Beautiful Symi is guaranteed to evoke oohs and aahs from ferry passengers before they even get off the boat. The first sight of Gialos harbour, framed against an amphitheatre of pastel-coloured houses rising on all sides, is unforgettable. It’s all thanks to the Italians, who ruled the island almost a century ago and established the neoclassical architectural style that Symi has followed ever since.
Although Symi is far from small, it's mostly barren and the only settlements are Gialos, the old village of Horio, which sprawls over the hilly ridge behind, and Pedi, down in the valley beyond. One road runs all the way to the monastery at Panormitis, near Symi’s southern tip. The rest of this spellbinding island is largely deserted, but it's surrounded by blue coves and beaches, and aglitter with crystal-clear water so transparent that boats can look as if they’re floating on thin air.