Hydra On a BudgetThe island of Hydra is located in the Aegean Sea between the Saronic and Argolic Gulfs. Named for its natural springs, the island now has most of its freshwater imported from the mainland. The real gem of the place is the absence of motorized vehicles. Car and scooters are nowhere to be seen by the narrow marble-cobbled lanes, rocks, and sea. Such vehicles have been outlawed and so the way to navigate the island is by donkey, water taxi, or on foot.
In 2007, National Geographic Traveler rated Hydra the best of any Greek island, naming it a unique destination preserving its integrity of place. With no vehicles, charming alleyways, romantic nightlife, and the sea always at your back, the island does embody a rustic allure unlike any other. Hydra is its own place, a wonderful escape from the busyness of everywhere else.
SightsIf you are up for a day of walking, the endless alleyways of the main port are a sight in themselves. Lined with little shops, bakeries, guest houses, and old world décor, the main town at the port of Hydra has enough to occupy a day-long exploration. Tucked into the town, there are also a few quaint churches worth a peek.
If you really feel up to walking, you might want to take the hike up to the Profitis Ilias Monastery. The journey is about a two-hour climb each way along a partially paved path with cobblestone ramps and a lot of stairs, but is well worth the effort for the views of the surrounding area. If you catch the monastery during open hours, you might even get to sample a Turkish delight. Great photo opportunities either way!
If you follow the cobbled road along the sea, it will lead you out of port to other smaller villages and beaches on Hydra. The views along this route are spectacular as well. If you plan on a long day of walking, do not forget to bring water.
NeighborhoodsThe main port of Hydra is the hub of activity on the island. The place depends on tourism, and so the area closest to the water is lined with shops, restaurants and tavernas, bars, coffee shops, bakeries, ATMs, and ice cream shopsjust about anything a tourist could want. Hotels and guest houses are located just behind the commercial area, tucked into charming alleyways in a maze of cobblestone walkways, but the further inland from port, the more residential it gets. It is a great place to explore on foot. If you follow the cobbled path east of town, you can get a wonderful view of the town as a whole, lit beautifully at night, little boats still bobbing on their tethers.
ActivitiesIn addition to the endless adventure of shops and alleyways, Hydra also has a few museums worth a visit. The Lazaros Koundouriotis Mansion (branch of the National Historical Museum) overlooks the port with striking views of the harbor from above. Once the home of shipowner Lazaros Koundouriotis, who played an important role in the Greek War of Independence, the mansion now houses a permanent exhibition that follows the historical evolution of the Greek nation from the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans up until World War II. Another museum located just on the eastern edge of Hydra port is the Historical Archives Museum of Hydra. This collection provides more of a nautical history of the port, showcasing model ship replicas, period clothing, maps, and other artifacts significant to Hydra's culture.
If you prefer to spend your time on Hydra relaxing on the island's beaches, there are a few around the coastline that can be most easily reached by boat taxi. Just walk along the port whenever you wish to leave for your beach excursion and you will find many boats waiting to take visitors back and forth for a good price. If you prefer walking, the closest beach is Avlaki Bay just west of Hydra town. It is very small down a steep path and is quite rocky, but it is usually less crowded than the other beaches. If you're looking for a beach with more amenities, take a boat taxi to Cape Bisti or (Four Seasons) Vlichos Beach, where you can rent chairs and umbrellas and have access to food and refreshments as well.
Food and DiningThe main port of Hydra is the place to eat. At peak dining hours every restaurant will be bustling and full of lively conversation. Being an island and a town on the port, you can never go wrong with the seafood, though anything you get will likely be just as good. Whether you choose you eat on the water, or explore the food culture of the enchanting alleyways, Hydra dining will not disappoint. If you are looking to save your pennies, your best bet is to go to one of the restaurants on the back streets and do your eating and drinking there. Waterfront dining sometimes comes at an expense. A great place to sit back with a drink after dinner is located just off port down Tompazi Street. The place is called Amalour, and the little corner it sits on is the place to be once the nightlife gets started.
TransportationAs mentioned earlier, with the exception of rubbish trucks, no motorized vehicles are permitted on the island. The main methods of travel once you get to the island are by donkey, water taxi, or on foot.
The best way to get to Hydra from Athens is to take a high-speed ferry from Piraeus (check Flying Dolphin or Flying Cat by Hellenic Seaways for ferry schedule). The boat will usually stop first at Poros then continue on to Hydra followed by Spetses. The journey to Hydra should take about an hour and 15 minutes.