Romantic Escape at a Tiny Villa in Symi

At a tranquil village on the island of Symi, you will find a gorgeous little villa designed for couples to connect, de-stress or just relax along the stunning waterfront.

This tiny fishing cottage “On the Rocks” in Nimborio, is a place where you can unwind and feel totally at peace. From a quick dip at a nearby beach to enjoying a coffee and some light reading, or a candlelit dinner on the private terrace- this small sanctuary for two provides the perfect base for couples on a romantic getaway.

With the option to do what you like, when you like, the space offers privacy, freedom, and a mini home away from home vibe. Featuring one bedroom, one bathroom, a private terrace, wardrobe space, air-conditioning, and free WiFi, the holiday cottage is a short walk away from a traditional Greek taverna, a hotel restaurant, and a beach bar serving food all day long.

For those who wish to explore the rest of the beautiful island, guests have easy access to Symi’s main harbour town using the regular water taxi service, which also connects to many of the island’s breathtaking beaches every morning and afternoon. Water taxis can also be booked privately in the evening for those wishing to head to town at night- where you will find a great range of eateries and bars to choose from.

So if you’re planning your next Greek island escape for two or even looking for an ideal retreat as a solo traveller (for the ultimate me-time), this is the perfect place!

On the Rocks

Discover the 10 Best Things to Do in Symi

10 Best Things to do on Symi Island

Located in the Dodecanese, Symi island is known for its colourful picture-perfect town, ranked a national monument for Greek architecture.

Symi boasts natural beauty- with its secluded coves (scattered throughout the island) enchanting beaches (accessible by boat); and in contrast to its rocky coastline, the interior of the island is forested with cypresses and conifers- making it a stunning destination.

After a recent trip to this breathtaking island, here are my tips on the Best Things to do in Symi!  

1. Get lost in Symi’s main town 

Insights Greece - 10 Best Things to do on Symi Island
Symi’s beautiful port

Start by the harbour, named Gialos, where pastel-coloured Venetian mansions beautifully fill the town. When you think that you have seen it all, climb up several steps (450 to be exact) at Kali Strata in order to reach the Chorio, the village-like old part of town. If you are not a fan of exercise, there’s a five-minute bus that leaves every hour but you’ll miss the magic of admiring the charming houses on your way up and the picture-perfect view of Symi. At the top, there is the Kastro, which used to be an ancient acropolis and its old walls became part of the castle built there by the Knights of the Order of St John in 1407. Make sure you are there in time to enjoy the sunset from this spot.  

2. Hop on a boat tour around the island

Insights Greece - 10 Best Things to do on Symi Island
Sail around the island

A daily cruise around Symi is a great way to see all the secluded beaches and coves. The traditional boat, POSEIDON, offers daily cruises from the Gialos. Captain John, the owner, (lately along with his son Thodoris) has been touring around the island for the last 20 years and knows all the hidden beauties. He is also a great chef, as he is also preparing the menu during the tour. It departs from the port at 10:30 a.m. and returns at 17:30 p.m. The itinerary depends on the weather but normally you will be able to swim to the majestic beaches of St. Georgios, St. Vasilios, and Fokospilia. Inside this cave, there is a hidden beach where you can swim and (if you are lucky) see the seals that live there. The buffet is served at Seskli island on tables under the trees. 

3. Meet Mr. Takis Psarros, a local artisan

Insights Greece - 10 Best Things to do on Symi Island
Explore the town on foot

You won’t notice anything different from the outside, since you will see a typical store, full of leather goods in the town’s main port. But look closer. Inside the shop, you will find Mr. Psarros working on his amazing leather artwork. His designs are truly unique but the most extraordinary part is the procedure. Millions of burnt dots on leather; and countless hours of creation compose the solitary work of art that is created by the talented pyrographist. He is the only artist in Greece who designs pieces using the method of skin pyrography. Mr. Psarros holds a Guinness World Record for the largest pyrographic “Poseidon and Amphitrite” with 11.000.00 dots, which required two years’ worth of work. 

4. Visit the Monastery of Panormitis

Insights Greece - 10 Best Things to do on Symi Island
Monastery of Archangel Michael

It may seem like an Italian town filled with mansions boasting magnificent sea-views from their balconies but in reality, it’s a holy Monastery of the 18th Century, dedicated to the Archangel Michael. Set against a stunning backdrop of pine-covered mountainsides, the monastery welcomes the ferries by a loud bell sound- as they arrive and depart. You can also admire the wonderful chandeliers and the silver-leafed representation of Archangel Michael, Patron Saint of Symi, and protector of sailors. There is also a small museum and if you climb some steps, you can see the cells where the monks live and where many pilgrims choose to stay.  

5. Enjoy delicious dishes at Haritomeni while enjoying the sunset

Insights Greece - 10 Best Things to do on Symi Island
Restaurants found all around the port

Haritomeni restaurant is perfectly positioned in Upper Symi, an ideal spot to watch the sunset. Head there in the evening before the sun is about to set and sit on the terrace. Besides the stunning view of Symi harbour, the food here is absolutely delicious, even the simplest dishes taste amazing at this family-run tavern that serves traditional Greek dishes using the freshest local produce available.

