6 Best Sights in Symi, Rhodes and the Dodecanese

Monastery of Taxiarchis Michael Panormitis

Fodor's choice

The main reason to venture to the atypically green, pine-covered hills surrounding the little Gulf of Panormitis is to visit this unexpectedly huge monastery dedicated to Symi's patron saint, the protector of sailors. The site's entrance is surmounted by an elaborate bell tower, of the multilevel wedding-cake variety on display in Yialos and Chorio. A black-and-white pebble mosaic adorns the floor of the courtyard, which is surrounded by a vaulted stoa. The interior of the church, entirely frescoed in the 18th century, contains a marvelously ornate wooden iconostasis, which is flanked by a heroic-size representation of Michael, all but his face covered with silver. There are two small museums, one dedicated to folk culture (closed for renovation at the time of writing) and the other to religious paraphernalia. The latter has a particularly eclectic collection, including votive offerings of wooden ship models, bottles with notes containing wishes, and, most bizarrely, stuffed crocodiles.

If a day trip isn't enough for you, the monastery rents 75 spartan rooms (from €20 per night) with kitchens and private baths. Though the price doesn't include a towel or air-conditioning and there are insects (some rather large), the spiritual aspect makes for an enriching experience. A nursing home as well as a market, bakery, restaurant, and a few other businesses make up the rest of the settlement. The monastery is at its busiest for the week leading up to November 8, Michael's feast day, an event that draws the faithful from throughout the Dodecanese and beyond.

85600, Greece
22460-71581-museums
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Monastery free; museums €1.50, Monastery: daily 7–8; museums: Apr.–Oct. 8:30–1 and 3–4; Nov.–Apr. by appointment

Aghios Giorgos

The half-hour boat trip down the rugged east coast of the island from Pedi Bay is part of the pleasure of an excursion to this beautiful strip of sand, backed by sheer cliffs. The absence of amenities requires a bit of preparation—bring water, food, and an umbrella, as there are few shade-providing trees. Amenities: none. Best for: nudists; snorkeling; solitude; swimming.

Pedi Bay, 85600, Greece

Aghios Nikolas

Accessible by water taxi from Chialos, the alternative way is to walk, taking the 1 km-long (600 yards) rough path leading east of Pedi Bay. Once there, a sandy beach slopes gently into the sea, providing shallow waters that are excellent for children; it's backed by a grove of shade-giving trees. Despite the relative isolation, the beach attracts summertime crowds and is well equipped with food vendors and other facilities. Amenities: food and drink; toilets; water sports. Best for: snorkeling; swimming.

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Archaeological Museum of Symi

The Archaeological Museum, housed amid a daze of twisting back lanes, is divided into two sections. The upper display spreads a trio of rooms depicting the history of the island through Hellenistic and Roman sculptures and inscriptions as well as icons, costumes, and handicrafts. Below this, a museum guide takes you into a merchant's archontiko (manison). Built overlooking the bay to spot invaders, it offers a fascinating look at the traditional life of the wealthy family that once lived here.

Chorio, 85600, Greece
22460-71114
Sight Details
Rate Includes: €2, Closed Tues., Tues.–Sun. 8–2:30

Church of Ayhios Ioannis

This church built in 1838 incorporates in its walls fragments of ancient blocks from a temple that apparently stood on this site and is surrounded by a plaza paved in an intricate mosaic, fashioned from inlaid pebbles.

Yialos, 85600, Greece

Kastro

Incorporating fragments of an ancient acropolis within its walls, the castle was built by the Knights of St. John in a short-lived attempt to expand their holdings in Rhodes. A church and several chapels dot the sparse hillside around the remnants of its walls. The hilltop view takes in both sides of the narrow peninsula that Chorio crowns, with the villages of Yialos and Pedi (and their sparkling harbors) far below.