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Symi 24km north of Rhodes is a barren and rocky island. Once famous for its sponge diving and ship building, making up to 500 ships a year. It was in the 17 th century the third richest island in the region. The Italian occupation and the beginning of steam ships stopped further expansion on the island, and the wealth and population declined. The islands geography consists of sheltered coves, steep cliffs and a rocky landscape. Symi is a popular day trip for tourists from Rhodes . The beaches on the island, can easily be reached on foot, bus or boat. The best beach for children is at Agios Nikolaos, most of the beaches have sun beds and parasols to rent.

Symi Town (Galios) is perhaps one of the most striking in Greece, built up around the harbour with Neo-Classical mansions with fine facades, (Sad to say but many of them are neglected or derelict) the town is divided into two parts, the harbour Galios and Chorio the upper town. The Maritime Museum has displays of the islands once proud maritime history. Galios and Chorio are linked by 375 marble steps. A road leads to the top, for those who prefer a less strenuous way up. The Symi Museum in the Chorio is difficult to find, as the signs are misleading, it has on display costumes and other traditional items plus artefacts from the region. The Chorio is a maze of winding lanes with older houses from the 18 th century. The castle of the Knights of St. John with the church of Megali Panagia inside dominates the town.

Moni Taxiarchi Michail Panormiti situated on the Panormitis Bay , is the number one attraction on Symi. This monastery is a place of pilgrimage for Greek sailors, with its white painted buildings dating from the 18 th century along the shoreline, though an older monastery was built here in the 5 th century. The monastery has a famous icon of Archangel Michael, the island patron saint and the guardian of sailors. The icon has on several occasions, been removed from Galios, but mysteriously has kept returning to the Panormitis, eventually a monastery was erected here. According to legend, if you ask a favour from Archangel Michael, you must promise to give something in return. As a result, the inside of the church there is an array of gifts given by devout pilgrims, some of these gifts are model ships made from gold and silver. The monastery is filled with wonderful paintings, carvings and icons depicting saints. Another item of interest is bottles with prayers inside, thrown by sailors into some far distant sea, and washed up mysteriously onto the shoreline of the monastery. There is a memorial to a former abbot, two monks and two teachers, who in 1944, were executed for running a spy radio for the British commandoes. The monastery gets hoards of day-trippers from Rhodes , so if you want to enjoy it in peace and quiet it is best to wait until they have gone.


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