Sými is a small island north of Rhodes (58.1 sq. km), with three sides surrounded by the indented coast of Asia Minor. The coast of Symi is also greatly indented by bays around the whole of perimeter of the island. The population is 2600 people and is concentrated mainly in the settlement Symi, which lies on the shores of one of the bays and on the hillside. The island named after the nymph Symi, wife of Poseidon. Ancient names: Egli, Metapontida. Every day, many tourists come here from Rhodes, on tour or on your own, to admire the unique architecture of the village.

Island map

We came here too. Getting out ashore, we started in vain to look for a receiving party. The landing stage is situated on a fairly narrow section of the bay, it takes only to wonder at the skill of the skippers of big ships, that slew them across the harbour so that the bow almost touches the opposite shore, one of these ships came in our presence late at night. There are too little area on the moorage; people and cars in rush and bustle unloaded directly onto a narrow embankment, and block it at all the time of unloading-loading.

As already noted, in spite of agreement, we have not met anybody on the moorage. Fortunately, I knew about the location of our hotel and, also fortunately, it was quite near. When the bustle calmed down a bit, I went in search that soon succeeded. Our apart-hotel "Captain's" located on the first floor of a two-story house on the waterfront. There was a jewelry shop on the ground floor, the gentleman who had to meet us sat there. As justification, he reproached us that we were late.

It should be noted that when we prepared to depart, the same gentleman tried to take extra money for a room, but I reminded him of the defined price and he immediately agreed with me. And more, a perfume that was bought as a gift disappeared from the room. However, I was ready to such attitude: there was the only review about these apartments, very negative, left by the Greeks who lived here for three days. They were dissatisfied with both hotel staff and all residents of Symi.

The question arises: why do we still have chosen it?

Apartments "Captain's" are located directly on the waterfront in the heart of the village, in the midst of the local life that does not stop even at night. In one of nights, it was heard the sounds of music and drunken voices from a nearby house, apparently, a night club. For an extended stay, it can be tiring (and this was noted by our predecessors in the review), but for us, taking into account only the two-day stay here, and after quite a quiet place in Rhodes, it was the goods. Besides, the price here was much lower than in other places. It should be noted that there was not a great choice; the majority of apartments are for rent for at least a week.

The apartment has so-called "mousandra": the interior space is divided into two floors by the wooden ceiling. A wooden staircase leads up, and there is a low dark room with small windows, with double bed and TV, at the far end - the door to a bathroom. Downstairs there is another double bed, table, chairs, wardrobes, kitchen corner. The furnishing is beautiful, made in traditional style: embroidered bedspreads, curtains, carved furniture. Instead of windows, there are three doors to two balconies, one of which is quite small, another is larger, with a table and chairs.

There are visible from the windows: the bay, yachts, neighboring houses, the embankment with pedestrians. Fresh fish called garfish was selling in the morning on the embankment beneath us; one of them was purchased, fried and eaten with relish.

Click the images to enlarge them.

The car was rented for one day from morning to evening for 30 euros. The office was located not far from us, in the first floor of a house in the central square. On this central square is situated the parking place, where I picked up a car (Opel Agila) and where I put it in the evening. I think this is the only place in the area where one can easily park a car. One of the employees of the hire office has a bandaged foot and she asked me to take her to the upper village. I have never driven a car with such caution before.

Now I come to the description of the island and its sights.

Symi settlement is divided into two parts - Yialós (in translation - just a "coast") lies on the shores of a small bay, which has the shape of the acute angle; Horió (just a "village") located on top of a hill that overhang over the south shore of the bay.

The shores of the bay and the steep slopes of the hills surrounding the bay are built with two- three-storied houses. The houses are painted in colours of warm tones, from yellow to bordeaux, covered with a gable tiled roof of red colour and are made, as it is considered, in neoclassical style. The view of the bay because of these houses is very beautiful and is one of the most famous in Greece.

Compact planning and steep hills of Yialos strictly limit the possibility of movement in the car. The only road that running along the embankment of the bay is so narrow that in many places does not allow to pass one another even two compact cars. Therefore, the main types of local transportation are bikes, scooters and motofurgons.

