Symi has the most beautiful harbour in Greece. On either side of a steep-sided fjord rise tier upon tier of houses, some white, some pastel yellow, but virtually all with Neo-Classical pediments - a reminder that 100 years ago this was one of Greece's most prosperous islands. There has been virtually no modern concrete construction here and now these fine old houses are being resurrected for visitors. The spirit of the island remains intact.
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Symi is divided into distinctive areas - Yialos is the main harbour. Chorio, literally 'village', is the top town. Pedi Bay is the valley below Chorio, south of Yialos. Nimborios is the bay and settlement to the north of Yialos. There is a small settlement at Marathounda and a major Monastery complex at Panormitis. The interior, a forested plateau with many spectacular views, can be visited by car or bike on the recently refurbished road from Symi town to Panormitis. There are also many interesting walks and guided walks can be arranged through tour operators in Yialos or walking guides can be purchased from the Symi visitor office.
Symi's recorded history goes back as far as the Trojan Wars (1120 BC) and its past is chequered, with a series of At its height - before the Italian occupation - Symi was a thriving island with a population of more than 22,000. It was renowned for its boat-building, sponge-fishing, wine-making, its wood-carvers and icon-painters and the outstanding educational quality of its schools.
The church of Constantinos and Eleni on the southern slopes of the Vigla along the Panormitis road has gardens, terraces and a well. There is usually someone there in the summer. The monastery of the Archangel Michael at Roukouniotis was built by the knights of St. John in the 14th century on the ruins of an important 5th century monastery, which in turn was built on the remains of a pre-Christian temple. The monastery of Sotiris Megalos, shortly before the road descends to Panormitis, is very picturesque and has spectacular views. There is a sign-posted walk to an old vinery and the ruins of old wine presses. Monastery of the Archangel Michael at Panormitis, the island's most famous monastery. The original church of St. Michael was built around 450 AD on the site of an ancient temple to Apollo. It contains a splendid icon of the Archangel and two interesting museum sections.