Close to Athens, this small, mountainous island in the Saronic Gulf has over the years mesmerised its visitors with its quaintness, rich history and cultural allure. But beyond that, it is an island that nurtured a revolution that won independence for an entire country. Hydra town, Kaminia, Vlichos, Molos, Episkopi and Mandraki: it’s an island that, in its entirety, seems to amount to one long stroll.
When you arrive you instantly feel the change of pace. The main port is cosmopolitan and elegant, with its 18th-century mansions, captains’ homes, old churches, wells and marble-covered alleyways that fan out everywhere. And at the same time, water taxis buzz around the island like bees.
What to do on Hydra
An island without cars
As soon as you step onto the cobblestones of the harbour, you change century. The well-preserved mansions and manors could have come from the set of an old movie.
The island retreat with a stellar appeal
Hydra’s long naval history can be felt throughout the harbour. Cannons still target the Aegean Sea, busts of admirals abound, and captains’ homes 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 rockstars: 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.
Incredible views and great food
The Periptero (kiosk), Spilia (cave) and Idroneta are three must-sees by the sea. 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.
Kaminia, an arty fishing village
From 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.
DESTE, the international avant-garde
Internationally renowned Greek collector Dakis Joannou chose an old slaughterhouses 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.
Hidden gems of Hydra
A view of the Aegean from the windmills
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.
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.
The Prophet and Eros
Walk all the way up to the monastery of the Prophet Elias (1 hour, if you’re swift) and from there to the summit of Mount Eros. The panoramic view of Hydra and the Aegean will enchant you.
- Rafalias pharmacy
- The Prophet and Eros