What better way to experience something authentically Greek than a day on an island where donkeys are the main mode of transport (cars of any kind are forbidden) and where the pace is unabashedly unhurried.
This is Hydra, one of the most exquisite Saronic Gulf islands that has seen the likes of Leonard Cohen, Sophia Loren, the Rolling Stones and even Picasso fall prey to its quintessential charm.
An alluring place characterised by cobbled lanes and winding alleys immersed in history and culture, where steep hills give way to breath-taking panoramic views of the Aegean, and where the hustle and bustle of city life slips away as timeless island living takes over.
Just a stone’s throw away from Athens by boat, Hydra is the perfect destination for hiking enthusiasts or any traveller who enjoys seeing all there is to see on foot.
Arriving at Hydra’s port, head for the 17th century Kimisis Tis Theotokou Cathedral (also known as the Monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary) located in a monastery complex on the harbour. Visit the Ecclesiastical museum under the clock tower and enjoy the exhibits of icons, jewellery, manuscripts, and other historical items.
Take a walk along the town’s quiet white streets to discover an architecture comprising 18th century mansions and cobblestone houses that are as gorgeous as the beauty that surrounds them.
Go to the Historical Archives and Museum of Hydra and discover archives rich with historical documents, volumes and materials, and a plethora of exhibits displaying weapons and other ancient relics, all of which illustrate the rich history of the island dating back hundreds of years.
Ιf you’re up for a hike, take the coastal road to Kamini village, a definite must-see. West of Hydra harbour, Kamini is an idyllic fishing community where sailors have come to repair and store their boats for the last three hundred years. Don’t forget to go see the church of John the Baptist. From Kamini, you can continue onwards through Vlihos to Palamida, and then to Episkopi, reportedly the site of a Byzantine village. Admire the gorgeous coastline and sea views along the way.
A trip to Hydra isn’t complete without visiting its spectacular beaches. If quiet is what you’re after, head to Vlychos Beach, a charming pebbled beach located about 2km west of Hydra town. For families and kids, picturesque Kaminia Beach is very popular. It is situated near Vlihos village, about 1km west of Hydra town. Also within walking distance is the stunning Agios Nikolaos beach, a sheltered sandy beach located in a cove.
Other unique sights to visit by foot in Hydra are Rafalia’s Pharmacy, one of the oldest pharmacies in Greece which first opened its doors in 1890 and which is renowned for its vintage beauty; the monastery of the Prophet of Elias all the way up to the summit of Mount Eros which is said to offer some of the most magnificent views of the Aegean and the island; and the seven windmills on the hill of Agios Athanasios to see Hydra from an elevated perspective.
There are of course a myriad of other wonderful places to experience in Hydra, many that will enchant you enough to keep you wanting to come back for more. Just remember your walking shoes, bottled water and sunscreen!