Symi is a gem of a Greek island about an hour’s sea crossing from Rhodes but considerably nearer the rugged coastline of southern Turkey. Symi’s houses, lovingly built in matching styles and contrasting hues, rise impressively up both sides of the permanently calm harbour which is always packed with local fishing boats, smart visiting yachts and local caiques offering day trips to nearby beaches which are perfect for lazy days in the sun. For many people all this makes Symi one of the most welcoming of the Greek islands.
However, the harbour is not Symi’s only charm because if you climb the 450 steps of the Kali Strata (the island’s main thoroughfare) to the upper village a completely different atmosphere prevails along the traffic-free pathways designed for silent exploration on foot against an ever-changing background of contrasting views of the bustling harbour far below and over Pedi beach across to Turkey in the middle distance.
The harbour area returns to its peaceful self by early afternoon, though the shops stay open for the more relaxed attention of temporary residents. The area round the main harbour (Yialos) offers a diverse range of tavernas and cafes – not to mention small shops all keen to have your custom. Once the day visitors leave, it has a completely different, more laid-back atmosphere where groups of locals meet for convivial sessions of ouzo-quaffing and other delights until it’s time for a late dinner in one of the nearby restaurants.
Villa Papa Nikola has been owned by the same family since 1971 and has been recently refurbished. It retains the character of a traditional Greek house and is simply and tastefully decorated and furnished. It is located about a third of the way up the hill between the harbour and Chorio, off the Kali Strata. It is less than a ten minute walk up to the villa from the harbour, but the views of the harbour from every room in the villa makes every step worthwhile. For those that don’t fancy the stairs, there is a regular bus service and taxis that can take you up to the village, but the charm of Symi is in part due to the lack of roads and the narrow and higgledy piggledy steps and passageways, so even for those that choose to get to the village by public transport, you will still need to walk along passageways with a few steps to get back to the villa. But the joy of this is its quiet location – you won’t find a bar or taverna next door!
There are six bedrooms, all en suite, sleeping 12. On the lower floor, accessed from a narrowish terrace, there is one single bedroom and one twin room with its own separate sitting area off the bedroom, with a sofa bed. On the upper floor there are four bedrooms and a high-ceilinged sitting room with a door on to the balcony (what a panorama!). Lastly, there is a small kitchen off the long and shady sitting/dining terrace from which the upper bedrooms are directly accessed. To reach one floor from the other you use one of the short flights of steps, one at each end of the house – there is no interior connection.