6. Buy a Sea Sponge 

The inhabitants of Symi were the first Greeks to work as sponge divers. They were the pioneers who also taught other islanders how to dive, process, and trade the sponges. That’s why many international travellers who visited Greece in the Middle Ages believed that sponges only came from Symi. We visited Dinos Sponge Centre, the oldest sponge shop of Symi (since 1939), and met Mr. Dinos and his son, who explained to us many things regarding natural sea sponges that are animals and not plants as most people believe. We chose the appropriate sea sponges for our body and face for loofah use, bath time, and exfoliation- as they have top-notch exfoliating, circulation-boosting, radiance-enhancing abilities

7. Enjoy life at the beach 

Insights Greece - 10 Best Things to do on Symi Island
Symi boasts breathtaking beaches with crystal clear waters

If you want to stay in Gialos, Nos beach is the perfect deal. A small piece of paradise that offers sun loungers, parasols, a shower, and a café -restaurant. A few kilometers away, you will find Gyala beach with a canteen that serves the tastiest country potatoes. Nimporio is another small beach, in the nearby bay, with sun loungers and a tavern; access is by boat or by road. Nanou is a picturesque pebble beach in a green landscape with cypresses, hidden behind high hills and crystal-clear water. Marathounda is a narrow bay with many goats running around. Agios Nikolaos is a popular beach with sand and pebbles and natural shade. The best beaches are Agios Vasilios, Agios Georgios, Dysalonas where the cliffs drop steeply behind the beach with its deep blue waters. The 300-metre high, vertical rock that stands behind this beach creates a majestic landscape. Don’t miss Agia Marina. Take a taxi boat (we took Pan. Ypakoi boat) it has a new restaurant and a small island straight opposite the beach with a church, that you can reach by swimming. 

8. Eat at Manos Fish Restaurant 

Insights Greece - 10 Best Things to do on Symi Island
Beauty on every corner

This taverna is a unique experience thanks to its owner. Mr. Manos is some kind of entertainer for his clients, along with his parrot Markos. He will narrate stories of glorious nights at his taverna with celebrities who sing and dance until the morning. The photos outside the bathroom are the evidence. The seafood here is another experience! Don’t forget to taste “symiako garidaki” (small shrimp of Symi).  

9. Have a drink at Symi’s main town or along the port

You will spot them during your stroll around the picturesque alleys of Symi Town, and visit them at night. The bars with a great atmosphere in Symi include Tsati, Achinos, Vapori, Charani, Los and Yaghta. They won’t disappoint. 

10. Admire 1900 Hotel 

Insights Greece - 10 Best Things to do on Symi Island
1900 Hotel

We met the architect Dimitris Zografos, who decided to restore the old house of the Mastoriadis family and convert it into a boutique hotel, under the name “1900 Hotel”. Mastoriadis was the person who brought the first autonomous diving suit (“scafandro” in Greek) to Greece and Symi. Dimitris Zografos tried, through careful and thoughtful restoration, to keep its heritage alive. The house has been left merely intact. The main rooms of the house have been seamlessly transformed into four elegant suites (1901, 1902, 1903 and 1904), steeped in history.

How to get there 

Ferries depart from Piraeus port about three times a week and arrive at Symi after approximately 20 hours. It might be more convenient for you to reach Rhodes by plane (a one-hour trip from Athens) and then travel to Symi by ferry from Rhodes (the ferries are almost daily). Symi is also connected by ferry with Kalymnos, Patmos, Leros and Tilos.

Where to stay 

Insights Greece - 10 Best Things to do on Symi Island
Polina at the main port

Limani Life:  Right on the promenade of the port, an old mansion has been transformed into six comfortable, minimalist aesthetic rooms in pastel colours and nautical touches. 

The Old Markets: Housed in a restored building in the old market of Symi, just 400m from the port. Highlight the breakfast served on the terrace with majestic views.  

Iapetos Village Hotel: Colorful houses, a tropical garden and a pool with stone arches, this hotel is like a tiny village of a children’s fairytale. 

Where to eat in Symi  

Manos Fish restaurant for fresh fish. Bella Napoli Trattoria Italiana, for pasta and pizza. Charitomeni restaurant for a delicious meal with a sunset view. Taverna restaurant International, a traditional Greek taverna. Pantelis, a great gastronomic destination. O Tholos for great food by the sea. 

Many thanks to Deputy Mayor Mr. Nikitas Gryllis and the Mayor Mr. Lefteris Papakalodoukas for making this press trip happen!

*Images by Polina Paraskevopoulou ©

Neoclassical Mansion Turns into a Boutique Hotel in Symi

Symi has a picture-perfect port with neoclassical buildings that testify to its glorious past. This image overwhelmed us from the moment we stepped foot on the island.

Little did we know that over the next few days we were about to visit a 19th Century listed neoclassical mansion with a great story behind it. 

This 19th Century red building, known as the Mastoridis Mansion is right on the seafront, set on the opposite side of the port. We met with the architect Dimitris Zografos, who decided to restore the property and convert it into a boutique hotel, under the name “1900 Hotel”. He told us all about it. Beginning with Mastoridis, the person who brought the first autonomous diving suit (“scafandro” in Greek) over to Greece and Symi.

