the island of Simi, the pearl of the Dodecanese

Greece: the island of Simi, the pearl of the Dodecanese

Simi Island © r_andrei – stock.adobe.com

With its port amphitheater on the slope of Mount Simi and its colorful neoclassical houses form one of the most beautiful places in the Dodecanese Islands. This incredibly charming island not far from Rhodes deserves to be explored not only by postcard, but also by hikes, from which magnificent panoramas open up, or with feet in the water in one of its secret coves accessible by sea.

Simi, the island of the captains

Simi, the island of the captains

Gialos Port © kathomenden – stock.adobe.com

The Datca Peninsula (Turkey) is well protected from the fury of the Meltem wind thanks to the claw of a crab, Simi benefits from a microclimate conducive to idleness, judging by the number of luxury yachts that dock at the port Gialos in a good season.

But let’s not fall so easily for appearances, this island, a veritable Hollywood location with its amphitheater of colorful houses cascading down to the port, has a real history.

One hour by ferry from its big sister Rhodes, the beautiful (and this term is not abused) Simi She owed her prosperity to three types of activity: sponge fishing, trade and shipbuilding.

Architecture of Simi Island © Ian Woolcock – stock.adobe.com

Until the Italians took it from the Turks in 1912 (which by the way meant the end of its glory), the island had 25,000 inhabitants and produced up to 500 boats a year! Known from antiquity, the fleet of Egli (previous name), the homeland of King Nireus according to Homer, even took part in the famous Trojan War.

From past years, the city has preserved a Italian neoclassical architecture very fashionable in 19d s, which, with the exception of Halka, contrasts with the Aegean architecture of the other Dodecanese islands.

Rumors even claim that these seabed scrapers (sponge fishers, or rather those who hired them) would get rich by reselling in London, Paris or Marseille some of the antiquities they fished from the seabed. …

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Many visitors make day trips to Symi with day trips from Rhodes. We advise you to spend the night in Sima to take advantage of the new peace and find time to admire the exceptional beauty of its port. But beware, in August Symi is a bit like Saint-Tropez in the Dodecanese and prices tend to skyrocket!

Simi, the pious island

Simi, the pious island

Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis © Ian Woolcock – stock.adobe.com

To the south of the island stands a monastery known throughout Greece: Archangel Michael Panormitis Monastery, the protector of all Greek sailors (and God knows if there are any!). Built in the 18th centuryd This Venetian-style ensemble has the world’s tallest baroque bell tower. It dominates a quiet bay, it is still inhabited and pilgrims passing by may even spend the night there.

Its church, accessed by a magnificent courtyard, is paved Khokhlakia (a collection of small pebbles), hides a wonderful iconostasis of sculpted wood, several frescoes of recent work and a 2m silver leaf icon, which is said to have come back up on its own after several attempts to knock it out of its place!

In the same way, local tradition says that if you bring a broom to the icon of the Archangel, then at home during sleep, the cleaning will take place by itself! To be honest, they haven’t tried!

Before leaving the premises, do not miss the small museum, which brings together an impressive number of ex-votos bequeathed to the church by sailors who were spared the riches at sea, as well as messages from bottles abandoned on the Big Blue and miraculously found on the shores of the monastery.

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Among other religious buildings in Sima, our favorite is this one Rukuniot Monastery of Archangel Michael. This small, all-white ensemble, watched over by an 850-year-old cypress tree, is much older. It was built by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem on the foundation of the monastery, which is confirmed in the 5th century.d and has the peculiarity that two churches are built on top of each other.

The one below hides 15 great paintingsd s practically intact. And if you’re not afraid of bats, ask Damianos (the caretaker) to show you the ossuary, you’ll see several skulls of monks lined up at the entrance to the catacombs (now partially destroyed).

Simi, the island of surprises

Simi, the island of surprises

Trail © Eric Milet

From Greek mythology, we know that Simi is the island of the birth of the Charites (the 3 graces of the Romans), goddesses who personify life in all its fullness: temptation, beauty, nature and fertility… Everything is on schedule! But we don’t know that the island, which looks like a desert, hides a real small forest.

Marrying on a hill, this relic of ancient times hides very beautiful specimens of cypress, Aleppo pine, terebinth, as well as oaks of Mount Favor. A path briefly marked by small rocks provides a connection between the paved road that crosses the island and Nanou Beach (one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, usually accessible by sea). But beware! the path is difficult due to the instability of the soil (the slope is mixed with fine gravel and needles, slippery).

There are also several grape crushers from the Byzantine era in the center of the island (needed to feed the large number of churches sprinkled throughout the island!). Some of them have been restored.

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In the culinary field, Symi also prepares surprises. First, we think of his little mini pink shrimp fricassee, which can be swallowed head and tail at once. It’s crisp, and there’s no better way to evoke a good beer or ouzo at happy hour. Other specialties of the island: everything obtained from squash, beans and prickly pear, honey and spices on top.

Near Simi Beach

Near Simi Beach

Nano Beach © aerial-drone – stock.adobe.com

In addition to those with PediwithAgios Nikolaoswith Nimboriowith toliwith Marathuda and to a lesser extent Nanou (difficult access), the vast majority of Simiote beaches are accessible only by sea.

To get there, from the port of Gialos in prime time. But not really sandy beaches, at best it’s just rolled gravel. Besides, most of them are paid. Expect at least €4 per person for a sunbed and an umbrella. Add to that the cost of taxi boats and it starts to get expensive for an hour of sunbathing!

Then it’s better to call Poseidon or Maria, two boats (competitors) that offer day cruises (depart at 10:30am, return at 5:30pm), offering 3 or 4 swim stops and a BBQ lunch before heading home. . The first usually goes around the island, the second alternates cruises from one side of the island to the other, depending on demand. In any case, expect €40 per person. To stand out from each other, some drop anchor near the exhausted islets that surround the main island. It is better and especially quieter in high season. You can even see fish there!

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The coast between Gialos Clock Tower and Nymborio is dotted with several free beaches. But they quickly fill up and are very inconvenient for those hoping to roll out their towel there to chat with Helios. In this case, it is better to cover 8 km on foot, to which it leads toli and on the way visit the Monastery of Archangel Michael Roukouniotis.

Informational reference

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Consult our online guides to Greece and the Greek islands

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when to go

As in all Dodecanese islands, the tourist season starts at the beginning of April and ends at the end of October. It is very hot there in the height of summer because, unlike the neighboring islands, Simi is only slightly cooled by Meltem. There are also more storms at the end of the season than in Rhodes.

How to get there?

To get to Symi, you need to use two international gateways – Kos and Rhodes, which are served by many low-cost companies in the season. You can also transit through Athens and take a domestic Aegean flight to Rhodes or Kos, hardly more expensive than the boat, or go directly to Symi on the ferry from Piraeus for the romantic.

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How to get to Simi by sea?

By ferry (cheap) or catamaran (3 times more expensive), inter-island connections are provided by Blue Star Ferries and Dodekanisos Seaways, respectively, with the addition of a third company, Saos Ferries. In addition, excursion boats provide daily connections to Symi from the islands of Kos, Nisyros and Rhodes during the summer.

Or sleep? Where to eat?

Among our good addresses are Studio Nikos and Eva ([email protected]) or Hotel Kokona Symi in Gialos; Hotel Fiona in Horio; Meraklis Tavern in Hyalos; Tavern Zoï in Horio.

Find your hotel in Sima

Text: Eric Milet

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