Symi is a little jewel of a Greek island, a short ferry ride from Rhodes, and it's most magical if you can take the ferry that arrives in the evening. Symi harbour is one of the most beautiful in Greece, but especially at night when the boat sails slowly into the harbour that's lit up all around, from lights in the streets and houses that cover the steep slopes.
Symi is too small to have its own airport. You need to fly to Rhodes, get a transfer from Rhodes Airport to Rhodes Town, and catch the Symi ferry at the harbour.
In summer there are several daily excursion boats making the journey to Rhodes as well as the regular ferry services. The trip can take anything from 50 minutes to two hours, depending on the boat. There are also daily ferry links in summer with many other islands such as Kalymnos, Kos, Leros and Patmos, and less frequently to Piraeus and Tilos.
Ferries in Greece has an excellent and very thorough website where in addition to checking ferry schedules and times, you can also book tickets and get lots of useful information about travelling by ferry in Greece.
Because of Symi's understandable popularity with day visitors from Rhodes, the main harbour area gets very busy during the day, from about 10am-4pm. Symi isn't at its most appealing during this period, and its real charm is only discovered if you stay here overnight. Many regulars escape the crowds by going walking or heading for one of the island's beaches (which aren't great by Greek island standards, it has to be said).
In the evening Symi harbour is a buzzing place, lively with bars, cafés and some really good restaurants.
Symi: Yialos and Chorio
Symi's only town, around the harbour, is split into two parts. Yialos is the lower town around the port, while Chorio is the upper town, and the two merge into one. In the upper town there's the remnants of a castle, and on the way up to it if you take the main steep cobbled street from Yialos is a small but enjoyable Archaeological and Folk Museum. Down in Yialos is a small Nautical Museum too.
The main attraction, though, is just being on Symi. The upper town is full of narrow streets, and everywhere there are handsome mansions from when the island was a prosperous ship-building and sponge-fishing island. It's hard to believe but once there were more people living on Symi than there were on Rhodes! Today some of the mansions have been restored while other remain in ruins, but with an imposing charm about them.
Pedi Bay and Beach
Walk up from Yialos to Chorio and down the other side and you reach Pedi, which is a small and separate fishing village with a few hotels, rooms to rent, and places to eat. It also has a decent beach, which is very popular.
Symi's only major sight is the Monastery of St Michael (the island's patron saint) at Panormitis, at the far end of the island from Symi Town. Some excursion boats call in at Panormitis on their way to the main town, or if you're staying on Symi there's a daily bus service there and back.
The monastery was built in the 18th century, on the site of a much older monastery, and it's certainly an interesting place to look around. It has its own small museum, a café, and a few rooms to rent in its guesthouse, if you really want to get away from it all.
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Here's a very thorough and helpful city guide to Athens from the UK's Guardian newspaper, for anyone planning a visit.