Nestled in the Dodecanese archipelago and surrounded by clear waters of the Aegean Sea lies the island of Symi. One of the most elegant, authentic and underrated places in Greece. If you’re heading to the eastern coast of the country, you should definitely consider visiting this island. Whether on a day trip from Rhodes or on a longer stay, I guarantee Symi is worth visiting. And on this post you’ll find our comprehensive Symi Greece travel guide, filled with inspiration and tips for your trip.
Below you’ll find curated and up to date information about the best things to do and most beautiful beaches to visit in Symi Greece. In addition, I’ve compiled a list of our favorite restaurants and hotels on the island, as well as practical travel tips. Use the index below to guide you trough the article and let’s discover this enchanting Greek Island!
Where is & how to get to Symi Greece
Symi is located in the southeastern Aegean Sea and is part of the Dodecanese island group. Although closer to Turkey than to Greece, it can be accessed via a short short ferry-ride from Rhodes. As one of the most popular islands in Greece, Rhodes gets multiple international and national flights. So that’s where most travelers choose to start their journey to the island of Symi. Here’s how to get to Symi:
- From Rhodes, you can embark on a ferry boat ride that you’ll take you straight to the port of Symi. The ferry ride duration ranges between 55 minutes and 1,5 hours and cost around 20€ each way. Dodekanisos Seaways and Blue Star Ferries have frequent ferries running between Rhodes and Symi during high season. Pay attention to the port of departure and arrival in Rhodes, as there are two different ones operating ferries to and from Symi.
Ferry tickets can be purchased directly on the company’s websites or by using the established ferry booking platform Ferry Hopper. I recommend booking in advance if you’re traveling during high season.
- If you aim to visit Symi as a day trip from Rhodes, you may join a group excursion or plan an independent itinerary. Many companies offer the tour to Symi and you can check prices and conditions here. Taking a ferry independently may seem cheaper at first, but when adding the taxi-boat ticket (to the beaches in Symi) to the equation, you’ll quickly realize that joining an excursion might be a better option.
- Apart from Rhodes, Symi is connected to the islands of Kos, Karpathos, Lypsi, Tilos, and Patmos in the Dodecanese archipelago. Check the ferry routes here if you’re planning an island-hopping itinerary across the region.
- Alternatively, there’s a ferry-boat route connecting Athens to Symi in a journey that takes approximately 15 hours. For this trip, it’s possible to book a cabin to sleep comfortably while cruising the ocean. Prices start at 80€ per person, but increase in accordance to the comfort of the room.
- If you’re in Turkey, you may also visit Symi as a day-trip. The group excursions leave from Marmaris and can be booked in advance here.
Now that you’ve discovered the best ways to get to Symi, let’s talk about how long you should stay on the island.
How long to stay in Symi
While a day-trip from Rhodes may give a nice teaser of Symi, it won’t allow you to enjoy the best the island has to offer. If you want to go beyond the resort experience of Rhodes and immerse in the serene atmosphere of a lesser-know Greek Island, I recommend you plan a proper stay in Symi. 2 to 3 days should be enough experience the highlights of Symi, but you could easily extend your stay and explore the island at a slower pace.
Looking for inspiration? Check all travel guides about the Greek Islands here. I’m sure you’ll find a perfect destination for your next holiday!
Best things to do in Symi Greece
Despite small, Symi boasts a plethora of stunning beaches and exciting activities. You can pick some to experience in one day or aim for all of them if you have a longer stay in the island. These are our favorites:
1) Explore Symi Town
My heart skipped a beat when I got the first glimpse of Symi town as we approached the island by ferry-boat. The neoclassical houses painted in vibrant colors encircle the quaint port of Symi creating a perfect post-card landscape. Which is only enhanced by the imposing mountains surrounding the village and the blue waters leading to the port.
After having visited a fair share of Greek islands I can confidently say that few towns can compare to Symi in terms of elegance and authenticity. The architecture and geography of the village is really unique, and so is the atmosphere. There’s something magical about this town, which is only accentuated when the day trippers leave in the afternoon. The center of Symi quickly turns into a calm place mostly frequented by locals and Greek visitors. Beckoning for a explorative and romantic walks, especially during sunset time.
