This blog aims to give a personal and totally biased view of the Greek islands I have visited. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to the islands. Two aspects of Greek islands that I love are seeing goats wandering around and the dawn chorus of cockerels crowing. Accordingly, each island I have stayed on will have a Cockerel Count and Goatiness rating.
Unless otherwise stated, all images are my copyright and may not be reproduced or copied. Should you wish to purchase a license for commercial use of my images please follow the link to my stock photography blog where you will find details of my agents. Comments are welcomed but reviewed before publication. Enjoy your visit. Regards, David.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Symi (Dodecanese):

Looking down on Yialos harbour on Symi
Symi, 41km from Rhodes, is often described as having the prettiest harbour in Greece. That's certainly some claim but there is no denying how charming the pastel coloured neo-classical buildings around the Yialos harbour look.
I spent two weeks on Symi in June 2011 (well it would have been two weeks but flight/ferry timings meant an overnight stay in Rhodes both ways). Dissapointing because this is the only Greek island trip ever where I did not reach my destination on the same day.

I was lucky enough to have an apartment directly looking over the busy harbour which certainly provided plenty of entertainment watching the boats come and go - not least the Blue Star Ferries ship Diagoras (a vessel so large it manages to block most of the harbour off when in dock).

Yialos/Gialos (take your pick) has plenty of tavernas and shops and even an excellent Italian pizzeria and is certainly at the bigger end of what I define as a small island. It is, of course, all relative. Somebody used to the bigger islands such as Rhodes, Kos, Crete etc would regard Yialos as tiny. Things certainly got busy during early afternoons as numerous excursion boats pitch up with day trippers from other islands. There was even a burst of nostalgia when the Tilos Sea Star arrived - I had last been on that in 2006 (it broke down)*. However, after lunch and a look at the umpteen souvenir stalls that take up one side of the harbour they were all gone again.

High above Yialos lies the older village of Chorio.  You have three choices for reaching Chorio: the Kataraktis -a steep and rather slippery cobbled path/donkey track up the hillside (I had to sit down in the shade after tackling that one). Better to take the Kali Strata a series of some 350 steps which start in the town centre and twist and turn up the hillside with old houses (shade!) on either side. There are even a couple of handy tavernas on the way up if you fancy a rest.
The third route is to simply follow the main road up. Not, on the surface, very appealing but as you get higher there are great views (and photos) to be had looking down onto the harbour. There is also a bus available (timings varying).
Chorio, is a mass of little alleys and paths amongst the old houses and great fun to explore. You'll probaly get lost at some point but you are never far away from civilisation. There are also a number of tavernas up there as well.

From Chorio you can walk the road down to Pedi Bay, a pretty little harbour with a few boats and several tavernas. The bus calls there as well.

Yialos at night on Symi
Back in Yialos, I walked round the left hand side of the harbour where there is a boat building/repair area with a number of old boats piled up. I was fascinated by a fairly large sized former excursion boat called Lazy Days. It seems it has been beached there for years due to some kind of ownership dispute and is slowly falling apart. The signs on the boat advertise Moonlight Cruises and trips to Lindos (Rhodes). If it hasn't totally collapsed by now its probaly still there.

Continuing on from Lazy Days you can take the coast road passing Nos Beach (the small "town" beach) with a taverna and sunbeds. The road gives good views of the rocky coastline and after around 30 minutes you reach the beach and harbour of Nimborios. Again, there is a taverna here.

Looking down to Yialos village on Symi
For a change of scene you can take a day trip to Turkey (offered by various boats in the harbour). Symi is only just off the coast of Turkey so it's a short journey. Sadly, I missed this opportunity as I only had a few weeks left on my passport. You are required to have at least six months validity to enter Turkey. I'm not sure why this matters for a day trip -but never mind.

There are lots of boats/water taxis which will take you to beaches further along the Symi coast and to the monastery at Panormitis. Now, this is where I missed out and didn't take any of these. I'm not really a beach person and didn't want to be stuck on one all day waiting for the return pick up. Poor research was my mistake here as I failed to realise that these beaches would have been a good launch for interesting walks and worse still, this is where all the goats are. Lots of them. On the beach. My Goatiness rating for Symi would have been extremely low based on just one goat (in a paddock at that) in Yialos. But I would have been wrong. Not wrong on the Cockerel Count though - Symi ranks as high with a truly spectacular dawn chorus of crowing echoing around Yialos. Possibly the best I have ever heard anywhere (we'll overlook the one that couldn't crow properly and just issued something akin to a scream). Regards, David.
Tilos Sea Star at Yialos harbour

* The Tilos Sea Star is actually a superb fast catamaran of which the island of Tilos are rightly proud. It didn't break down for long and actually we were just relieved we hadn't ploughed into a dolphin or something.

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