Symi: Hillsides & harbour

Small but perfectly formed, Symi is the epitome of Greek chic. Some 40 km northwest of Rhodes, it nevertheless feels like a sequestered slice of the Italian Riviera, although you could almost swim to Asia Minor. Originally wine traders and merchant sailors brought tales of Symi to the wider world. To this day the island has no airport and only one road. All the better to sail to. Arriving at Symi harbour, where neoclassical mansions cascade down the hillside to the waters edge, it can be hard to believe this is not a film set. The harbourside, Yialos, is a protected site and much of the architecture dates from the 19th century.

The coastline alternates between rocky cliffs and isolated, pretty bays only reachable by yacht. Yours are the ravishing beaches, backed by groves of Lebanese cypress between which a smattering of monasteries are perched on rocky outcrops and hillsides. This is a walker’s paradise, dissected by shallow valleys. While on land, visit the Monastery of the Archangel Michael in Panorimitis. This Greek Orthodox monastery is still inhabited by monks and visited by people from all over the world. Of an evening, pick your taverna along the waterfront to taste local specialities, washed down (of course) with a bottle of retsina.

When to go:

April – end of October

High season:

July – August



Try the local speciality, deep fried baby shrimps, at the taverna on Marathounda beach


The pebble beach at Ayios Yiorgios Disalonas is at the foot of a 300m cliff so is only accessible by yacht. Take plenty of water and a lavish picnic


Really leave the stresses of modern life behind by checking in to a monk's cell in the Monastery of the Archangel Michael in Panorimitis


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