Rhodes To Symi Day Trips
Rhodes to Symi on a day trip offers you many things to do outside of the normal, larger island style holiday activity. Let’s face it, if Rhodes is your holiday destination you are not going to be short of things to do. The island has many attractions of its own, but one of the best kept secrets is a day trip to Symi, the nearby island, called ‘the jewel of the Dodecanese.’
Getting from Rhodes to Symi
First of all, ask your holiday rep if they organise excursions to Symi. If they don’t, or if you would rather go it alone, you will find the day trip boats in Mandraki Harbour which is just outside of the Old Town city walls, in the area known as Rhodes New Town. Some of the boats that come to Symi include the Nikolias X, the Symi II, and the Symi. Simply look along the advertising boards that line the harbour and see which boat is going and when. They tend to leave Mandraki at 9.00 in the morning and return for around 17.30 or 18.00 so you get a full day out. Prices are competitive so check around.
You may also want to call in to a travel operator and ask about the Dodecanese Seaways itinerary. These two high speed catamarans leave from Colona harbour, according to their schedules, and the trip to Symi takes only 45 minutes. But these are ferries and not day trip boats, so you won’t get to see the monastery of Panormitis.
The Monastery of St Michael at Panormitis
After about and hour and a half of sailing, during which time you can take refreshments and sunbath on the upper deck seating, the day trip boats call in to the south end of Symi island, to Panormitis. (Sometimes they go there on the way back instead.) This is one of the most important monasteries in Greece and attracts visitors and pilgrims from all over the world on the saint’s day in November. But it is also open through the summer season. As well as the icons and paintings, the large pebbled courtyard and the church itself, you will also find two museums, a bakery, two cafes and stunning scenery.
Your boat may only stay here a short while so check the time displayed on the stern of the boat to see when it is going to leave. It is a long way to get from Panormitis to Yialos, Symi’s harbour, by foot (four hours roughly, and lots of up hill), and quite costly in a taxi, if you can get one. So don’t miss the boat.
After a sail of around 45 minutes your boat will pull into Symi harbour, or Yialos as it is called. Don’t miss the photo opportunity! Rounding the headland and approaching Symi is one of those ‘always to be remembered’ views, with neoclassical houses tumbling up the hillside, the shops and boats, the dramatic hills and the coastline all huddling together to take your breath away.
Where you disembark will depend on the boat you are on. Here’s our guide:
If you pull in near the clock tower (there is only one), or on the same side of the harbour as the clock tower, then you are on the north side of the harbour. If you pull in opposite you are, naturally on the south side. Between both docking places is the frontage of shops, cafes and restaurants, and you can take a pleasant stroll from one side to the other. But don’t miss the back street area either.
Coming from the clock tower you will see a low bridge at the head of the harbour, cross this and then go diagonally right and you will find yourselves behind the main ‘tourist drag.’ Here there are more shops and eating places, the ‘Cathedral’ of Symi, St John’s church, with its pebbled courtyard, and many other interesting sights beside.
Again, make sure you check the return time of your boat and don’t rely on the clock tower – it’s sometimes an hour behind or ahead of what your own watch will say. Yialos has lots of things to see, including the Nautical Museum when open, and attracts many visitors.
Tip: You may disembark with lots of other people in large groups. They will be gathering, waiting for their guide. Get ahead of the rush!
If you call into the leather shop ‘Takis’ and say you heard about him on Symi Dream, you’ll be offered a healthy discount.
This really is Symi’s best kept secret and hardly any of the big, day trip groups venture to the village. This is your chance to see real Greek life, real Symi life, and to get away from the tourist shops and tourists in the harbour.
Are you fit or up for a challenge? If you are then you can walk up to the village, there are about 370 steps to climb, depending on your route. And there are a couple of easy routes to follow. Tip: take water, wear a hat and keep to the shade as much as possible.
