Monastery of Taxiarchis Michail Panormitis
No trip to Symi would be complete without a visit to its wonderful monastery of Taxiarchis Michail Panormitis. The monastery is situated on the sea front of the tiny village of Panormitis, on the southern coast, protected by a narrow inlet that opens out into a wide harbour and small, empty beach.
The monastery is set against a stunning backdrop of pine-covered mountain-sides which only seem to add to the feeling of remoteness and soliotude. The best view of the monastery is from the decks of the approaching ferries as they manoeuvre to berth on the jetty.
The monastery sounds a welcome to the ferries as they arrive and depart, something I’ve not experienced before on any Greek island.
The 18th-century monastery is a large building, Venetian in style, with its high, baroque bell tower and the long white façade of the main buildings stretching away on either side of the main gateway. The inner courtyard has its own church along with some stunning hokhlaki courtyards that must have taken years to plan and lay. The church contains wonderful chandeliers as well as a silver-leafed representation of Archangel Michael, patron saint of Symi and protector of sailors. There is also a small museum adjacent and you may climb the steps to the tiered rows of cells that still house the monks but are now also available for travellers to rent on a nightly basis.
The inner courtyards are ablaze with exotic trees and plants and present a quiet sanctuary for those contemplative souls.
The two rows of buildings either side of the gate were constructed by the Italians after World War Two and are in first class condition. Panormitis has however succumbed to the tourist trade albeit in a small way and these art deco buildings now contain up-market holiday flats.
The only way to get here is via a ferry or excursion boat. If you are already on the island, Panormitis can be reached by road from Symi Town in an hour or so or walkers can tackle the route and expect a stiff, six-hour hike over very rough ground.
Surprisingly, there are no photographic restrictions within the monastery other than inside the church. Entrance is free and expect to require an hour to see the museum, church and cells.
Elsewhere at Panormitis, you may find half a dozen yachts at anchor in its sheltered little bay, guarded by the beautifully restored windmill on the western headland. The small beach is composed of fine sand and was virtually deserted. A few fishing boats bobbed up and down in the harbour, dwarfed by the inter-island ferry. Peace and tranquillity reign here, and long may it continue.