriki and served strong and bitter in a small espresso cup, typically with a serving of loukoumi. A lot of older Greeks will catch up over an Ellinikos kafes while chatting and playing backgammon. 

Meanwhile, many younger Greeks tend to prefer to drink freddo coffee. (Espresso is poured over ice with the addition of sugar and sometimes, milk if a freddo cappuccino is desired). 

There are some lovely cafes along the Symi waterfront where you can try a freddo espresso and people-watch as you take in the view or wait for a ferry. Porte Cafe Bar is a nice place with a cute design, as is Perantzada Coffee, Snacks, and Cocktails. 

Spend a day in Pedi 

Things to do in Symi island Greece: Visit Pedi

The little village of Pedi is a charming place to base yourself or explore during your time in Symi. The area is popular with yachties who dock their boats here for a couple of days/weeks at a time and hang out in the local cafes and restaurants. 

The pebbled beach here is small but runs parallel to shimmering translucent blue waters that wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean. Part of the charm of coming here is simply admiring the beautiful scenery – the natural bay, the rolling hills in the distance, and the colourful architecture of Pedi’s houses that cascade down the hills and the village which is like a more compact version of Ano Symi. 

There are a couple of nice coffee places here where you can stop for a freddo espresso and a Koulouri (a Greek pretzel). (In particular, stop by Kamares Snacks and More). When you get hungry, stop for mouthwatering traditional Greek food at Katsaras Seafront restaurant. 

Hike from Pedi to Agios Nikolaos Beach 

Things to do in Symi

From the little village of Pedi, a short walk along the coast brings you to Agios Nikolaos Beach – one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. To reach it, head right from the bay in Pedi and follow the dirt trail that runs along the coastline. 

It is impossible to get lost as there is only one path that you can follow. The trail leads you up into the hills. 

From up here, you have some spectacular views over Pedi in the distance, and the Southern Aegean, with the islet of Vrachonisida Agia Marina glittering on the horizon. 

When you reach Agios Nikolaos, you need to descend some relatively steep stone steps at the side of the cliff face. There is a little snack bar on the beach where you can buy ice-cold beers, beverages, ice creams, and light bites. 

You can also rent sunbeds and umbrellas, or just lay your towel down on the stones, as you prefer. 

Sample Symiot cuisine 

Things to do in Symi

When most people think of traditional Greek food, they usually think of souvlaki, gyros, and moussaka. But Greek food is so much more than that.  

Beyond the most famous dishes, there are many regional Greek delicacies that can only be found in certain parts of the country. The most renowned dish in Symi is the tiny Symi shrimp, sometimes affectionately referred to as ¨popcorn shrimp¨.

The little shrimp are fried and served crispy. Like many Greek islands, Symi’s seafront location means that fresh fish and seafood are abundant here. 

Many Symi restaurants and tavernas will serve different dishes each day, depending on which fish they were able to catch fresh in local waters earlier that morning. If you are craving meat, you may be interested to hear that goat dishes are also popular here. 

Sometimes, the meat is grilled or stewed and then served with orzo pasta or rice. If you are looking for something sweet, try the local akoumia. 

These are little bite-sized treats that look like lokoumades (Greek doughnuts) but are made with rice and topped with sugar.

Shop for quintessentially Greek souvenirs 

Things to do in Symi

Souvenirs from Greece make great gifts for the Grecophiles in your life, or for yourself as a wonderful reminder of your trip. There are lots of quaint stores along the seafront in Ano Symi selling souvenirs that are tasteful and nice. (Aka not tourist tat!)

Several of them sell natural sponges procured from the waters near the island of Kalymnos. They have different levels of exfoliation and softness and ensure a more luxurious bath/shower experience where your body wash goes further. 

There are some artist’s studios where you can purchase hand-painted images of the Symi harbor and various landmarks around the islands, while you can also glimpse inside and see the creator hard at work. Then, there are plenty of stores selling organic Greek beauty and skin care products that can make Christmas/birthday gifts for your loved ones. 

