Symi sunrise pink

Is Symi the Most Beautiful Small Town in the World?

Europe, Greece, Photo Essay, Photography

Symi, Greece, under a pink sunrise.

Is Symi, Greece, the most beautiful small town in the world?

I’ve always regarded Antigua, Guatemala, as the most beautiful town I’ve seen. Situated at the base of three volcanoes and encircled by cliffs, it enjoys a stunning natural setting. Grand Spanish colonial architecture, which is painted an assortment of bright colors, nestles up to cobblestone streets. To top it off, there are about 40 cathedrals in various states of photogenic ruin strewn about the city, reminders of violent earthquakes from the past. Throw in the Mayans with their colorful clothes, the gaudy chicken buses, and the always bustling Parque Central, and Antigua is pure magic.

Being in Symi the last few days, I found a place to rival it in my mind. Symi is essentially three towns in one – a harbor town, a village of stacked houses that climb up a vertiginous hillside, and a beach town called Pedi in the adjacent valley. Controlled by the Italians until World War II, it boasts polychromatic edifices more like those in Italy and different than the white wash so common in other Greek Isles.

The sea is beautiful and clear before falling off into an intense blue. The mountains are scrubby and daunting, rising up high above the town in all directions. In the distance the rocky shores of Turkey are visible. There are over a dozen churches in town, all brightly painted in orange, yellow, white and blue.

Like Antigua, Symi has a scruffy side. Symi was bombed during World War II, and the population of 2000 people is about 10 times less than in its heyday. As a result, there are many grand homes that lie in ruin. Often these ruins are adjacent to beautifully restored villas.

Symi is peaceful and charming. There is an easy pace of life. I went to the grocery store to buy something and the cashier was out front drinking a beer but paused to ring up my order. Another time at the same store the cashier was rolling a cigarette when I went to pay. The sidewalk cafes are filled with some visitors, but being tourist low-season, there are many locals there also. They are taking back the village.

I don’t know if Symi is the most beautiful small town in the world, but it has to be on the short list. What I do know is that when it comes time to get on the ferry, Kristi may have to drag me kicking and screaming. This place is special and it will be hard to leave.

Symi photo gallery

Click on any photo to open a slideshow view.

What is your favorite small town? 

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Currently living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~

41 thoughts on “Is Symi the Most Beautiful Small Town in the World?”

  1. Adventures in Kevin's World says:

    It looks lovely indeed. Which begs the question – why leave after only a few days? Looks to me like you should spend a week or more. I bet Kristi would agree.

    • Great question. Kristi was plotting how we could cancel the rest or our trip and stay and I was thinking of ways we could return and stay the rest of our lives.

      We just arrived in Crete, so we have a great island to come down from. Hopefully this takes her mind off of it or we may end up going back.

      • Adventures in Kevin's World says:

        Isn´t it nice when you find places like that? When I returned to Cuenca the other day I felt like I was coming home. Now if only I could get this damn spanish language. I know I´m doing better but it doesn´t always feel that way.

        I´m curious to see if you return.

      • When I studied Spanish I never quite knew how well I was doing until I was in a bar with a couple of cervesas in me. That is best way to judge your level.

  2. I have never heard of Symi before, but judging from your pictures I can tell it’s a beautiful small town, indeed. I can imagine myself lazing down at the beach or on top of the hill.

  3. thank you very much for post ! i am agree with you )) Symi is very nice place !) I was in September there
    and i would like to go back again
    and regards from russia

    • Irina – thank you for commenting. I hope to someday go back to Symi. The weather was perfect in October, but I’d like to visit in September when the water is warmer.

  4. Greece has been on our list for 2014 holiday – But then I was hesitant due to the crowds and heat of Jul – Then I saw your Santorini sunset and Symi post and it is now back on our holiday itinerary- any tips on best place to stay in Symi? We would be going with 2 kids 9 &12 years – Are the beaches easy to swim at i.e. not too rocky and deep? Can we visit the island without using a car?
    Would appreciate any recommendations on visiting the area!

    • I think for a family vacation you’d probably prefer Symi, but you really ought to look into Crete. That was our favorite island and I will be getting a post or two ready for it probably after this trip.

      For Symi, we stayed at the Dorian hotel and it would be perfect for a family. We had a studio apartment with a small kitchen that we used to make most of our meals. There are some outdoor seating areas with a partial sea view. The manager, Fotina was her name, was so helpful and sweet and brought us backlava and deserts at times. It was also very cheap, I think about 40 Euros a night (but that was in October)

      Symi has a small pebbly beach near the Dorian with calm water. Not great for kids for sand, but safe for swimming. You can take boat trips around the island but you don’t need a car. It is easily walkable.

      We stayed in Hania in Crete. There are some world class beaches on western Crete. We rented a car and drove everywhere. There are mountains there too if your family likes hiking. We stayed at Erato Rooms in Hania which also had a kitchen and a harbor view. It was great and again I think it was 40 or 50 Euros.

      Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks for reading and have fun planning your trip.

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  14. Yes – Symi is one of the many beautiful places in the world, what makes it extra special are the people. As someone who live on the island for a good few years, I can tell you, you visit Symi at a perfect time, as the island and her people starts to prepare for summer. Take in a large breath of the oregano on the Mountains, and then sit in Pacos with a cold beer for me.

    • The people of Symi, and Greece in general, were some of the friendliest and most hospitable I’ve met and were certainly a highlight of our trip. I am jealous that you got to live in Symi!

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  16. Takis says:

    Most of the greek islands do not have the white-washed cubic houses that we see on photos. That style is mainly found in the Cyclades islands, two of which are Santorini and Mykonos. That s why many tourists think all greek islands look like that. In fact most, don’t. Even nature is different on other islands. Corfu, Zakinthos, Samos, Kefalonia even have forests and small rivers!!!

    • And Crete has massive mountains. I love the Greek isles, one of the best places on Earth. Thanks for commenting.

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