Last updated on April 28, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Cyclades Islands

Best 12 places to visit in Symi Island

You will fall in love with Symi Island as soon as you will see the harbour town of Gialos, with its beautiful multicolour neo-classical buildings.

Symi is very popular with day trippers from Rhodes, and for a good reason, it’s so spectacular.

In fact, the main pass-time is to get lost in the maze of lanes behind the promenade.

You can even venture up to the old Chora, the formal capital of the island, between unique neoclassical mansions and typical Greek houses.

Chora was rated as one of the most beautiful towns in the Mediterranean Sea 100 years ago.

On those days, the port connected the eastern and the western world, and the sponges industry was at its peak.

The famous Clock tower on the north side of the bay
The famous clock tower on the north side of the bay

There is so much to see that it would be a pity to visit Symi only on a day trip.

In a couple of days, you will experience a lot. Stay longer in Symi and you will fall in love with it.

You will appreciate this destination so much more, especially in the late afternoon, after 5-6pm when most of the day trippers leave the island.

There are so many places to visit in Symi that you can, in fact, easily spend 4-5 days and experience something else every single day.

But without further ado, let’s start from the picturesque Gialos Town.

Gialos Town

This is the picturesque town that you will see approaching the main port of Symi.

Most of the houses are in neoclassical style and painted in a multitude of pastel colours.

Restaurants and bars are scattered all along the small promenade, with a few boats offering day tours.

Gialos gives its best in the late afternoon, when most of the day trippers leave the island, and it all becomes less touristy.

For this reason, I highly suggest staying in Symi for at least 2 nights, although 4 days would be the minimum ideal length for a holiday.

The most iconic spot is probably the Clocktower that divides Gialos into two parts, with the bigger bay on the west side and the smaller bay on the east side.

If you are travelling with children, I suggest venturing in the playground and the main square, both behind the only bridge in Gialos (you can’t miss it).

That is where most of the kids get together in the late evening, with water diffusers that keep the temperature a few degrees down.

View of the colourful Gialos
View of the colourful Gialos

Sarah Beach

A small boutique beach 500 metres east of Gialos Town. 

Follow the coast till the Clocktower. Keep going through the small bay and you will be there.

It is organised with a few sunbeds (7-10 Euro), a shower and the taverna overlooking the Aegean Seas.

If you are in Gialos and you want to go for a late swim, then Sarah Beach is the best spot for you.

It is tiny but, as you may expect, beautiful water and a lovely view.

For a bigger place, you should go to Pedi Beach.

The beautiful Sarah Beach
The beautiful Sarah Beach in the early morning, during my daily jogging time on the island

Chora

Chora is the old town of Symi island and the formal capital.

It’s hard to say where it starts. Just take any of the stairs (I counted 3 of them) that leaves from Gialos.

There are well over 400 steps to go up to the top. Get ready for that.

But, in genuine honesty, all well worthy.

This was the wealthy part of the island with beautiful neoclassical mansions today in some need of attention.

The stunning view of the bay is, of course, another great reason for the walk itself.

Another motivation for the climb is the Kali Strata restaurant, with the black octopus risotto being one of the highlights of my Symi holiday. 

The view from the balcony is once again outstanding, but remember to book your table as the taverna is very popular for dinner.

The colourful Symi Town
The colourful Chora rising from the port area of Symi Island

Pedi Beach

This is the most popular beach on the island, easily accessible from Gialos by bus.

Keep in mind that the hourly buses get really crowded in peak season.

Buses usually leave at 8am, and every start of the hour, from Gialos, they have a stop in the old town of Chora and they arrive in Pedi around 10-15 minutes later.

From Pedi, buses leave back to Gialos from 8:30am and every hour.

The most interesting part of the beach is organised with sunbeds next to the main taverna, straight on the beach.

They charge a small fee for the sunbeds, but they include a bottle of water and a dish of fresh fruit.

It is actually a magnificent spot for snorkelling, with fish very close to the taverna, probably attracted by the bread crumbs that tourists leave in the water.

Pedi is also a great place to stay in Symi if you are looking for a secluded accommodation by the beach.

View of Pedi from the drone
View of Pedi from the drone

Ready to book your stay in Symi?

Check out my guide to the best areas and towns to book your accommodation

Toli Beach

A nice little bay around 20-30 minutes by car from Gialos.

The beach is organised by the local Taverna called Dafnes, with free sunbeds and umbrellas.

You can also use (for free) the couple of canoes, an old wide surf board and a few floating sunbeds.

Sure, they are not brand new, but they charge nothing for that, which is great for a fun day out.

The food at the taverna is outstanding and at a very reasonable price.

My suggestion here is to book a table with a view as soon as you arrive at Toli.

There is plenty of availability for lunch, but the best tables tend to be all booked out.

To get there, take the main road south of the island. After a few switchbacks, you will see a sign for Dafnes Taverna.

Keep following that till you are at Toli Beach.

The relaxing Toli Beach where sunbeds, boards and old kayaks are free of charge
The relaxing Toli Beach where sunbeds, boards and old kayaks are free of charge

Saint Emilianos

Saint Emilianos is a small monastery built with the money donated by the sponge divers after the Saint appeared to their skipper in a dream.

