Symi is a mountainous Greek island belonging to the Dodecanese island group. The settlements on the island include the harbor of Symi and its adjacent upper town Ano Symi, as well as several smaller localities, beaches, and areas of significance in history and mythology.
Coordinates: 36°35′N 27°50′E
The shipbuilding and sponge industries were substantial on the island and, while at their peak near the end of the 19th century, the population reached 22,500. Symi’s main industry is now tourism and the population has declined to 2,500.
Geographically, it is located about 41 km north-northwest of Rhodes (and 425 km from Piraeus, the port of Athens), with 58 km² of mountainous terrain. Its nearest land neighbors are the Datça and Reşadiye peninsulas of Muğla Province in Turkey. Its interior is dotted with small valleys, and its coastline alternates between rocky cliffs and beaches, and isolated coves. Its main town, located on the northeast coast, is also named Symi and consists of the lower town around the harbour, typically referred to as Yialos, and the upper town is called Horio or Ano Symi. Other inhabited localities are Pedi, Nimborio, Marathounda and Panormitis. Panormitis is the location of the island’s famous monastery which is visited by people from all over the world, and many Greeks pay homage to St Michael of Panormitis each year. In addition to its many historical sites, the island’s isolated beaches, many reachable only with small boats, are popular with tourists.
In Greek mythology, Symi is reputed to be the birthplace of the Charites and to take its name from the nymph Syme (in antiquity the island was known as Aigli and Metapontis).
The island, along with the rest of the Dodecanese, changed hands several times in the 20th century: in 1912 the Dodecanese declared independence from the Ottomans as the Federation of the Dodecanese Islands, though they were almost immediately occupied by Italy. The island was formally ceded to Italy in 1923, and on 12 October 1943 it was occupied by the Nazis. At the end of World War II, the surrender of German forces in the region took place on Symi and the island was subject to several years of occupation by the British. Symi was finally rejoined with Greece in 1948. The island has become a haven for tourists from abroad, especially British and Italians, and is now the permanent home of about 120 non-Greek residents, some 50 of whom are British. The influx of tourists has led to the restoration of a great number of homes (many of which were destroyed during World War II); these restorations, by law, have to conform to “guidelines laid down by the Greek culture ministry’s Archaeological Service.”
Things to do
Hiking on Symi: The island of Symi is known for its atmospheric and beautiful Neo-classic harbour, but what you also should know is that this small island in the southern Aegean sea features a superb hiking terrain. During the months of May and September (before the big heat sets in) walkers or hikers from all the world arrive on the island to enjoy routes ranging from explorations of the habour and the old town to longer walks venturing through the forests of the island discovering the many small chapels and monasteries as well as the more spectacular bays of Symi, accessible only from foot paths and the sea. During the summer months there are regular guided walks, often combined with a sail back trip with one of the day-trip boats.
Walking on Symi
Festival on Symi: Since 1995, Symi has hosted the Symi Festival during the months of July to September. This festival was founded by Greek political journalist, Ioannis Diakogiannis, who established it in the birthplace of his father. Since its inception it has attracted many Greek musicians (Katy Garbi, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Glykeria, Alkistis Protopsalti, Dimitra Galani, Miltos Pasxahildis etc.) to perform at free open-air concerts in the main square of Yialos, and also consists of many dance and theatre events.