With one of the most picturesque harbors in all of Greece, Hydra is the gem of the Saronic Gulf and uniquely stands alone as the only island free of any vehicles.
That’s right, no cars and no traffic. Here, the traditional Greek means of transportation – the donkey – rules. Donkeys do the heavy lifting and transport, adding to the rustic feel of the island. Meanwhile, Hydra Town’s perfectly preserved noble stone architecture is a defining symbol of its eternal elegance.
The inviting maze of stone paths and bougainvillea drenched lanes, in combination with surprisingly stunning sea views around any given corner, have inspired artists and writers including Arthur Miller, Leonard Cohen, Nikos Chatzikyriakos-Ghikas, Melina Mercouri and Sophia Loren.
Rick Steves visits Hydra:
From the harbor, Hydra’s coastal road opens up, a quiet seafront path offering a window on island living. A 30-minute walk west brings you to an impossibly scenic fishing port of Kamini, followed by the traditional village of Vlychos.
Further away from the charms of the harbor, Hydra’s interior is a perfect mountain escape, where marked trails zig-zag across the terrain. Hiking aficionados head to Hydra to seek out the numerous paths that lead up to Mt. Eros (588 meters), the island’s highest point.
The 1956 Hollywood film Boy on a Dolphin was filmed on location on Hydra and helped put the island on the international jet-setter’s map. Sophia Loren and her co-star Alan Ladd spent weeks filming here and beautiful scenes were shot throughout the island.
For a little island, Hydra has about 300 churches. Visit a monastery for a feel of its religious culture. The most impressive is the Moni Profiti Ilia for the view and its sacred icons.
In an impressive stone mansion at the harbor, the Hydra Historical Archives and Museum is a fascinating look into the island’s great naval and commercial history through its manuscripts, books, paintings and ship models.
A donkey! A 15-minute ride through town (with a guide leading the way) may seem touristic yet it’s one authentic kind of way to see the island from a locals’ perspective.
Hydra lacks long sandy beaches which may be one reason mass tourism hasn’t hit the island. Locals don’t mind a bit and prefer swimming among its rocky bays right near Hydra Town.
Tucked in a tranquil cove, Saint Nicholas is a curved white rock beach with amazingly clear blue-green waters. Bisti is another excellent beach in Hydra, a cozy beach getaway flanked by lush, tree clad hills. Taxi boats to the beaches jet off to each one from the port every half hour, a 20- to 30-minute ride.
Once home to wealthy island family that filled their own ballroom with guests, Hydrea is considered the top boutique luxury experience in Hydra, a property that combines a tasteful blend of modern and traditional design.
For more than a century, Psaropoula tavern has been serving traditional Greek cuisine that locals love – right on an amazing outdoor open balcony.
Another scenic choice is Omilos, a Mediterranean and Greek restaurant known for its cozy whitewashed balcony that seems to hover above the sea, offering views to Hydra Town.
We also consulted with a local expert – Christos Daskalakis, a successful Greek author of three books who grew up on Hydra. He finds his island simply inspirational, and when it comes to food he agrees that Psarapoula and Omilos are not only scenic stops but top Greek cuisine choices.
He adds that Techne is by far his favorite restaurant and loves the Greek and European dishes. If you’re craving seafood, Christos highly recommends H Oraia Idra (Beautiful Hydra) near Hydra Town; another good bet is Caprice for Italian dishes.
There are always dancing vibes at Amalour, a colorful haunt in Hydra Town where jazz and modern rules.
The aforementioned Omilos holds parties which are a highlight to nightlife during the summer months.
The ultimate “chill” experience unfolds every day during sunset at Hydroneta and during full moon parities in July and August. Feeling like Greek music? Head to Red Club or Andy’s Bar.
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For the essence of shopping on elegant Hydra visit Elena Votsi, an international designer honored with designing Olympic medals.
For anyone with a sweet tooth, be sure to indulge in local almond desserts called amigdolata especially at the Tsagkaris candy store.
Hydra is one of the closest isles to Athens, Flying Dolphin ferries depart daily from the port of Piraeus, a 1.5 hour journey.
Trail runners from around Greece and Europe make an annual trip to the little island to compete in Hydra’s Trail Event every spring.
Writers of every level and genre are welcomed to take part in weeklong gathering hosted by Phil Cousineau on Hydra to spark new material, deepen your craft, or know when to release your work into the world.