It was given to him as a present from the British in 1862, as at the time he was working as a captain in the West Indies. The plot of the story thickens as it was actually his wife, a woman back in 1862, that had the courage and will to try it on for the first time in front of all the men, who were reluctant to do so at the time. This was historically the year that marked the economic climb and flourishes of Symi island and it was this incident itself that changed the economy of the Dodecanese Islands.

Fast forward to 1960, the house was constantly rented out to a French painter until it was abandoned and left to collapse. Dimitris Zografos, a lover of neoclassical buildings, realised that this was an architectural gem and tried, through careful and thoughtful restoration, to keep its heritage alive and allow its guests to experience a modern version of its rich history.

The house has been left merely intact. The imposing staircase when you pass through the front door, the impressive high painted ceilings with details that take your breath away, and the vintage elements- are all beautifully matched with the charming ambiance of the building. The main rooms of the house have been seamlessly transformed into four elegant suites (1901, 1902, 1903, and 1904), steeped in history.

On the entry-level, a courtyard surrounded by lush greenery frames the blue of the Aegean Sea. As you pass through the main entrance, on the same floor you can see the suites named 1901 and 1902. The top floor consists of two more suites, 1903 and 1904, and the most amazing terrace overlooking the colourful harbour. An honesty bar is located on the top of the staircase; once the corner where musicians played and accompanied family and friends lounging on the terrace.

1901 is the grand suite on the right, that overlooks the harbour. It used to be the two main rooms of the mansion (“saloni” and “sala”). A real jewel of the past. The ceiling (which was fully restored) is a masterpiece painted by highly skilled artists of the time, featuring Eros, the God of love. 

1902 is the old kitchen, now transformed into a bedroom with beautiful elements kept intact, such as the old fireplace, built-in closet, shelves, and niches. The en-suite bathroom, with a vaulted ceiling and amazing vintage cement tiles, is built against a rock that is partially exposed and filled with plants to give the feeling of showering in nature (with a view.)

1903 is a room (also a bedroom back then) privileged with three large windows. Filled with light and offering amazing views of the harbour and open sea, which guests can also cherish from its private area on the top floor veranda. An en-suite bathroom with a surprisingly brilliant shower hid in a spacious closet, compliments the perfect atmosphere. 

1904 was the mansion’s main bedroom, offering privacy and views of the port. It has an en-suite bathroom with a vaulted ceiling and the geometrical patterns in the shower formed by vintage cement tiles create a highly aesthetic composition. 

Being inside this historical mansion made us feel the heavenly allure of a bygone era, a feeling that is not easily forgotten. 

A: 85600, Symi, Dodecanese

Holy Monastery of Taxiarchis Michael Panormitis in Symi

The Holy Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis is one of the most popular attractions on Symi island. Located on the sea front of the tiny village of Panormitis, the Monastery was built in the 6th century, but what stands today is the restoration of the new building of the 18th century.

How to get here

You can arrive via a ferry or excursion boat from the port of Symi or from the island of Rhodes. If you are already in Symi, you can also catch a bus or taxi from the town, which takes about an hour.

The Monastery

Insights Greece - Holy Monastery of Taxiarchis Michael Panormitis in SymiA Venetian-styled building with its high baroque bell tower, the facade of the main structure is white and it stretches along the coast on either side of the main gateway. The inner courtyard has its own church along with some pebble courtyards.

The Church

The interior of the church is covered with iconography (of particular interest is the ‘fall of the angels’ mural at the back of the church) and is decorated with very elaborate chandeliers. Many baptisms and weddings take place here throughout the year.

The Museums

There are two museums– a folklore and a religious one. One houses ecclesiastical art, and is rich in exhibits like pontificals, silver icons, Russian epitaphs, and ecclesiastical utensils, ship model offerings brought to Panormitis from far away by the sea, and one of folk art with important objects of the folk culture of the island relevant to fishing, agriculture, and shepherding. There is also a library with Byzantine manuscripts and editions of ecclesiastical, historical, and philological content, as well as a gallery with paintings of the landscape of the monastery and its two chapels.

Who is Archangel Michael Panormitis? 

Insights Greece - Holy Monastery of Taxiarchis Michael Panormitis in Symi

Archangel Michael is the Patron Saint and protector of Symi and of sailors. Archangel Michael is known to perform miracles for those who pray for his intercession. The Archangel is famous in the Dodecanese for his righteous nature. If you have made an offering to him and do not fulfill it, he will make it clear through various miracles that he is not pleased – until you complete your promise.

The Icon

It is said that a holy icon of the Archangel appeared miraculously and, on several occasions, was removed only to reappear mysteriously in this same location. The church was then built over the location. The church dedicated to the Archangel now contains a two-metre-high, silver-leafed wall icon of Panormiti. 

What else you will find here

Elsewhere at Panormitis you will find a little bay, guarded by the beautifully restored windmill on the western headland. The small beach with fine sand is very peaceful. There is also a local bakery, which is always packed with people trying the freshly made Symian pies, biscuits and breads.