Why Hydra needs to be on your agenda this summer
Hydra is a small, charming island in the Argo Saronic gulf that is very popular on weekends for Athenians, as well as visitors to Greece. Although not small geographically, it is sparsely populated with just a few villages. Belonging to the Saronic island cluster, together with Agistri, Aegina, Poros and Spetses among a few others, Hydra is one of the most quaint, little islands that welcomes you to its impressive, crescent-shaped harbour. In short, Hydra is a historical island that is perfect for short getaways from Athens and needs to be on your bucket list this summer.
Close to Athens
Hydra is just 2 hours away from Athens by ferry, making it an incredibly alluring destination for a short island excursion away from the mainland. There are a few ways by which you can discover this beautiful, little island. You can either; choose to stay there for a couple of days, visit Hydra with a one day cruise from Athens, including some of the neighbouring islands, such as Aegina and Poros, or include it in a longer cruise holiday of classical Greece.
Picturesque and tranquil
Built on the slopes of a hill, Hydra Town is the main port and capital of the island. Gorgeous, neoclassical houses cascade down to a glistening coastline amidst a maze of stone-tile alleys. Fishing and tour boats are docked all around the colourful waterfront, with an array of tavernas, cafes and shops all lined up while the dispersed, restored captains’ mansions loom over the harbour, commanding your attention. With only three villages, it is an effortlessly tranquil place. You will notice there is no traffic for the simple reason that motor vehicles are strictly prohibited in Hydra and all transport is done by foot, boat, bicycle, carriage or donkey. It would appear that time runs more slowly in Hydra; in fact, time is not of the essence. Spending time in Hydra is what you make of it.
The island’s terrain is a mixture between low greenery and barren, rocky hillsides, as well as pine and cypress forest valleys, in addition to olive tree orchards. Once Hydra had a plethora of natural springs, and this was the reason behind its name that was derived from the Greek word ‘hydor’, meaning water. Its atypical landscapes borrow some characteristics from the Peloponnese, which is separated from Hydra by just a narrow strip of water. Don’t expect sandy beaches in Hydra. You can get to visit plenty of them on many other Greek islands such is the case of Paros. Instead, you will be blown away by a myriad of small coves of crystalline waters. In Hydra, the beaches are primarily pebbly, but the waters are so clear that you can see down to the seabed. Don’t be alarmed perchance you see a sea urchin or two. Avoid them by all means as they are prickly, but rest assured that where there is a population of sea urchin, means the water is at its purest. These marine creatures are quite particular about where they settle, and so it is common knowledge in Greece that wherever you see urchins, you can be sure that the water is pristine.
Activities and excursions
The traits mentioned make Hydra a unique place to enjoy some pleasant activities and excursions that enhance the island’s natural charm. Since there are no motor vehicles allowed in Hydra, there are ample of routes and trails to be taken either by foot, bicycle or animal! Therefore, hiking, cycling and horse riding are a must when in the island. The trails will reveal wonderful visuals and panoramic, scenic views to feast your eyes on. One which is particularly unmissable is the route to Mt. Eros via the monastery of Prophet Elias. In total, there are six monasteries on the island, and two other villages apart from Hydra Town. Those are Kaminia and Vlichos set in Hydra’s countryside. In terms of beaches to visit, both the aforementioned villages have same-name beaches as well as the ones of Agios Nikolaos and Bitsi. As for after sundown, Hydra is a boon for astronomy lovers. The night sky is filled with countless stars, making stargazing an absolute delight.
Significant history and culture
Hydra has always made its livelihood at sea and is a place that proudly displays its history. An island of fishermen, sponge divers, sailors and seafarers, Hydra was a naval power back in the day. It was the affluent homeland of many captains, the mansions of which still lie in plain sight. If you are interested in finding out more about its naval tradition, there are historical archives on the island’s museum. Furthermore, there is a monument dedicated to Andreas Miaoulis that dominates the picturesque harbour as you approach from the sea. A revered admiral and politician, Miaoulis commanded the Greek naval forces between 1821 and 1829 in the Greek War of Independence. This was Greece’s most strenuous time, and his role made him the most important man in the revolution. During a lovely morning stroll on a hill and coupled with wonderful scenic views, you can pay Miaoulis’ statue a visit. In fact, it is not just his statue that is erected there, amidst a series of canons along the castle-like walls. It is said that his bones are laid to rest at the monument’s pedestal. To commemorate Miaoulis, the impressive Miaoulia Festival takes place every year on the weekend closest to June 21st. It is associated with many activities and events such as dancing and musical performances, as well as the re-enactment of sinking an Ottoman ship, complete with a fireworks display.
This article has been produced in collaboration with Helen-Marie Joyce.