It’s located on a beautiful islet with a blue lagoon all around.

It is accessible either with a long walk or with a boat tour (to be booked once on the island).

The advantage of joining the tour is that the captain has the key to the monastery, so you can enter without worries.

Think nothing big or impressive. However, the boutique church is totally worth the visit.

The view from the walls of the monastery is magnificent.

View of Saint Emilianos from a drone - the water is so outstanding
View of Saint Emilianos from a drone – the water is so outstanding

Seal Cave

This is a cave on the east coast accessible only by boat.

Its name comes from the resident seal, called by the locals Mr. Alex.

On my visit to the cave, to be honest, I haven’t seen any seal, but it really depends on the time of the day you are there. 

Best bets are early or late in the day.

I had, though, the possibility of doing some snorkelling around it, and enter the cave where I had a rest at the beach inside.

The place is another gem of Symi. 

Seal Cave - A great spot for snorkelling
Seal Cave – A great spot for snorkelling

Kupi Beach

A tiny boutique beach accessible only by the water with an organised tour or private taxi.

Located on the east coast, this is another great place to have a Robinson Crusoe day, totally isolated from Symi itself.

It’s a great place for snorkelling in pristine turquoise water.

The remote Kupi Beach
The remote Kupi Beach

Panormitis Monastery

Probably the most popular place to visit on the island.

You can take a regular ferry there, a tour or rent a car and drive through the island (45 minutes).

The advantage of renting a car is that you will enjoy the many viewpoints along the route.

The monastery inside is truly outstanding, with the chapel being one of the most beautifully decorated Orthodox churches I have ever seen in my life (and I have seen a few, even got married in one 🙂 ).

Icons and paintings of religious scenes start from the walls to continue all through the round roof.

The front of the chapel is all made of carved wood with an incredible attention to the details.

You can even taste the Antidoro bread, the sweet blessed bread that is usually given at the end of the mess.

Have a walk through the monastery for a few other interesting wall paintings.

The massive harbour area somehow goes in contrast with the small site, making the entire place a bit surreal.

A must visit in Symi.

The Panormitis Monastery - A great destination for a day trip
The Panormitis Monastery – A great destination for a day trip

Seskli Island

A small island south of Symi, accessible only by boat.

It appears to be just a rocky island. However, on the west side, you will find a small bay and a sandy/pebble beach with outstanding clear blue water.

I suggest here to use sandals or swimming shoes. 

There are a few urchins around, which tend to be always in the wrong place (for our feet).

Talking of urchins, if you get to step on one, put some oil over the painful part and leave it like that. 

The little needles will come out spontaneously by the end of the day (as suggested by the locals and, of course, fully tested myself).

Marathounda Beach

Ask any local about an unusual place to visit on the island and they will point you to Marathounda.

The beach itself is nothing spectacular, to be honest with you.

Big pebbles make impossible a walk without swimming shoes.

The water is outstanding, as usual, and plenty of possibilities for snorkelling, with fish concentrated on the sides of this boutique bay.

So, what is the reason for a visit?

The goats that roam around the beach and they may even come to inspect your bag for food.

I had a similar experience in Tasmania, but with kangaroos. Every country has the own native animals of course.

There are sunbeds and umbrellas where you can lie down and a taverna to have lunch.

Marathounda Beach is easily accessible from the main road that goes from Gialos to the southeast point of the island.

I visited it with a rented car on a day trip together with the Panormitis Monastery and Toli Beach.

Just keep in mind to avoid parking under a tree, otherwise the goats may use the car roof as an elevated point to eat the leaves.

Saint Georgios Beach

The most famous beach of Symi, and for a good reason, it is magnificent!

It is not just the water, so clear and turquoise, but also the scenery of the bay.

For most of the people, this beach is accessible only from the water.

For the selected adrenaline-driven young group, you can climb it down and up through the 70 metres cliff on the back of the beach.

This option is available only though experienced climber guides on the island. DO NOT attempt it on your own.

The beach itself is very wild, in fact so wild that goats roam around on their own.

You may spot a bunch of them climbing up the steep cliff on the water side and wonder how can they do it!

Just a warning, the sun disappears from this beach after 2:30-3pm.

It’s great to have a bit of a shade, especially in July and August, but you will miss out the spectacular colours of the water in the afternoon.

More photos of Symi

Are you looking for a boat?
Are you looking for a boat? Gialos could be the place to buy one
Los Bar
Los Bar in Gialos
Queue for the ferry back to Rhodes in the late afternoon
Queue for the ferry back to Rhodes in the late afternoon
View of the colourful Gialos
View of the colourful Gialos
Walking along Gialos later in the day without day trippers around
Walking along Gialos later in the day without day trippers around
The busy bus from Gialos to Pedi
The busy bus from Gialos to Pedi
The beach at the Pedi village
The beach at the Pedi village
Walking in Pedi
Walking in Pedi
View of Pedi from the drone
View of Pedi from the drone
The cafe towards the end of the Pedi village
The cafe towards the end of the Pedi village
Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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