Symi, which can also be spelled “Simi”, is an affluent, beautiful, and somewhat unique island located in the Dodecanese region of Greece. It’s not one of the biggest, not by a long stretch, but it’s still popular with tourists and once you step foot on the island and drink-in all that natural beauty you’ll understand why.
There is a lot to see and do on the island of Symi, but many of the sights and activities revolve around sponges. In the 19th century Symi became one of the biggest sellers of natural sponges in Greece, all of which were scavenged from the seabed by local divers. It was a dangerous business and it required a lot of nerve, thus earning these sponge-divers the respect of islanders across Greece.
The history of this profession can be seen and studied in all its glory in the local maritime and archeological museums, where you’ll also get to see some ancient sponges for yourself. You can also buy some of these sponges—picking up the perfect memento of your time on the island.
It’s worth noting, however, that this trade is not what it was and very few sponges are actually still harvested in and around Symi. Most of the ones you will find in the local shops have been imported and there are no divers trying their luck—in fact, there are actually very strict rules that prohibit diving around the island and there is also a distinct lack of diving schools and activities.
Still, those sponges and the sponge industry in general made this island what it is today (it became hugely rich and popular because of this trade) and you’ll be able to witness this history for yourself.
The main reason people visit Symi today is to enjoy some solitude, as the island has plenty of beaches, bars and other relaxing activities.