On the embankment of the south shore there are a bus stop, taxi rank, pier for ferries. The long stair lifts in Horio begins from here. Going beyond the limits of dwellings zone, the embankment turns into an ordinary road and begins a serpentine rise also in the upper village Horio.

At the top angle of the bay lies the main square of Yialos with a stage and the parking place. In one of the buildings is located the Maritime Museum of Symi. Along the embankment of the south shore extends a row of souvenir shops under the sheds, the main product of them is the sea sponge. Pieces of different sizes of yellow and brown lined on the shelves in large quantities. Collecting the sponge was formerly the main occupation of the local population. This was the heyday of the island; the population at the beginning of XX century was considerably more then now and reached 25 thousand people. But with the advent of the Italians in 1912 the sponge production was banned and most of the island's inhabitants emigrated. Only a small part of the sponge, which is displayed on the shelves is of local origin, the rest is imported from Asia and America.

All-round panorama from the embankment

In the north the bay ends with a Clock Tower, post office and police station. Beside the tower there are two large anchors and a monument to a pioneer-hero (presumably). Further the coast forms another little bay. Here at its shore lies area of Haráni, still further there is a small beach Nos. A dirt road along the coast to the north-west of Yialos leads to another bay with a beach and a few houses, a place called Emboriós (Nimboriós).

Horio is a picturesque place with a medieval fortress, row of mills and many churches. It makes sense to get up here along the streets-staircases with beautiful names, Kalí Stráta and Kataráktis, starting from the embankment. We have performed this route twice. Once, late at night, we got lost there, wandering the narrow streets until we came to the place with a view of our bay. And the views from the road that leads from Yialos are just magnificent.

From this same road departs branch line to Pédi village, lying on the shore of the picturesque bay of the same name. Here is the main beach resort of the island with several hotels, restaurants and beaches.

Above, one of the roads from the Horio goes west to the Monastery of the Archangel Michael Roukouniótis, while the main road climbs even higher and leads to the southern part of the island. In search of beautiful views, we turned to a dirt road that leads at the top to a wind turbine.

Further along the road to the south, the Monastery of Sotíris Megálos is located. On the other side of the road, there starts a path that leads, as it is written on a guideboard, to the Byzantine wine presses. I went quite a long time along it, following the arrows on the rocks, but have not found the presses. The path goes through the forest of low conifers, growing strangely straight on the monolithic rock, which take the place of soil here. The path passes a pair of churches and went to the farm with lots of sheep and the lack of people. I turned back. You can see the presses here (website in Greek).

Further the road begins the serpentine descend, and before the descent, there are a magnificent view of the southern part of the island. On the left, there is a small bay Marathoúnda with rocky beach and taverna. On the right, on the shore of a picturesque inland bay, there is the Monastery of the Archangel Michael Panormítis. This is the final destination of the road and our review of the island.

Above all, the picturesque bell tower in the Baroque style rises, which is also a gateway into the inner space of the monastery. The church with painted walls situated in the center courtyard of the monastery. Here is a large icon of the Archangel Michael in a silver frame. The two-storey galleries surround the church, inside which, among other things, there are two museums, ecclesiastical and folklore. Date of construction of the monastery main buildings - XVIII century. Outside there is a cafe at the pier. There is also a hotel with apartment rooms.

The excursion boats from Rhodes regularly put in to the moorage: the monastery is a part of the program for visiting Symi. When we were there, two ships approached, and the crowd of tourists rushed to the monastery church, creating a crush and queue, even it was not clear how they all could fit in there. Thank God we had time to be there before.

So, we visited almost all the places on the island, where one can reach by car. Some coves with beaches are accessible only by water or on foot. As it is written (we have not verified), at the moorages of Yialos and Pedi you can use the water taxi that will take you to one of these secluded beaches: Ágios Nikólaos, Agía Marína, and Nanoú.

By noon September 25, we packed our things, paid, said goodbye to the owner and went to the pier, where at the appointed time (or a little later, one or two hours at most) we got on the same "Proteus" and headed to the Tilos Island.



