A charming little island in Greece that looks straight out of a painting is home to one of Europe’s prettiest towns.
Symi, once a prosperous region in the Dodecanese, owed its wealth to the shipbuilding industry and sponge diving, both significant in the 20th century.
Over time, these activities waned, but the island tenaciously preserved its traditions.
The town comprises two charming settlements, Gialos and Chorio, each possessing its unique allure. Despite being a serene island, Symi attracts numerous visitors annually, particularly during the high season.
Kali Strata, a lovely marble staircase, connects the town to Chorio. At the top of these steps lies an area with smaller buildings than Gialos, showcasing a 19th-century mansion-fortress and a pharmacy from that era, both representing a captivating and intriguing period.
Gialos, Symi’s port, is an incredibly picturesque area surrounded by hills, featuring an amphitheatrical constructed town.
The primary town boasts several charming churches and colourful houses adorned in warm pastel tones, with balconies and red tile roofs. Wooden carvings, harking back to ancient times, often embellish the interiors.
At the port’s entrance stands the 1890 clock tower, a trademark of the island. Gialos is vibrant, with shops, bars, and cafes.
Yachts and ferries arrive daily from neighbouring islands, and Symi is a frequent stop on cruises and tours around the Dodecanese complex.
A major attraction is a Venetian castle constructed by the Knights of Agios Ioannis in 1407, situated at the highest point of the settlement.
Adjacent to the castle stands the stone church of Kyra Panagia. Although the castle suffered extensive damage during World War II, remnants of the fortified walls are still visible today.
The Archaeological Museum in the broader region showcases artifacts from the Byzantine and Medieval periods, including frescoes from isolated churches.
However, the atmosphere in Chorio differs significantly from Gialos. While Gialos exudes cosmopolitan vibes, Chorio captivates with its traditional character, often attracting fewer day-trippers.
Trip Advisor has reviews from travellers who have been to this undiscovered European town.
One person wrote: “Just over an hour from SW Turkey is the little island of Symi, a charming harbour surrounded by what seems like a pastel-coloured film set, but is, in reality, the actual main town of the island.
“The official red tape was over in minutes and we were free to wander the alleyways.
“Twenty-four hours was just not enough, I shall return before long.”
A second user commented: “We went to Symi with no real expectations. We left promising ourselves we will return! The whole island is steeped in history with a picture postcard around every corner.”