Apivita, Blue Scents, and Zealots of Nature are some of the best national brands. But you can also find some more homemade-style cosmetics made with regional olive oil, honey, and even donkey milk. (Donkey milk face masks are super hydrating and worth a try if you are serious about your skincare regimen!) 

Visit the Panormitis Monastery 

One of the most famous sites in Symi is the Panormitis Monastery. (In full, the Holy Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis). 

The monastery sits on the opposite side of the island to Ano Symi (on the southern coast) but it is easy enough to get here by bus or boat tour. The monastery was founded sometime during the Frankish occupation (1309 – 1522) and is still occupied by monks to this day. 

It has been reconstructed and repaired at various points throughout the centuries, most recently by Anastasis Karnavas between 1777 and 1873. Its multicoloured orange and white clock tower can be seen from a distance. 

The interiors are just as spectacular as the exteriors and are painted with vibrant frescoes depicting scenes of the Orthodox faith, as created by hagiographers Nikitas and Michaelos Karakostidis.

There are also two museums on site – one of which is filled with important religious icons, the other is dedicated to Greek folk art. Both are worth a quick look inside to escape the intensity of the midday sun. 

Visit the windmills 

The windmills await on a hill above Symi town
The windmills await on a hill above Symi town

There are about a dozen windmills (Μύλοι Σύμης) watching over Ano Symi from the Noulia hilltop high above the village. If you choose to hike from Symi to Pedi (or vice versa), you can make a brief detour to stop by these en route. 

Alternatively, it is also worth specifically heading here. The panoramas over the island from up here are unparalleled and the views are especially beautiful at sunset. 

Some of the windmills are in various states of disrepair while others have been lovingly restored. One in the nearby village of Chorio has even been completely repurposed and turned into a vacation rental!

Explore the Chorio village 

Things to do in Symi

If you follow the steep stone steps and winding roads upwards from Ano Symi, you will find yourself in the ¨upper¨ village known as Chorio. Kali Strata is the narrow staircase that you can use to climb to the top consisting of 450 steps! (It is a lot, but there are plenty of benches and places to stop and sit on the way up.) 

This area has an altogether sleepier, more authentic Greek island vibe, and fewer tourists make their way up here. Every turn reveals incredible sweeping vistas over the Aegean and the streets are filled with elegant neoclassical properties. 

There are some great restaurants up here that you can stop by for lunch and dinner. In particular, add Kali Strata, Taverna Zoe, and The Secret Garden to your radar. 

Walk along the coast from Ano Symi to Sarah Beach and the Church of Agios Mercurios

Things to do in Symi island Greece

The coastal path from Ano Symi to Sarah Beach and the Church of Agios Mercurios is a pleasant walk to take. This is particularly true if you don’t have much time to spare (perhaps you are only here for the day?) but you want to venture further than the port. 

There is a little serviced stretch of beach near Sarah Beach where you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas, purchase drinks and snacks, as well as rent water sports equipment. As you continue along the coastal road, you will find many dirt trails that lead down to hidden coves and secluded pebble beaches with nobody on them. 

Sarah Beach may be as far as you want to go before you sit by the aquamarine waters of the Aegean for a bit and then turn back. Or you may enjoy walking further and using the idyllic little Orthodox churches as a waymarker. 

Along the trail, you will pass the churches of Saint Irene (Agia Irini) the Blue and White St. George Chapel, and the Church of Agios Mercurios which has been carved into the rockface overlooking Emporios Beach. 

Stay in a charming Symi guesthouse

Things to do in Symi

There are some gorgeous guest houses and boutique hotels in Symi that are located in beautiful settings. You can find a gorgeous traditional property close to the port in Ano Symi or in Pedi, where you can wake up to the sight of local fishermen pushing their boats out to sea. 

Or you can have a really unique Symiot experience by choosing to stay in a rural area where you wake up surrounded by farms and hills. Most guest houses and hotels will have someone come and collect you from the port when your ferry arrives. 