Tílos Island lies to the south-west of Symi, between the islands of Hálki and Nísyros. In area (62.8 sq. km), it is slightly larger than Symi. The population of the island is only about 500 people and is concentrated in three inhabited localities of the island, two villages of Livádia and Megálo Horió, and one place, Ágios Andónis, which even can not be named as a village.

Island map

Tilos is a conservation area, a place of stopover for many migratory birds and a habitat for some of rare species of them. Hunting is not allowed here. Several times we have seen here partridges wandering along the road.

Tilos - the native land of elephants! According to scientists, pygmy elephants lived here 50 thousand years ago and died in 4000 BC. Most of the bones were found in one cave on the island, some of them can be seen in the museum in Megalo Horio.

Our ferry docked at the pier in the village of Livadia. The landlord of the apartments "Seva's studios" Andonis was already waiting for us there, he took us to our rooms on a minibus in a couple of minutes. Yes, this time we had two rooms-studios that cost separately very cheap, even if summing up the price of these two rooms, it turns out that living here was one of the cheapest (2nd place after Rhodes). The rooms have everything you need: a kitchen, beds, wardrobes, TV, bathroom with shower, outdoor terrace. From the terrace of one of the rooms one can climb the stairs to the roof of a pre-house, where there is a table with an umbrella and a panoramic view of Livadia.

On the day of our arrival here, the first time the weather turned bad, the sky became overcast and closer to the night rain had fallen. The next day was again sunny and clear, there were only light clouds, which gave additional beauty to landscapes of the island.

Fiat Panda was rented in the office "Iris" at the moorage for 40 euros, a little expensive, but I could return it the next day at the same hour, when I picked it up. That is, it was possible to drive at the next morning.

Livádia is a small village, stretched along a picturesque bay and surrounded by hills. It is also the only beach resort on the island with hotels and a pebble beach. Near the pier is the police office, made in style of Italian constructivism, so popular here in the Dodecanese. Just above it, there is the main square of the village with a couple of shops and taverns; it is the center of local social life. Further the street, going inland, begins to rise and at the end of the village (5 minute walk) it becomes the main road on Tilos that connects two villages. It is here, at the end of the village and a little rising over it, there is our apartment.

Along the coast, a little away from the dock, the pebble beach stretches with a one-story houses of hotels directly in front of it. Here is a large and beautiful Church of Saint Nicholas. Still further, at the opposite end of the village is a small fishing harbour of Ágios Stéfanos.

The season is over, there were few tourists. Free rooms in the coastal hotels and in "Seva's studios" were more than occupied. After a bustling Symi, the local life seems calm and measured. The roads of the island deserted, it is a great rarity to see other road users. Only a shuttle minibus, plying between the villages regularly came across.

My mother, who don't speak foreign languages, but who can, unlike us, strike up an acquaintance anywhere, met here with Russian girl. She came here after his mother, who married a local, and works as a waitress. According to her, at the season, the life here is in full swing, and she work harder, although she does not receive a salary, works for the family.

All-round panorama from the pier

The main road from Livadia goes slightly up, and passes on the bottom of the hollow, surrounded by hills on both sides.

To the left, on the slope of hill there can be seen the ruins of an abandoned village Mikró Horió (in translation - "little village"). The people, from the 30's to 60's of the XX century, moved away from here to the coast, forming the village of Livadia. Let's turn from the main road to the left, climb the hill, then turn right at the dirt road that leads to the ruins. Among the gray walls of ruined houses, the Church of Mother of God stands white and well-groomed. Besides this, of the undamaged buildings, there is only a night club that runs on Fridays and Saturdays from 23 o'clock (as it is written on the door).

Let's return from the dirt road to the asphalted one, which rises even higher, turns south and goes on the hill above the valley and the gulf of Livadia. Wonderful views are opening from here.

Soon we find ourselves at a fork. The road to the right leads to a telecommunication station, located on a hilltop. From this road there is a magnificent view of the bay Éristos lying to the north.

