A small island in the Saronic Gulf (just 2 hours away from Athens), with its classic beauty, has seduced many international personalities such as Sophia Loren, Maria Callas, Aristotle Onassis, and Leonard Cohen, who purchased a house on the island in 1960. Moreover, the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd used to regularly vacation here.
Hydra has a charming atmosphere and romantic allure, it is aristocratic, yet authentic and features a rocky landscape with elegant, imposing stone mansions, narrow cobblestone alleys (with colourful bougainvillea), plus impeccable sunsets.
What you need to know before you arrive
Cars or motorcycles are not allowed on the island, aside from garbage trucks and ambulances.
Getting There & Getting Around
You can get here by ferry that departs from the port of Piraeus in Athens (a 2-hour journey). You can drive up to Metohi in the Peloponnese (2.5 hours) and park your car and cross to Hydra by a ferry or water taxi (25 minutes). You can also do a day cruise from Athens, where you will visit three islands- Hydra, Poros, and Aegina. Bear in mind that you will only have two hours to explore Hydra. Once there, the main method of transport is the delightful mules and donkeys, as well as water taxis.
Where to stay
Near the harbour is nice, this is where all the buzz is. Other great places for accommodation are Vlychos, Mandraki, and Vlychos Plakes.
Where to sleep
Rafalias a magnificent Mansion, near George Kountouriotis Manor and the Hydra Museum Historical Archives. Mastoris Mansion is another great hotel, located just 90m away from Hydra’s port, with five rooms beautifully decorated and a wonderful terrace. And Hydrea Boutique Hotel in the heart of Hydra Town has stunning views.
Where to eat
Techne Restaurant & Social, situated by the sea, it’s set in a renovated historic building with a picturesque courtyard and serves great Mediterranean dishes. Omilos Restaurant is a must as it evokes memories from Hydra’s history.
To Piato, a traditional restaurant with a big collection of plates, decorated by the clients. From its prime spot, you can see the port while you enjoy fabulous dishes. Caprice, an Italian trattoria, only 150m from the port. The restaurant is decorated with old photos, tools, and equipment used by sponge divers. It serves traditional Italian recipes made with fresh Greek ingredients. Il Casta, another authentic Italian restaurant in the alleyways of Hydra’s town serves food from Napoli and the South of Italy.
What to eat
The traditional Hydriot halva for dessert and Tsagkaris’ amygdalota.
Where to drink
Hydronetta, a café-bar carved into the craggy coastline near Hydra’s harbor.
Where to swim
Vlychos, a pebbled beach, just 2km west of Hydra Town, it’s for those who are fond of undisturbed beaches. Kaminia, a pebbled beach, is located within a small fishing village, only 1km west of Hydra Town, and near the village of Vlyhos. Spilia, a rocky “beach” with translucent blue waters is the perfect diving spot. At Agios Nikolaos, a sandy blissful beach on the western end of Hydra. In front of the Four Seasons Hotel and located in Plakes town, the long, sandy beach of Plakes offers panoramic views of mainland Greece and the surrounding islands. To get there, the hotel offers a boat that runs every hour between the village and Hydra Harbour for 3€, or you can hire a water taxi (20€).
Visit the Monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Hydra’s main Cathedral, located in the center of the harbor, underneath the clock tower. It was said to have been built by a nun on her arrival in 1643 and consists of magnificent Byzantine-style architecture, frescoes from the 18th century, and exquisite Orthodox icons. Historical Archives Museum, founded in 1918, displays artifacts and rare documents related to the historical, traditional, and cultural aspects of the island from 1708 –1865. There is also a library there. Kountouriotis Museum, a mansion dedicated to Lazaros Kountouriotis, who played a vital role in the War of Independence. It was built in 1780 and features beautiful interiors, paintings by Greek artists, historical jewellery, and furniture owned by the Kountouriotis family. The Ecclesiastical Museum, located on the west side of the Monastery and housed in a former monk cell, has been open since 1999 and showcases elaborate holy vessels, jewellery, musical manuscripts, and other historical relics of the Monastery.
Special Events in Hydra
Miaoulia is celebrated during the last weekend of June, in remembrance of Admiral Andreas Miaoulis, who played a vital part in the War of Independence. The festivities include folk dancing, concerts, and boat races. At the very end, a sensational fireworks display takes place.
Koundouriotika Festival takes place in late August and commemorates the death of Hydriot and the first Greek Republic President Pavlos Kondouriotis. The festival includes sporting events, exhibitions, and lectures while ends with thanksgiving and memorial service.
Hydra Regatta is a famous sailing race from Faliro to Hydra and back. It is organised twice a year, in Spring, on the weekend before the 25th of March (Independence Day), and in Autumn, on the last weekend of October.
Do as locals do
Visit little-known beaches on the back of the island, such as Limnioniza and Nisiza. You can reach them using a boat ride. For a beautiful walk, begin from the picturesque fishing village of Kamini to Hydra Town. It is off the beaten path as there are no tourist shops. You will meet the parish church of John the Baptist and several stunning mansion ruins.
There is a Yacht Club, offering swimming, water polo, sailing, and canoeing. The island is also rich in aquatic life, reefs, and sea caves at the bottom of the sea, so it’s perfect for snorkeling. Hydra is also top for hikers because the landscapes from the highest points are magnificent.
Where to shop
Speak Out is a chic boutique with various jewelry, accessories, and clothing. Keramidas Lykourgos, since the late 1960s, creates jewellery inspired by Greek tradition (especially the Byzantine one). Turquoise, unique clothing, and textile shop, with handmade pieces. For a variety of beauty products including soaps, lotions, and cologne that are made using old traditional recipes from Greek pharmacopeia, in stylish packaging, visit Rafalia’s Pharmacy.
What to see
Rafalia’s Pharmacy is considered one of the most beautiful pharmacies in the world. It was founded in 1890 by Evangelos Rafalias, located within a gorgeous century-old mansion, it’s the oldest in Greece and has remained in the same family. The Tsamados Mansion houses the oldest Merchant Marine Training School in the world, still in operation today. The Tombazis Mansion hosts students from the Athens School of Fine Arts in the summer. The Bastions to the left and the right of the harbor, with a breathtaking view of the Aegean Sea.
Take a day trip to…
Poros and Spetses islands. Alternatively, to Ermioni, Porto Heli, or Aegina.
Can’t leave until
Stopping along the way to admire the dusk at Sunset Restaurant, which has a spectacular and romantic view of the sea. And a walk to the Profitis Ilias Monastery.
All images by Polina Paraskevopoulou © (Copyright)