Arriving at Symi’s scenic port for the first time you might think you’re looking at a painting of a Venetian village as you gaze at the well-maintained traditional homes arrayed next to each other beneath the sheer slopes.
Symi has a romantic charm that is enhanced by the absence of multi-story hotel complexes found on other islands in the Dodecanese. The shoreline is pocked by a number of coves and small harbors; the main port is at Skala, with anchorage also at Pedio and Panormos, where the Monastery of the Archangel Michael is located.
Symians are known for their skills as sailors, fishermen, and sponge-divers—all activities that brought wealth and fame to the island. Fishing and the sponge trade still flourish on the island.
The best-known local delicacy is Symi popcorn shrimp, which is served fried and is comparable to the snack food both in size and in eating compulsion. Aficionados of marine treats should sample octopus—grilled or boiled or ragout with rice—grilled or fried squid, and cuttlefish fried with its ink. Gaellopittes are a special meze: small savory pies with a filling of sand smelt, eggs, cheese, onion, and tomatoes. Simply delicious!
Meat lovers will discover coq pastitsada served with thick pasta and chicken with almonds—a recipe unique for its combination of ingredients and flavor. Tempeloyiaprakia (vine leave rolls filled with rice and aromatic herbs) are also part of the island’s culinary traditions.
The stars among Symi sweets are loukoumades (fried batter puffs) or akoumia drenched in fine local honey, paximadia (biscuits made from dried bread), and sugar or butter cookies.