The waterfront is where the action is, so make sure to explore its whole extension. Make your way to Pyrgos Rologion, an imposing stone clock tower built in 1881. Then venture the 500 steps of the Kali Strata, which in Greek means the “good way”. Stopping to admire the Little Fisherman sculpture on your way, as well as the fisherman statue.
The Kali Strata is a staircase made of marble surrounded by 19-century neoclassical mansions. It’s a very traditional part of Symi and will take you to a lively region filled with restaurants and residences. It’s where most locals live and where you’ll find the most authentic side of the island. I recommend you to visit during the afternoon and plan for a post-sunset dinner there!
The town of Symi is divided into two parts. The lower (by the port) is called Gialos and the upper Chorio or Ano Symi.
2) Visit Symi Castle
If you climb the stairs of Kali Strata all the way to the top, you’ll reach Symi Castle. Also known as the Castro, this area host the ruins of a castle built by the Knights of the Order of St John in 1407 and a chapel. History says the castle was never imposing or beautiful, but it helped protecting the island against pirate invasion. It was, however, not able to withstand german attacks during the WW2. Nonetheless, it’s a great place to visit if you’re a lover of great views like us. The panorama from up there is impressive, especially during sunset!
3) Lounge at Petalo restaurant
Right by the sparkling waters of Symi, lies the celebrated restaurant and beach bar Petalo. With its enchanting ambiance and prime seaside location, it’s the perfect spot to bask in the sun and take a dip in the crystalline sea in Symi town. It was a pity we stumbled upon Petalo on our last day in Symi, otherwise we would have definitely planned to spend a full day lounging on their sunbeds.
Petalo can be reached via a short walk from the city center and requires you spend a minimum amount to use the day beds. I honestly thought the prices were resonable for the comfort and quality the restaurant offers. As one of the best things to do in Symi town, I recommend booking a spot in advance during high season.
4) Visit Panormitis Monastery
Panormitis Monastery is the most important religious site in Symi. Its grandiose baroque structure crafted in the 18th century continues to hold its spiritual significance and remain the home place of devoted monks. It’s classified as a UNESCO heritage site and definitely represents one of the best things to do in the island. The outdoor patio is really impressive and relics, such as 10th century Byzantine mosaics and ruins of Greek temples, can be appreciated during the visit.
It’s possible to get there by car or taxi coming from Symi town. The most popular and magical way of visiting the monastery is joining a bout tour leaving the port of Symi in the afternoon. You can book the trip when you get to Symi, so no stress of planning in advance. If you’re coming by car, plan for a meal at a nearby taverna and a walk in the waterfront.
Most day-trips from Rhodes include a visit to the monastery. Book your spot at a group trip to Symi in advance here!
5) Shop local sea sponges
Symi’s island’s coastline is filled with sea sponge and the tradition of free-diving to harvest them is a celebrated part of the island’s heritage. It’s what the island is mostly know for. In the early 20th centuries, when advanced diving equipments were not available, skilled divers were responsible for collecting sponges from the sea. Symi divers were able to plunge 85 meters beneath the surface and hold their breath for impressive four minutes!
As you wander through the streets of Symi town, you’ll find countless shops showcasing naturally harvested sea sponges. These sponges are not merely harvested but are meticulously treated by local artisans using techniques that dates back generations. Each piece is distinct in shape and size and by purchasing one you’ll be acquiring a functional souvenir as well as a reminder of the island’s rich history and connection to the sea. Definitely a must do while in Symi island!
6) Go diving
If you’re a diver, you’ve probably heard Symi is one of the best places in Greece to venture beneath th surface. The water visibility is amazing and there are interesting spots to explore, such as the ruins of a village which were submerged after an earthquake and the wreck of a german ship sunk in the World War 2.
7) Additional activities and sights in Symi
In Symi Town, you may also want to visit the:
- Visit Symi’s archeological museum
- Hike to the windmills in a circuit that lasts 2 hours
- Visit Monastery Roukouniotis
Now let’s address the hottest question I get about the island. Does Symi have beautiful beaches? You’ll soon find out!
