Home Destination Guides Accommodation 27th January 2020


       Hydra is one of a cluster of small Saronic Islands located south of the Athens port of Pireaus in the Saronic Gulf, and just off the mainland coast of the Argolis (most eastern) peninsular of the Peloponnese.  Due to its proximity to Athens, Hydra has become a very popular destination for mainland Greeks seeking to escape the heat of the City for a weekend break or summer holiday.  For the traffic-weary commuter Hydra is the perfect antidote, as it is the only island designated a ‘car-free zone’.  In fact all motor vehicles are banned on Hydra, no cars, no motorbikes and no buses, so if you are used to travelling with large, heavy suitcases, you will either have to carry them yourselves, hire a donkey or hire a wheelbarrow!  The choice is yours….but actually the island is so compact that the traffic ban is a relief in the hot weather and everywhere is within reasonable walking distance if you are a bit fit!
     The island is little more than a mountainous rock. A rugged interior of steep hillsides peaking at 520 metres above sea level, is laced with pathways and monasteries. Hydra’s coastline is mainly rocky with a few shingle beaches and small coves strung along the northern coast, either side of the main town.  Due to the island’s inhospitable terrain, the islanders have historically looked to the sea for commercial profit and in times past they developed an enviable merchant fleet, trading between both East and West.  During the 17th and 18th Centuries Hydra flourished as a trading post and wealthy merchants built grand mansions and neo classical residences in Hydra town as testament to their success.  Following Greek independence, Hydra fell into decline until its shabby chic architecture attracted the attentions of artists and writers. The noted author Henry Miller visited Hydra in 1939 and in 1957 it was the setting for the film ‘Boy on a Dolphin’ starring Sophia Lauren.  By the 1960’s Hydra had caught the eye of yet more celebrities, with the cult singer Leonard Cohen becoming a resident during the 1960’s and other famous stars such as the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd being spotted among the visitors.  The beautiful mansion houses were bought up and restored to their neo classical splendour, returning Hydra’s stylish elegance, and the local authorities issued strict preservation rules in order to retain the architectural appearance of the town in much the same way as it was in the 1800’s.
     There are numerous tour boats, ferries and hydrofoils to Hydra. These generally operate throughout the day from Pireaus - particularly in summer.  There is only one town on the island, unsurprisingly called Hydra Town - where the island’s harbour is located.  In high season Hydra town becomes a bustling hive of activity and if you wish to stay on the island you should book accommodation in advance as the town rapidly fills up throughout the summer months.
     Picturesque Hydra town is built around a horse-shoe shaped harbour where the yacht marina, local fishing caiques, ferry boats, hydrofoils and water taxis all rub shoulders.  Add to this the occasional cruise ship and it is understandable why the lovely waterfront can be such a hive of activity.  The harbour fortifications include eye-catching cannons and an old Arsenal on the eastern side, next to Hydra’s Museum.  The white washed town houses with their colourful red-tiled roofs encircle the waterfront and spread back up into the hillside like a pack of cards.  Lining the seafront and spread throughout the maze of steep, cobbled alleyways are trendy bars and cafes, fashionable boutiques, smart restaurants and traditional tavernas.  Hydra town has good facilities with a market, shops, banks, supermarkets, chemists, cinema, bakery, doctors and even a small hospital.  In the centre of the waterfront is the imposing 18th Century Panagia (Virgin Mary) Monastery that was built using stones from the famous Temple of Poseidon on the neighbouring island of Poros.   Hydra’s popularity has led inevitably to price rises and it is not cheap, but local people prefer to keep a little exclusivity about their island.
    Whilst Hydra town attracts the crowds, the rest of the island is quiet and peaceful.  For those who enjoy exploring on foot there are some wonderful views to be had from hill walking. Approximately twenty minutes walk west of the town is the small hamlet of Kamini and further on, is another hamlet, Vlyhos.  Hill tracks will take you from Vlyhos up to the plateau of Episkopi.  Walking south of Hydra town will bring you to Profitis Ilias Monastery and the convent of Agia Efpraxia.  When walking in high season always wear a sun hat and take plenty of water with you.  For those more interested in sunning themselves there is a beach at Mandraki, to the east of the town, which has some water sports and a hotel.  Two more beaches are located to the west of the town at Kamini and Palamidas.  All three places can be reached by beach boats or (more expensive) water taxis which depart from Hydra harbour on a regular basis.
     If you are in Hydra towards the end of June, you can enjoy the spectacular Miaoulia Festival, named after a naval hero. The locals celebrate victory over the Turks by setting light to a boat in Hydra harbour, letting off fireworks and generally making merry!
There is no airport on Hydra and the only way to visit the island is by boat, either from the Athens port of Piraeus or from the towns of Methana and Ermioni on the eastern Argolis peninsular of the Peloponnese.  Package holidays are available from some Greek specialist tour companies with charter flights to Athens, onward travel to Pireaus and ferry connection to Hydra.  Alternatively there are many low cost airlines as well as scheduled airlines flying to Athens.  Taxis are readily available at Athens airport to take you to Piraeus, journey time anything from 30 minutes upward depending on traffic.  Taxi prices are metered, so check that the driver sets the ‘meter’ when leaving the airport.  There are ferries, hydrofoils and catamarans running daily services throughout the year if you wish to do-it-yourself or spend more than a day on the island.  For those having a holiday based in the Athens area, tour boats run every day from Piraeus throughout the summer, allowing day trippers to spend the day in Hydra before returning in the evening.   From central Athens there are buses, the new underground (metro) to Piraeus, and of course taxis.  Travelling to the eastern Peloponnese by car will take approximately three hours from Athens to (say) Methana or Ermioni, travelling via the Corinth Canal.
    For those seeking to island hop around the Saronic Gulf, there are daily ferries and hydrofoils to the other Saronic islands of Poros, Spetses and Aegina, but in common with all other Greek ferry services, it is best to check the existence and schedule of these services when you are in Greece, as they change like the wind!
The foregoing information was last reviewed in November 2006. Things change, and whilst we are often travelling in Greece we do rely to some extent upon others to provide updates in order to keep the site as current and accurate as possible!  If you have updates or information that you think should be included here, please mail the webmaster@aguide2greece.com  - thank you.


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