We all have memories in our minds and Symi will add one more to the list. As the Simi ferry swings around the last headland, a fantastic sight opens up.
Apparently slipping down the barren hillsides, gathered all around the great horseshoe curve of a superb natural harbour, are tiers of yellow - and ochre-coloured houses, interspersed with the white walls and bright red roofs of churches.
The houses are not typical Greek village houses but two- and three-storey neo-classical structures, in fact buildings of stature. It is these houses, built in Symi's golden days when the islanders grew wealthy on sponge-diving and boat-building, that now are being restored, one by one, for the island's growing numbers of visitors. And the Greek authorities have placed a preservation order on the whole town to ensure the magical beauty is not lost. So for the perfect Symi visitor, climb up the Kali Strata steps, to explore the maze of lanes in Horio, or a trip by sea taxi to the beaches of Pedi or Agios Georgios, to bask in the baking heat of the Aegean summer, or overland to the white monastery of Panormitis. Symi is a tale of restoration, preservation, relaxation, imagination,welcome to paradise...
The island of Symi lies 24 miles (40kms) to the northwest of Rhodes, covering an area of 26 square miles (68 sq kms). It is approximately 8 miles (13kms) long by 6 miles (9.5kms) wide, with Mount Vigla its highest point at 2021 feet (616m).
The main harbour is Yialos (Symi Town) with smaller settlements at Pedi, Nimborio and Marathounda. Yialos is the main tourist area, where visitors from a wide range of countries – Scandinavians, French, Italians, Turks, British - create a very cosmopolitan atmosphere. Yialos is linked to the Horio or village by a flight of 360 steps known as the Kali Strata , a 19th century replacement for an ancient, stepped footpath, the Kataraktis, which originally connected the two parts of the town. Horio contains a selection of kafeneions, restaurants and small grocery shops and is also the most populated section of the island, retaining the authentic atmosphere of local life. Yialos is also linked to Horio by a metalled road which winds around the hillside before heading off across the island’s part-wooded interior to Panormitis in the south. This is a large monastery complex which attracts visiting tourists and pilgrims all year round. For walkers, there are also numerous footpaths and road-tracks around the island.