The Asymi residences (pictured above) are a gorgeous, luxury property close to Pedi Beach. Each room and suite is tastefully decorated and guests are greeted with a welcome bottle of Greek wine and complimentary coffees. 

The best part? The views of the island’s nature from your private balcony. Breakfast is included and a stay here is affordable, considering what you get for your money. (Click here for the latest room rates and availability).

Visit St George’s Bay 

One of the best things to do in Symi is to spend a day at St Georges Bay – a spot along the island’s east coast that is so beautiful, it has to be seen to be believed. The bay, which shares some physical similarities with the more famous Navagio (Shipwreck) Bay in Zante is surrounded by towering cliff faces. 

Its little beach is only accessible by boat and has soft, powdery white sands and bright blue waters. Boats run from Symi Port and Pedi to St George’s Bay at regular times throughout the day during the summer months.  

There are no houses or buildings here – just an old little whitewashed church on the land nearby. 

Relax at Toli Beach

Toli Beach is a popular, organised beach on Symi island’s west coast. However, it is also one of the trickiest beaches to get to. 

Many people opt to take a boat from Ano Symi to get here but you can also travel on foot or by quad bike. The stony beach, nestled in a natural cove is home to one of the best tavernas on the islands and deck chairs are free to use.

Hike to Agia Marina Beach 

From Pedi village, you can also follow the slightly more challenging hiking trail to Agia Marina beach. Sensible shoes are needed as the trail is quite steep and rough in places. 

From Pedi Beach, walk left along the port, past the yacht club, until the road ends. You will see a well-trodden donkey trail that leads up over the hilltops and through the woodlands and olive groves. 

This is the trail that you will need to follow to reach Agia Marina. The route is not signposted but it is easy enough to understand where you need to go as there is only really one path to follow. 

Still, it pays to download an offline map (like Google Maps or Maps Me). You can also use a black pipe that leads from Pedi village to the taverna at Agia Marina as a way marker. 

The views from Agia Marina beach are stunning; the waters are crystal clear and turquoise and you have unparalleled views of the uninhabited islet of Vrachonisida Agia Marina just across the way. If you don’t fancy walking, you can also take a water taxi from Pedi to Agia Marina. 

The boats leave at regular intervals throughout the day. 

Browse the exhibits at the Symi Archeological Museum

The Symi Archeological Museum in the little district of Agios Athanasios in the Chorio (upper town) contains a collection of ancient artifacts that have been excavated from Symi island and other nearby areas. The buildings that the museums are housed in are also beautiful and an attraction in themselves. 

Symi Archeological Museum is set inside the Farmakidis mansion and the Chatziagapitos Hall. Both boast impressive halls and gardens and date back to the 18th-19th century. 

Entrance is just €2 per person (concessions available). So even if you do not consider yourself a big ¨museum person¨, you may as well pop in for a quick look while you’re passing through the Chorio.

Sail out to the uninhabited islet of Nimos 

Things to do in Symi

The uninhabited islet of Nimos (Ymos in Ancient Greece) sits just across from the northern coast of Symi, separated from the island only by a narrow strait of water known as Diapori. Nimos is known for its crystal clear waters and abundant swimming and snorkeling opportunities. 

For a couple of euros, you can find someone with a fishing boat that can take you across from the islet. The experience is even better if you decide to rent your own boat or hire a boat with a skipper so that you can simply ¨drop anchor¨ wherever you like and enjoy nature’s gifts. 

Hike from the Gialos District to Nos Beach 

Symi is a perfect island to travel to if you are into hiking as there are a seemingly infinite number of trails here. A more challenging route that you may enjoy trying is the 1.6-mile trek from the Gialos district to the sandy Nos beach (3.2-mile round trip). 

FAQs About Visiting Symi Island 

Things to do in Symi

Do you have any further questions or concerns about visiting Symi Island? The answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic are detailed below.

Hopefully, you will find the information you are looking for there. If not, please don’t hesitate to reach out! 