Best beaches in Symi Greece
For a small island, Symi has a surprisingly high number of beautiful beaches. Some of them can be accessed by car, but the best beaches can only be accessed by boat. And so, there are a few boat companies selling excursions to the beaches at the port in Symi Town.
You may chose to join a full day boat tour stopping in different beaches or to use a taxi boat service to take you to one or a few beaches. Generally, a taxi boat ride including:
- 3 beaches cost 26€
- 2 beaches cost 22€
- 1 beach costs 16€
You can mix and match the beaches to be visited as you wish, but I recommend you check updated timetable with the staff. I may change daily depending on weather conditions. These were our favorite beaches in Symi island:
Agios Georgios Dysalonas Beach
Agios Georgios is an impressive beach surrounded by 300 meters limestone cliffs. It boasts the most beautiful and crystal clear waters in Symi island and it’s a place you can’t miss. After all, this beach has been considered one of the most beautiful in Europe a few times!
We chose to spend the whole day at Agios Georgios beach, swimming in the sea and enjoying a good book. It’s hard to put into words how majestic this place really is, but I think the pictures depict some of its beauty. It’s a wide beach, so there’s plenty space for everyone visiting. Especially considering Symi doesn’t get as many tourists as other popular islands in Greece.
At the beach you’ll find the small chapel of Agios Georgios surrounded by wild goats. They live at the beach and can climb the mountains surrounding it. As they’re very comfortable with visitors, they often get quite close in search of food. So be aware when you go swimming, as these “little thieves” have a reputation for stealing food and belongings.
Agios Nicolaus Beach
Agios Nicolaus is a sandy beach with crystal clear waters. Although it boasts natural shade provided by the imposing olive trees, no structure should be expected there. Easily accessible by car, it is just a short drive from the charming village of Pedi. If you don’t have a car, you may choose to take a bus to Pedi and from there walk 20 minutes or take a taxi-boat from the port of Symi town.
Agia Marina Beach
Agia Marina has the bluest water we’ve seen in the Dodecanese and is a perfect spot to spend a day while in Symi. The beach boasts a newly renovated taverna which offers sun-beds for paying customers. In front of the beach you’ll find an islet with a church which can swam to from the beach.
You can get there by taxi-boat leaving from Symi town. Alternatively, you can reach the beach by foot coming from the village of Pedi.
Nanou is a gorgeous pebbled beach boasting excellent structure and crystal clear waters. It can only be accessed by boat and has a great taverna serving traditional meals and drinks. Sun beds are available to customers of the restaurant and they offer a comfortable refuge from the sun. The sea is refreshing and gets deep fairly quick. It’s perfect for long swimming sessions, as the water is as calm as it can get!
At the port of Symi you’ll find taxi-boat companies offering rides to Nanou Beach. They have a flexible schedule but the last ride back from Nanou to town usually departs at 5.30. You may choose to spend the whole day at Nanou Beach or to combine it with a visit to Agios Georgios Dysalonas. That’s what we did and would recommend if you’re short on time while visiting Symi.
Additional beaches in Symi
- Nos is the closest beach to Symi town and can be reached by foot. Once you pass the clock tower, walk for 15 minutes and you’ll find this beach
- Marathountas is one of the few beaches accessible by car, so may get busy during high season
- Toli is a fairly tranquil beach accessible by car
- Pedi Beach is reachable by bus and has structure
- Yiala is a pebbled beach accessible by foot from Symi town
Now that you’ve discovered the best beaches in Symi, I hope you’re feeling compelled to spend a few nights at the island. If so, let me show you the best places to stay!
Where to stay in Symi
Although small, Symi has an impressive portfolio of hotels and home stays. Some of them are extremely charming and boast luxurious features, and some are simpler. There’re good options for different budget ranges and that’s part of what makes of Symi such a great island to visit in the Dodecanese. Here are our favorite places to stay in Symi:
If you’re traveling as a family, you may want to check the gorgeous Villa Ricolas featuring 3 charming bedrooms. But if prefer to look for other options besides the ones above, please use our Booking.com link. When book through our links, we may earn a small commission. You won’t pay extra for this, so it’s a win-win. Thanks in advance! 🙂
Best time to visit Symi
The weather in Symi is relatively warm all year round, but Spring and Summer are typically the best time to visit the island. The end of spring (May to June) and late summer (September to early October) are particularly great periods to travel, as the crowds are fewer and the rates lower compared to the ones during peak summer.
