So close to Athens that you can hop across whenever the mood takes you, this small, hilly island in the Saronic Gulf has over the years mesmerised its visitors with its quaintness, rich history and cultural allure.
The moment you arrive on Hydra, you instantly feel the change of pace. The main port is cosmopolitan and elegant, with its 18th-century mansions, captains’ houses, old churches, wells and marble-covered alleyways that fan out everywhere. Everywhere you look, water taxis buzz around the island like bees.
The main town, Kaminia, Vlichos, Molos, Episkopi and Mandraki are just some of the highlights of an island which nurtured a revolution that won independence for an entire country.
As soon as you step onto the cobblestones of the harbour of Hydra, you change century. The well-preserved mansions and manors could have come from the set of an old movie. Perfect for everyone who believes the best way to discover a new destination is on foot.
Hydra’s long naval history can be felt throughout the harbour. Cannons still target the Aegean Sea, busts of admirals abound, and captains’ houses line the port. This is where revolutionaries lived, great men like Andreas Miaoulis and Georgios Kountouriotis. And then there is Hydra’s cosmopolitan side. This, after all, is where ‘Boy on a Dolphin’, starring Sophia Loren, was filmed.
Hydra has always been a favoured retreat of jet setters and rock stars: Aristotle Onassis, Maria Callas, Rex Harrison, Peter Ustinov, Leonard Cohen, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones have all regularly frequented the island ... as have famous artistic luminaries, among them Picasso, Chagall and Miller.
The Periptero (kiosk), Spilia (cave) and Idroneta are three must-sees by the sea on Hydra island. At Periptero, stop and take in the view, whilst admiring the huge cannons. At beautiful Spilia, sip a leisurely coffee before diving off the rocks. At Idroneta’s pier, you can dry off from your daily swim and head straight to book a table for dinner.
From Hydra town, you can walk to the picturesque marina of Kaminia (furnaces), where you’ll find the Red House, built in 1786, inhabited by Admiral Miaoulis, now used for art exhibitions.
Internationally renowned Greek collector Dakis Joannou chose an old slaughterhouse to create a showroom and exhibit space called DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art. Each summer, innovative exhibits, hip happenings and events with international appeal attract famous visitors from all over the world.
Climb to the oldest settlement in Hydra, Kiafa, located high above the harbour. This gem is made up of narrow alleyways, impressive mansions, old grocery stores and boutique hotels. Trekking up to the seven windmills at the top of the hill of Agios Athanasios, you’ll be rewarded by the view into the Saronic Gulf.
The Rafalias family has a history spanning 400 years on the island and the pharmacy they founded in Hydra’s alleyways has been maintained in the same way since it was first opened in 1890.
Walk all the way up to the monastery of the Prophet Elias (1 hour, if you are swift) and from there to the summit of Mount Eros. The panoramic view of Hydra and the Aegean will enchant you.
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