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The Greek island of Symi & why it’s worth taking a local tour!

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The ship is about to depart!” – The Greek island of Symi cruise

We had booked our accommodation just beside the eye-catching Symi harbour and we could see, from the small balcony there, that “Poseidon” boat was ready to depart… without us! I rushed as much as possible forgetting my sunscreen on the chair – the next day we would have to return back to London so I simply could not miss that cruise tour around the island of Symi, one of the top things to do in the island!

symi island
Our view from the balcony

Let s pretend that this never happened so I can start from scratch:

You may have heard about Rhodes Island but hands up if you know about Symi island as well! This small, beautiful island is hidden somewhere in the Aegean sea. Not accessible by plane but just 1-2 hours from Rhodes by ferry, Symi (or Σύμη in Greek) has one of the most picturesque harbors in Dodecanese (=a group of 12 main Greek islands located South East of the country).  Once you arrive in here, you can walk (a lot!) or use the local mini bus to wander around. Even better, you can rent a motorbike to visit areas that the bus doesn’t reach and you may hire a water taxi to take you around to the less accessible beaches. We had already done these (since we had been there for 3 days already) and we were up for something more relaxing where someone else would take care of us!

Symi beaches

As I said, we had already spent few days in Symi and, having done our research, “Poseidon Excursion” seemed the best option for what we were looking for: inaccessible-by-road beaches, a visit to an uninhabited southern islet, spectacular views around the island of Symi, free time for exploring/ swimming and good quality Greek unlimited food. And now having no sunscreen and being under the Greek sun, which can be inexorable, I had to stay into the sea as much as possible in order to avoid getting sunburnt! Such bad luck!!  #notreally

symi poseidon
Ποσειδών is basically “Poseidon” in Greek 🙂

The cruise lasted about 7 hours in total and we visited the highlights of the island – apart from the Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis (a main attraction of Symi) as we are Greeks and we have been to countless orthodox monasteries and churches so far so we were not keen to that anyway! Rushing, we jumped on board and found the last empty corner on the boat, while the crew was offering coffee and fresh fruits, and we sailed west, towards the first stops, the Maroni bay and the seal cave. The weather was amazing, not too hot (early September) and we enjoyed a bit of sunbathing. As expected, we didn’t see any seal as the cave is quite small (…for the seals, swimming along with a bunch of noisy people is not their cup of tea I assume!) but the seawater was clear and we had a great time playing with the underwater action camera!

snorkelling Symi

Then , we sailed towards Diavates islet, at the western point of Symi, where we had one more stop for swimming and sea observing. The staff gave us a few information regarding the islets and then they started preparing our food… did I mention that we are having a Greek-style BBQ at our next stop on the uninhabited island?

diavates islet symi
Diavates islets have crystal-clear waters and peaceful spots for boat-relaxation

We headed to Seskli island, south of the island of Symi, hungry but excited and we decided to explore on foot the place before our BBQ-lunch; for the people who have visited Greece they already know that nobody can walk uphills after a Greek meal! Followed by some sheep we soon after stumbled on a chapel, one of the millions in the Greek islands, and then we followed the path which runs around the tiny island.  Only few shepherds were here, 1-2 boats and LOTS of friendly sheep!

symi chapel
yes, most of the Greek islands Chapels look alike !

We came back just on lunch time and we were not disappointed at all! Huge bowls of salads, amazing pasta, Greek cooked dishes, wine and refreshments – all free and unlimited! Most of these were vegetarian/ vegan anyway so as a vegetarian myself I couldn’t complain! Eating is life!

Symi what to eat

This photo was taken while I was refilling my plate for the third time!! Pure happiness!

We were given free time after and, of course as expected, I could not do anything but sleep under a tree on the small beach next to our cruise boat, praying for quick digestion! The last stop would be at the most iconic beach of Symi so I had to be able to swim…

The bay of Saint George Dysalona has magnificent scenery due to the 300 meters high rock that overlooks the small beach. Many sailing boats anchor here to enjoy the landscape while swimming under the imposing rock shadow – there is room for everyone but it may be better to avoid peak season (mid July – August). Crystal clear waters and refreshing fresh air guaranteed!

Symi sailing
A sailing boat in St George Dysalona Bay in September- water is more amazing than it looks!

The best Symi harbor views appeared to us on the way back, the warm sunset turned impressively the sky colour into orange hues while the remaining sunlight was reflecting on the vivid local houses – what a pleasure for our eyes! Don’t be confused with the “white little houses – blue windows and doors” concept that usually represents the Greek islands- this is a characteristic of the Cyclades Islands Region only (where Santorini & Mykonos belong to). Symi, and the Dodecanese Region in general, has a completely different architecture style that has been influenced by the Venetians/ Italians who had occupied the islands in the past. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me so here is what my mobile captured! A must-see when in Symi and please try to observe it at different times during the day!

symi houses

For that trip we could not have asked for more! It was an excellent day cruise, relaxing, blissful and value for money! As Greek, I always recommend visitors to experience a daily cruise around every island they travel as it is an excellent and quite affordable way to explore areas that wouldn’t be able to do other way!

Symi toursHow to reach Symi:

Fly to Kos or Rhodes (both have international airports but you can also fly through Athens/ Crete / Thessaloniki ) for the shortest ferry ride to Symi. Frequent services daily, especially from/to Rhodes island.

Up for a challenge? Travel like Greeks do! Fly to Athens and hop on the ferry from Piraeus (the Athenian port and the biggest one in Greece) and be prepared for a looong trip (16-17 hours) and a real local experience!

How many days to spend in Symi

Most of the tourists arrive here from Rhodes on daily cruises. This might be an option if you have less time to spend but it is definitely not ideal. We stayed 4 full days and we felt very well about it! If this sounds a bit too much for some people I would say anything less than 2 full days are not enough.

A short Symi itinerary?

Sure thing : One day could be spent walking around the port and the main town (which can be challenging especially under the hot sun so keep this in mind as you may find yourself stuck indoors!) and probably there will be some time left for swimming. The second one for a cruise like the one we did and for visiting the other spots on the island (quite rushed though). Personally I wouldn’t stay less than 3 days especially if one wants to enjoy the sea/ beach!

Sooo… Have you heard about the island of Symi before? Would you like to visit it? As always the comments are yours !

What to expect from a daily cruise around Symi island hidden beaches

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