Published in Travel Guides | July 28, 2014
Why visit Hydra? For it's unique architecture and rocky landscape. Because there is a ban on motorized vehicles and there is only donkey traffic in the lanes. Because of its respect for tradition, apparent everywhere — in the hotels, restaurants, the mode of entertainment, even when strolling in the town — giving each aspect of your visit a special quality.
Hydra’s rugged and romantic beauty has made it a favourite with artists for many years now. Because it is a cosmopolitan, but also a very discreet island, it’s a favourite with many international jetsetters.
A major advantage is its easy access and short distance from Athens, and the possibility of visiting the neighbouring islands in the space of a couple of days. Its greatest drawback is that there are no good beaches. But the island’s well developed tourist infrastructure and the islanders’ long experience with highin come visitors means quality is a priority in hotels, restaurants, cafes, and shops. The standard of tourism is high and for that reason, Hydra may not be suitable for lowcost holidays. However, if you avoid the summer season, you’ll enjoy your trip more and spend less money.
Hydra’s first inhabitants called it Hydrea, because of the island’s abundant springs. In 1500 AD, inhabitants of the Peloponnese settled in Hydra, in order to avoid the Turks, who, however, seized the island in 1715. Hydra had already begun to develop into a merchant marine power and gained the good will of the Turks, who granted them autonomous status. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Hydriots’ ships monopolized food supplies in the Mediterranean area and broke through the British blockade of French ports. Grain smuggling brought enormous wealth to the island and unprecedented development. Most of the mansions and a great number of large ships were built at that time. A Merchant Marine Training School was established, while Greece’s finest teachers taught at the island’s schools. In those days, Hydra had a population of 35,000 and approximately 200 ships, armed with cannon. Following Greece’s liberation and the advent of steamships, Hydra’s maritime supremacy fell into decline and the majority of Hydra’s inhabitants were forced to emigrate.
Hydra is located 35 n mi. from Piraeus and has approximately 2,800 inhabitants, most of whom work in the tourist trade. There is one main town, known simply as "Hydra Port". Other small villages or hamlets on the island include Mandraki, Kamini, Vlychos, Palamidas, Episkopi, and Molos. Apart from the marvellous architecture, the island has about 365 churches, a great variety of plants, innumerable cats (the local council feeds 200) and a yacht club, offering swimming, water polo, sailing and canoeing. In summer, Hydra is flooded with its regular Athenian visitors, as well as tourists who arrive on cruise ships and yachts.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN HYDRA
The town of Hydra is built in the shape of an amphitheatre on the rocky slopes of the steep hills enclosing its harbour. The stone mansions dominate the town, with their austere, imposing architecture. The narrow, winding, quiet streets frequently lead to steps ascending between the elegant homes with their yards and small gardens.
Many of the mansions are inhabited and some are open to the public. You can find their location on the townplans available. The Tsamados mansion on the east side of the harbour houses the oldest Merchant Marine Training School in the world, still in operation today. The Tombazis mansion accommodates students from the Athens School of Fine Arts in summer. The mansion of Pavlos Koundouriotis (Greece’s first president) functions as a museum, with exhibits from the 1821 Greek War of Independence. Also worth seeing are the 19th c. Rafalias Pharmacy, and among others, the stately homes of Boudouris, Georgios Koundouriotis (Greece’s first prime minister), Lazaros Koundouriotis, Georgios Voulgaris, Admiral Miaoulis, and the Town Hall.
The convent of Agia Efpraxia is an hour’s walk outside the town, in a beautiful setting. The monastery of Prophitis Ilias, built in the 19th c., offers a marvellous view from the hill and is reached on foot or by donkey. There is also the Zourva monastery as well as Agia Triada (1704), a monastery with only a few monks close to Prophitis Ilias. Women are not permitted to enter this monastery. Worth seeing too are the church and Monastery of Kimissis tis Theotokou (1770), with a splendid marble icon screen, belltower and clock. It is situated at the harbour entrance and houses municipal offices. Agios Ioannis is the island’s oldest church, with wonderful 18th c. frescoes, while high up on the hill is the Hydra cathedral.
Head west to the fishing villages of Kamini and Vlyhos. If you like walking don’ t miss this. The coast road snakes around the cliffs with the old stone houses and the view is breathtaking.
Both Kamini and Vlyhos have tavernas and beach bars.
You can also find isolated spots along the road to spread a towel and enjoy the sea in privacy.
A lot of water taxis make the journey from Hydra town to Kamini and Vlyhos taking those who do not want to walk.
15 - 20 min walk to Kamini
35 -40 min walk to Vlyhos
On June 21 the Miaoulia.
In June also, the International Puppet Festival.
On August 15 the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
Just the thing for an amusing morning.
A summer open air cinema with a different box-office hit every day, to spend a quiet evening.
BEST BEACHES IN HYDRA
Hydra is not particularly good for swimming. Except for Mandraki, there is no other sandy beach, and the few beaches are crowded and noisy. The best solution is to dive from the rocks wherever you like along the road to Vlyhos or to go by caique to the Peloponnese coast opposite. Peaceful and pretty rocks can be found on the islets close to the port. At the rear end of the island, the sea is crystal clear and there are also a few seals.
Located on the western edge of town, under the cannons. If you manage to pick your way through the bodies of sunbathers, you’ll dive into clear, deep water from rocks that have been levelled with concrete for sun bathing.
A sandy beach with facilities and sea sports. There is also a small village and the Miramare Hotel.
Go by hired boat or regular caique to Kaminia and then on foot. There is a beach bar and restaurant.
Beautiful setting, with a picturesque village and a beach offering facilities. There are also three tavernas to choose from.
Hydra’s prettiest beach, on the rear side of the island. Peaceful, with shady trees. You can go by foot, if you’re up to a hike, after visiting the monastery of Agia Triada (women not permitted to enter), or make a daytrip with a caique from the port.
Tranquil bay with clear water, on the south side of Hydra. You can go there on a day excursion, with the caique that sails around the island.
HYDRA TIPS & INFORMATION
By hydrofoil, from Piraeus in 1 hr 30 min, Piraeus Agency, tel. 00302104199000, 00302104121654, 00302104190233, Port Authority tel. 00302104117341, 00302104593104
By car from Athens, via the National Road Athens-Corinth.After the Isthmus turn left to Epidaurus. Arriving at Kalloni and then in Galata. Continue to Metohi, leave your car and go to Hydra by water taxi, tel 00302298053690.
By hydrofoil from Hydra to Poros, Spetses, Ermioni, Porto Heli, Aegina, Hydra Port Authority 00302298052279
As you can’t drive a vehicle in Hydra, you can use a sea taxi for long distances, tel. 00302298053690, or one of the caiques waiting in the port.
For oneday excursions, ask for details at a tourist office. You can take a oneday trip to Agios Nikolaos and Limnioniza, on the other side of Hydra. Don’t forget to take food with you.
Spring or September. In summer the island is crowded, with all the pleasant and unpleasant consequences this entails.
Try the Hydriot yoghurt and the famous almond sweets.
For useful safety information and licensed water sports centers please visit Safe Water Sports
Hydra Town Hall 00302298052210, 00302298053003
Hydra Police 00302298052205
Hydra Hospital 00302298053150