Is Symi walkable? 

Although Symi is not a huge island, it is larger than you may realise. The port area is filled with narrow cobbled streets and passageways that you can explore entirely on foot. 

There are a few hikes that you can do from the main village (Ano Symi) that don’t take more than about an hour. For instance, the walk to the hilltop windmills above the port and the route to Pedi.

However, you should note that these trails necessitate walking up and down hills and can be very steep in parts. You can also take the bus from Ano Symi to Pedi. 

If you want to get to Panormitis or St George’s Bay, you really need to take the bus. 

Is Symi Greek or Turkish?

Symi is a Greek island in the Dodecanese Islands archipelago, some 30 nautical miles from the island of Rhodes. It is closer to mainland Turkey than Greece.

(You can actually see southern Turkey from the island). So, it’s understandable why you may think that the island could be Turkish. Prior to Greece gaining independence, the island was under the control of the Ottoman Turks. 

What is Symi famous for? 

Symi is arguably most famous for the appearance of its main port town, Ano Symi. Although many people internationally have not heard of Symi (unless they are major Grecophiles), many of them have seen photos or videos of the colourful port on social media or in travel literature. 

The Panormitis monastery is also one of the most famous Greece landmarks in the Dodecanese, and the island is also known for its specialty shrimp dishes. 

Is it worth visiting Symi? 

It is well worth visiting Symi. Ideally, you would have multiple days to dedicate to a trip here, but even a day trip from Rhodes is a good idea.

Symi sees a steady influx of tourists during the summer months, but it still remains a sleepy island idyll that is largely unchanged by tourism. Here you will find charming villages, gorgeous beaches and an abundance of hiking trails. 

Can you swim in Symi harbour? 

You can technically swim in Symi harbour. The water is clear and not polluted as you may assume for somewhere where boats are constantly entering and exiting. 

However with that being said, you might find that you prefer to walk to one of the designated beaches close to Symi town for a better swimming experience. A short walk north of the port will bring you to Sarah Beach where you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas. 

There are also some dirt trails from the road here that lead you to secluded coves filled with perfect translucent water. 

Are there any Sandy beaches in Symi? 

There are numerous Sandy and pebbled beaches in Symi, with Nos Beach being one of the most popular. 

Can you drink the tap water in Symi? 

The tap water in most of Greece is perfectly safe (and tasty!) to drink. However, in Symi, the water is shipped to the island and then stored in wells so it is not advisable for you to drink it. 

Most hotels and guest houses will provide you with complimentary bottles of water when you check-in.

How to get to Symi

The only way to get to Symi is by boat as there is no airport on the little island. (The nearest one is on nearby Rhodes Island). 

You can take commercial and organised tour boats from the islands of Kos and Rhodes. From Rhodes, it takes about an hour and twenty minutes to reach the small island of Symi by boat trip.

From Kos, it takes between 1.5 hours and 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to Symi, depending on the specific ferry that you travel with. It is a good idea to purchase your tickets online in advance for your desired day of travel. 

You can check the ferry times, routes, and prices using Ferryscanner. 

Recommended Symi tours

If you are short on time, you might want to consider doing a Symi tour like those shortlisted below.

Final thoughts on the best things to do in Symi Island Greece in 2024

Things to do in Symi

Symi is a beautiful island that is easily a highlight of any trip to Rhodes or wider Greece itinerary.  

The best way to experience this lovely place is with an overnight stay. 

But if your schedule does not allow that, a day trip from Rhodes should allow you enough time to admire the colorful houses, swim in the Aegean Sea, and sample the local food. You can always come back again later! 

Do you have any more questions about the top things to do in Symi? Let me know in the comments. I have been living in Greece since 2017 and have explored the country extensively in the last few years. 

You may also find it useful to join the Facebook Group ¨All Greek to Me¨ which aims to help travellers and expats plan their adventurers around Greece. 


highheelsandabackpack

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

Leave a Reply