Mar 26, 2024 7 min read

A Spring Day Through The Beautiful Symi Island in Greece

During the period of March 1st to 8th, I went on a self-organized trip to Rhodes Island, a long-standing wish that was finally fulfilled. As a lover of history, I had a fascination with the Knights Hospitaller.

Symi Island town Greece
Table of Contents

Introduction to Off-Season Travel

During this period, it is very quiet, there are few tourists, and the shops, taverns, and restaurants in the smaller localities are closed, as well as the ATMs.

We stayed only in Rhodes Town, preferring to take day hikes, by land with a rented car (we paid 60 euros for 3 days with full insurance), and by sea with the transport vessels from Rhodes that operate only on certain days.

The Square in Rhodes town
The Square in Rhodes town

The travel agencies were closed, so we saw Symi Island on our own by turning to "Dodekanisos Seaways Ferry Company", see, high prices, 64 euros round trip per person.

In season, from April 1st to November 1st, there is "Sebeco Lines", cost 27 euros round trip per person, with the ticket kiosk in Kolona port, next to Dodekanisos, details on the website

Weather and Initial Impressions

The weather was pretty good; we had two days with sporadic rain, in bursts, then the sun would come out and dry everything. The temperature was just how I like it, 20 degrees Celsius during the day and 14 degrees at night.

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Journey to Symi

On the morning of March 3rd, Sunday, we left at 8:00 am and arrived at Symi at 8:50 am. Quite a few passengers got off; I thought we were the only ones, but the vessel went further.

Rhodes, Ferrys "Dodekanisos Seaways", waiting for travelers to board
Rhodes, Ferrys "Dodekanisos Seaways", waiting for travelers to board

Disembarkation was done near the Clock Tower on the other side of the port. As soon as I got off, I was impressed by the beautiful island with its brightly colored houses.

They were arranged in steps, I counted, nine, ten rows, scattered on the hills surrounding the port. All of them had a specific architecture, neoclassical style, reddish tile roofs in a gable design with a pediment featuring a circle in the middle, clustered, yet beautifully aligned.

Exploring Symi's History and Architecture

Symi is the name of the nymph, the wife of Poseidon in Greek mythology. It is a small island, 13 km from north to south and approximately 8 km from east to west, with about 2,500 inhabitants including Italian and British expats.

Symi seen from the sea, from the Ferry
Symi seen from the sea, from the Ferry

It is located 41 kilometers from Rhodes and very close to the Turkish coast, about 9 kilometers away. The port is called Gialos, which is the lower part, while the upper part, called Chorio or Horio, completes the locality scattered on the hills. The website is:

Ascending Kali Strata

We went to the other side of the bay to get to Kali Strata; we wanted to climb the wide stone stairs that lead from the port to the upper village, in Chorio.

The weather was on our side, the sun was announcing a beautiful day. We passed the Stone Bridge, next to the statues that catch your eye without taking pictures of them, we had enough time on the way back, and we reached the two minibuses of different colors with the timetable displayed.

The blue one that goes to the Panormitis Monastery (Μονή Ταξιάρχου Μιχαήλ του Πανορμίτου) and announced departure at 11:30; we would find out on the way back that it doesn't run in March. It was possible to reach it by taxi, 30 euros, we considered that Symi had already cost us too much and we gave up. The white one that goes to Pedi, we will come back to it.

The Climb and the Churches of Symi

From here, we walked a bit on the promenade and saw the Kali Strata sign, which we began to climb. Some say there are 400 steps scattered across sections. We kept climbing, knowing the direction, always forward, wanting to first reach the largest church, the Holy Trinity Church.

stone stairs Kali Strata
stone stairs Kali Strata

We had the name written in Greek, which helped because we asked some of the locals, few at that early Sunday morning hour. We started on Kali Strata, with beautiful buildings, it's the widest, reaching a flatter area with restaurants and a hotel.

At one point, the sign towards the castle appeared, but we continued climbing straight ahead, through tangled, winding alleys, knowing only one direction, straight reaching the Church of the Holy Cross (Εκκλησία Τιμίου Σταυρού).

