Simi's southwestern portion is hilly and green. Located here is the medieval Panormitis Monastery, dedicated to St. Michael, the patron saint of seafaring Greeks. The monastery is popular with Greeks as a place of pilgrimage and of refuge from modern life; young Athenian businessmen speak lovingly of the monks' cells and small apartments that can be rented for rest and renewal. There is also an almshouse that provides shelter for the elderly. Call the guest office (tel. 22410/72-414) to book accommodations, ranging from 40€ to 75€ for an apartment or house. All units are self-contained, with their own stove and fridge. The least expensive units have shared outdoor toilets. Most sleep at least four people.
The whitewashed compound has a verdant, shaded setting and a 16th-century gem of a church inside. Taxiarchis Mishail of Panormitis boasts icons of St. Michael and St. Gabriel adorned in silver and jewels, and a superb iconostasis. The combined folk and ecclesiastical museums are well worth the 2€ entrance fee, which goes to support the almshouse mentioned above.
The town of Panormitis Mihailis is at its most lively and interesting during the annual November 8 Feast of Archangel Mihaili, but it can be explored year-round via boats or bus tours from Yialos. The hardy can hike here -- it's 10km (6 miles), about 3 hours from town -- then enjoy a dip in the sheltered harbor and a meal in the taverna.
In Yialos, if you are sure you are up to it (no pun intended) you can climb the 375 or so stone steps, known as the Kali Strata (the Good Steps), that take you to Horio -- but this is not recommended for everyone in the heat of midsummer. This wide stairway ascends to a picturesque community that reflects a Greece that is in many ways long departed. Old women sweep the whitewashed stone paths outside their homes, and occasionally a young boy or very old man can be seen retouching the neon-blue trim over doorways and shutters. Nestled among the immaculately kept homes, which date from the 18th century, are renovated villas now rented to an increasing number of tourists. And where tourists roam, tavernas, souvenir shops, and bouzouki bars soon follow but commercialization has yet to transform Horio.
Horio has an Archaeological and Folklore Museum that houses archaeological and folklore artifacts that the islanders consider important enough for public exhibition. You can't miss the blue arrows that point the way. It's open Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 2pm. Admission is 2€. Also, if you walk through the town you will pass on your right an iron-gated building that retains an intact old pharmacy; if not open, you can peer through the windows and see the jars with their curatives. The Maritime Museum in the port costs 2€ and is open daily from 11am to 2:30pm.
Crowning Horio is the Church of the Panagia. The church is surrounded by a fortified wall and is therefore called the kastro (castle). It's adorned with the most glorious frescoes on the island, which can be viewed only when services are held (Mon-Fri 7-8am; all morning Sun).
Simi is blessed with many beaches, though they are not wide or sandy. Close to Yialos are two: Nos, a 15m-long (50-ft.) rocky stretch, and Nimborios, a pebble beach.
A bus to Pedi, followed by a short walk, takes you to St. Nikolaos beach, with shady trees and a good taverna, or to St. Marina, a small beach with little shade but stunning turquoise waters, as well as views of the St. Marina islet and its cute church.
The summertime cornucopia of outings provided by Kalodoukas Holidays has already been mentioned in "Visitor Information," above; but if you want to set out on your own, pick up a copy of Walking on Symi: A Pocket Guide or Walks on Symi, each available at Kalodoukas Holidays for about 7€. They describe numerous walks to help you discover and enjoy Simi's historic sites, interior forests, and mountain vistas.
Local Industries on Simi
One skill still practiced on Simi is shipbuilding. If you walk along the water toward Nos beach, you may see boats under construction or repair. It's a treat to watch the men fashion planed boards into graceful boats. Simi was a boat-building center in the days of the Peloponnesian War, when spirited sea battles were waged off its shores.
Sponge fishing is almost a dead industry in Greece. Only a generation ago, 2,000 divers worked waters around the island; today only a handful undertake this dangerous work, and most do so in the waters around Italy and Africa. In the old days divers often went without any apparatus. Working at depths of 50 to 60m (164-197 ft.), many divers were crippled or killed by the turbulent sea and too-rapid depressurization. The few sponges that are still harvested around Simi -- and many more imported from Asia or Florida -- are sold at shops along the port. Even if they're not from Simi's waters, they make inexpensive and lightweight gifts.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.