The Kali Strata from the clock tower
You need to find the flat end of the harbour, and you will see it directly opposite you as your come in. If you get off at the clock tower, walk around the harbour to the south side. You will pass Takis Leather and then later, Manos’ famous fish taverna, and many other paces. Crossing the little bridge you follow the sea, keeping it to your left or you’re going the wrong way, until you get to the ‘corner’ of the harbour (photo left). There are taxi boats lined up here, and the road you are walking on bends around to the left to follow the sea. But you keep going straight on, past the fruit and veg stall and the kiosk, and the Vapori bar until you see a restaurant called Bella Napoli. (Great pizzas.) Behind and to the right of this you will see (currently) blue steps, and a sign saying Καλι Στρατα. This is one way to start the climb. The other is to turn left at Bella Napoli and then take the first right. You can’t miss it, it’s a set of steps with jewellery shops and the Kalodoukas office either side. From here on, either way you go, you simply head up the steps and keep climbing.
The steps start out quite narrow and shallow but soon you will find them opening out, at about step 50 which is when your legs go numb and you don’t mind the climb any more because everything has stopped hurting. Keep going. You will come to a bend in the steps heading right, and up. Just above this this is where the other route joins us so wait and rest on the bench provided for a moment while I deal with those people coming from the south side of the harbour.
The Kali Strata from the south side of Yialos
If you’ve got off your boat on the south side you will see a slope heading upwards, probably just to your left as you disembark. This is a way to get to the village without having to walk through the crowds who will, by now, be assembling and looking for a yellow umbrella or a waving clipboard.
Take a deep breath and start on up this slope. It doubles back once, then again, then once more and on the next, the 4th hairpin corner, you can stop, take a breather on the low wall and admire the view. Now then, you can either follow this slope further up, then up some steep steps, then turn right and follow the slope again past the school (which is a pretty hard climb) or you can take the set of steps that head directly up, just above the fourth corner where you are currently resting. These are wide and easier and will bring you out just above where we left the party coming from the other direction.
On the Kali Strata
We are now all on the Kali Strata, the ‘good steps’ or the ‘good road.’ And we are near the village – it’s not as far as it sounds, this should have taken you only a few minutes to get here. Keep heading up and you will come to a very scenic corer where there is a bar open in the evenings. The Kali Strata bar, an apt name.
Admire the view, drink some water and then turn to face the most daunting part, the south face of the village you could call it. Again it’s not as bad as it looks. Keep to the shade and head on up. You will pass the Symi Dream shop on your right – stop and say hello if we are open, and pick up a free map of the village, and then, a little further up and… you’ve made it! You’re at the top. (Of the Kali Strata, the village clambers up another few hundred steps…)
You will know when you have reached ‘the top’ as you will see a couple of bars and tavernas and the village square. From here you can head off to the right to visit the domed church you would have noticed as you sailed in (not often open but great views), or you can turn left to find a healthy café and hotels, or you can go straight on and up to find the folk museum closed on Monday but otherwise open from 8.00 to 14.00.)
Our advice is to rest and have a soft drank before venturing on. The village itself is made up of small lanes and it is easy to get lost, so keep your bearings as much as possible, or take some thread. Only joking. If you are lost, ask someone for the Kali Strata and you will directed. Or, if all else fails, simply head downhill and you will reach the sea at some point, though maybe not the same stretch of sea where you left your boat.
The village, Horio or Chorio as it is written, will give you a much quieter and more realistic view of Symi life. It’s quieter up here, there are less people, but there are still places to eat and drink and have lunch. You can spend an hour up in the village and still have time for shopping in Yialos. The journey back down is a lot easier, but leave yourself enough time. If your boat has not yet been to Panormitis you will stop there on the away back. If it has then the return trip to Rhodes takes around one hour 45 minutes – more time for sunbathing and swapping adventure stories.
Alternatively maroon yourself on Symi and stay the night.
There. That’s out guide to a day trip from Rhodes to Symi. You can find other pages of interest from the following links. Feel free to print these pages and take them with you and most of all, enjoy Symi.