The road to the left leads to the southern part of the island and ends with a building and hills of trash behind a fence. It seems that they deal with the garbage recycling here. The coast of this part of Tilos forms a series of small coves with small beaches (Stavrós, Tholós, Ágios Sérgios), to get to which you can either by walk from the road or by sea. In addition, closer to the end of the road to the left passes either path, or another road, but suitable only for off-road cars that leads further south to the ruins of the abandoned village of Gerá. Also in this area there are ruins of small fortresses Stávrou Lámbrou and Agriosikiá.

Let us return to the main road and go further to the northwest. On the way, there is the only on the island gas station, and a small modern Church of Saint George.

Further there is a turn to the left towards the cave Harkadió, where the bones of dwarf elephants were found. Before it, there is a small amphitheater; the cave itself is closed by a high fence.

We move on to the main road, which brings us to the capital of Tilos, a village of Megálo Horió that means the big village. It lies at the foot of a steep hill, on top of which the fortress built in the times of knights is visible. Until the XVIII century the village was located inside the fortress, and then gradually moved down.

The only street has one-way traffic, passes through the central square of the village and, accomplishing a circle, and goes back to the main road. In the central square on a rising ground, there is the museum of dwarf elephants. From the opposite side of the building, it comes to the churchyard with the main village Church of Archangel.

I have got in the museum to the third attempt. The first time I arrived at 4 pm - closed. The notice says that there is not some sort of schedule in the museum, and the opening hours need to be asked in the administration, which is located in the same building, but on the opposite side. The door of the administration was also closed. I arrived the next morning at 8 o'clock. That was the last day of our stay in the island, it was necessary to take the car to the hire office to 10.30. Everything was closed again; it was Sunday, the church service was being held. I heard a little the priest singing outside the church, then went to the beach Eristos. Returned to 9.30 almost no hope of success, and lo, the museum was opened!

Woman-keeper is not required to pay the visit to the museum, asked only whether I am a member of the press, apparently, impressed by view of my camera. I am not at all embarrassed, replied in the affirmative, saying that it is an online media.

The museum is a small room, which walls are covered by sheets with pictures and text exclusively in Greek. The centerpiece of the room has the silhouette of the dwarf elephant on the wall in full size. In appropriate places attached the replicas of bones that were found in the cave Harkadio.

The bones of dwarf elephants found Professor of Athens University N. Simeonidis in 1971, although he was looking for human bones. To date, about 12000 bones of more than 40 elephants were found.

Moving on, the road from Megalo Horio changes direction, and soon comes to a crossroads. Turning left, we get to the big pebble beach Éristos on the picturesque bay. Turning right, we reach another bay, there are a few houses of place Ágios Andónis here. Also from here the road to the Monastery of Saint Panteleimon begins.

The road comes to the north-western edge of the island (there is a beach of Pláka, a nearby island Gáidaros), it turns, and goes on the slopes of the steep cliffs overhanging the sea. In one of the crevices between the rocks, shaded and filled with greenery, is situated the Monastery of Saint Panteleimon, built in the second half of the XV century and reached the bloom in XVIII century.

Through the gate, made in a stone tower, we get to the small monastery courtyard with an old church. At the upper level, there are renovated cells of the inhabitants of monastery. However, none of them we have not seen. There was only one guy, who arrived on a motorcycle, which during our stay was sweeping the territory. The place is beautiful, secluded and pleasant - ideal for the monastery; that is, if I was a monk, I would like to live just here.

We were everywhere, where one can get by the car. September 27 at the appointed hour, we packed our things, wanted to pay off the owner and go, but there was not Andonis here. We had to go to the port with our suitcases on foot, since the distance was small and downhill. Previously, Andonis showed us a shop on the main square of Livadia, where he can be found. This time he was not there, but there was his mother, and I gave her money for accommodation.

Getting aboard the "Proteus", we moved to the north. Taking a short stop at the island of Nisyros, we sailed further to the island of Kos.

Here I digress from the geographical principle of construction of my narrative, according to which I must first tell you about our stay in Nisyros, and then in Kos. It will be vice-versa, as most tourists go first to Kos, and then from there go to Nisyros, we were not an exception. In addition, the history of the organization of our trip to Nisyros is directly connected to some places on Kos.


Attribution-No Derivative Works (CC-BY-ND) by Andrey K.