We visited Symi in July and felt positively surprised about how tranquil the island was. Different from other Greek Islands, Symi can be an appropriate destination for the buzzling summer weeks of July and August. It will hardly get as packed as some other Eurosummer hotspots. Or as expensive as some other popular islands in Greece!
How to get around Symi
I usually recommend renting a car to explore the Greek Islands, with the exception of Symi and Halki in the Dodecanese Archipelago. The beaches and points of interest in Symi can be accessed by foot or boat. And for the attractions or beaches far from the center, you’re better off using a boat-taxi or taxi. There’s really no need to rent a vehicle in Symi, so prepare your feet to explore this walkable island!
What & where to eat in Symi
Symi is a foodies paradise. A place where you can enjoy local delicacies and traditional Greek dishes. Symi shrimps and Popcorn shrimps are the most popular local dishes. They are served by almost all restaurants and are basically different recipe takes on the small and tasteful shrimps found in the coast of Symi. The seafood dishes served by local tavernas are delicious. The fishes, shrimps, octopus and squids are as fresh as it gets, most often caught during the same day. For desert, you should try Akoumia, a donut made of rice and ouzo!
We indulged in varied and tasty meals during our stay in Symi. To be honest, the Greek cuisine is one of the main factors that keep us coming back to the country. We’ve been 3 times now and can’t wait to come back soon. The moussakas, souvalakis, saganakis and many other dishes are to die for. These were our favorite restaurants in Symi. Try it for yourselves and thank me later!
- Kali Strata Restaurant is a charming restaurant with a rooftop area serving great food. As the name suggests, it’s located in the staircase of Kali Strata.
- The Secret Garden is a cozy restaurant led by a lively couple. It’s been one of the best well rated restaurants in the island for over a decade and definitely deserve a visit.
- Taverna O Meraklis is an unassuming restaurant in Symi town serving delicious food
- Tholos Restaurant boasts a dreamy atmosphere and beautiful views. The food is really good and it’s a perfect spot for a sunset dinner by the water.
- Taverna Zoe is a family run restaurant in Kali Strata serving the most delicious dishes. We had a blast eating there and would 100% recommend a visit to this cozy restaurant!
Last but not least, let’s talk about what to pack for Symi.
What to pack for Symi
As you will most probably be visiting Symi during spring or summer in Greece, you should be prepared for very sunny and warm days. Hence, my suggestion is that you pack light and fresh clothes, beachwear, and casual shoes. Aim for beach attire and bring a light jacket just in case – chances are that you are not going to need it!
For women: pack summer and fresh dresses in various styles, from flouncy to long ones. Skirts, linen pants, fresh tops, and shorts are also great items to bring to Symi. Flat and comfortable shoes should be your way to go and you absolutely won’t need high heels or heavy makeup.
For men: pack linen shirts and fresh fabric shirts, as well as t-shirts, shorts, and fresh pants. Shoes should be casual and comfortable, with no need for fancy items.
You will also need:
- Beach shoes for pebble beaches
- Body sunscreen
- Facial sunscreen
- Sun hat
- Stylish sunglasses
- Havaianas flip flops
- A beach bag
- Beach towel
- Long Sleeved UV Sun Protection Shirt
- Beach tent
I hope this guide inspired you to visit Symi. This lesser-know Greek Island has a lot to offer, including many great beaches. Although I recommend staying in the island for 3 days, I understand time may be short. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate visiting Symi in a day trip from Rhodes. It’s totally worth it and will give you a different perspective of the islands in Greece.
If you’re planning a trip to Greece, you may be interested in:
Halki Travel Guide, a perfect island to combine with Symi
Karpathos Travel Guide
Best Greek Islands to visit in 2024