Being Sunday, the service had ended, but locals were gathered in the yard, having coffee and something sweet. We were also served, took some photos both inside and outside. We located both the church we were heading to and the castle we would see later. Here we found the first blooming freesias, smelling so pleasant!!

blooming freesias
blooming freesias

We continued the climb, veering slightly to the left, more alleys, more stairs, and much quietness! It felt like we were in a labyrinth; I've never had such a sensation before, I really liked it!

We got the direction wrong a few times, had to turn back, but the road didn't dead-end, and finally, we reached the Holy Trinity Church (Ekklisía Ag. Triádas), a large church with two beautiful towers.

Symi, the Holy Trinity Church (Ekklisía Ag. Triádas)
the Holy Trinity Church (Ekklisía Ag. Triádas)

Everyone had left, but we found it unlocked and could peacefully take photos, it looked beautiful! In the courtyard, we found a multitude of freesias, a wonder, I didn't want to leave!

From there, we headed back, trying to keep the direction. We wandered through the maze of streets, veering more to the right instead of going straight or slightly left.

Symi, The Churchyard, Spring Flowers, were everywhere not only here....
The Churchyard, Spring Flowers, were everywhere not only here....

We also passed by the Church of Saint Athanasius (Ekklisía Ag. Athanasiou), another large, beautiful church, but it was now closed. In the town of Symi, there are 13 large churches and many chapels, in total, the island has 63 places of worship.

Symi, Church of St. Athanasius
Symi, Church of St. Athanasius

From here, one turns right towards the Castle, the ruins of the Knights Hospitaller Castle from the 14th century, but the view from there makes it all worthwhile. You can see both the part from the hills and especially the part from the sea.

From here, you can also see the small town of Pedi, which we later reached by minibus. We climbed the stairs and reached the Church of Our Lady (Ekklisía Panagía), a little white and blue church that we then admired from below on the promenade, wondering if we had actually been there?!

Symi, Church of Our Lady - Ekklisía Panagía
Symi, Church of Our Lady - Ekklisía Panagía

When I like something, I get totally absorbed, and then I wonder how I managed to do that. What remains is the joy of having done it and the satisfaction of discovering something else.

Return to Symi Port and Pedi Exploration

We went back down to the port area and got to the minibus that goes up to Symi and then to Pedi. The driver told us it was the only one operating at this time.

Along with us, there were 6 other tourists who got off at the first stop to visit the Archaeological Museum. We continued further to Pedi, the second stop, about 4 kilometers away.

We stayed there for about 15 minutes before the vehicle returned on the same route. We took some photos; everything seemed deserted but peaceful. The ticket is 2 euros per person, one way.

Final Impressions and Departure

We returned to the port and took some photos, passing by the statue of Stathis Hatzis, the famous diver and sponge harvester, and then by the statue of the little fisherman Michalaki.

Symi, Gialos Port, Statue of Stathis Hatzis, the famous diver
Symi, Gialos Port, Statue of Stathis Hatzis, the famous diver

We missed the Town Hall, which was very close to the Municipal Park visible from the bridge. We walked along the promenade and entered the only open shop to buy a magnet souvenir.

The sponges were visible through the windows of the closed shops. Very quiet, clusters of tourists at two terraces, the only ones open on Sunday. The ferry doesn't come to Symi in the off-season except on weekends.

We also photographed the War Memorial with the Peace Dove, commemorating the liberation of the island of Symi on May 8, 1945, when the Italian occupation ended; here was signed the treaty for the surrender of the Dodecanese Islands.

Symi, War Memorial with Dove of Peace
Symi, War Memorial with Dove of Peace

We reached the Police Headquarters, a building from the Italian occupation period, then to the Clock Tower from 1881 and went further towards the Old Shipyard, which now seemed like a Repair Yard. We admired, on the hill, Panagia Evaggelistria with its beautiful bell tower, before turning back.

We had something to eat at a terrace and then rested on a bench in the gentle early spring sun. Around 5 PM, we left the island with regret, along with other tourists and locals, arriving in Rhodes in 50 minutes.

We had planned from home to also visit the Panormitis Monastery, but being the off-season, it was not to be. I regret nothing because the walk up the hills was a joy, not to be missed!

I couldn't have imagined how beautiful it is to discover the village from above, to wander through the maze of alleys, and to admire the port and bays from a height. Go there, and you won't regret it!

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