Arguably one of the prettiest Greek islands, Symi is only five km (three miles) east of the Turkish mainland and lies north of Rhodes in the eastern Aegean Sea. Its main settlement of Chorio is tucked around the fishing harbor of Yialos (or Gialos), and backs steeply up the surrounding hills in a jumble of pastel-hued Neo-Classical townhouses and churches topped with ornate spires.
Fishing has been the most important industry on Symi for centuries and by night the cobbled streets of Yialos are given over to seafood restaurants serving up the day’s catch. The harbor is still full of traditional wooden fishing boats, bobbing among the taxi-boats that ferry visitors out to the safe swimming at sheltered Agios Nikolaos beach or the translucent waters of Nanou and Agia Marina, both perfect for snorkeling.
Inland Symi is heavily forested, a walking and cycling paradise with several way-marked trails through pine and cypress trees, many giving spectacular views over the island’s inaccessible coves and others leading past hidden chapels and monasteries.
The most famous of Symi’s monasteries is the Archangel Michael at Panormitis, which stands on the waterfront in a bay on the island’s southwest coast. The present Venetian-style complex dates from the 15th century and is centered round an elaborate bell tower. As well as a library of rare Byzantine manuscripts, the monastery has two museums displaying gleaming Orthodox icons as well as traditional fishing and farming implements. Thanks to its sheltered bay, Panormitis is also one of the most popular moorings for charter boats as they sail the Dodecanese Islands; Pedi Bay on the northwest coast is also a magnet for yachties.
Symi is an hour north of Rhodes by ferry; there are also daily ferries from Kos in the summer. The Monastery of Archangel MichaelatPanormitis is open daily 7am–8pm. Its museums (admission €1.50) are open Apr–Oct 8.30am–1pm, 3–4pm.