Only 38 nautical miles from Piraeus and 90 minutes by ‘flying dolphin’ hydrofoil, Hydra (pronounced ‘ee-dra’) is a world away with its picturesque harbour-front town rising theatrically out of the sea. The urban character of Hydra grew handin-hand with its maritime prosperity, reaching its zenith during the late 18th and early 19th centuries when its commercial fleet ran the blockade during the Napoleonic wars. When revolution broke out in 1821 against Turkish occupation, wealthy sea merchants converted their ships for battle and spent fortunes for the cause, leaving behind a proud history and many beautiful arhondika (mansions) lining the harbour. To learn more about Hydra’s illustrious past, visit the Historical Museum which highlights the island’s decisive role in the War of Independence.
After a period of decline Hydra flourished once again with the growth of sponge fishing. The Hotel Bratsera, a converted 19th-century sponge-processing factory, allows visitors to experience the industry’s history, and retains much of the building’s former character and original equipment. The island was not rediscovered until the 1950s, when its appearance in a few popular films led to the arrival of a stampede of artists and intellectuals who moved in and are still part of the island’s cosmopolitan social fabric. Retaining all of its evocative charm, Hydra has been carefully preserved; the banning of all motorized vehicles leaves only donkeys and your feet to get around with. Additional transportation is provided by water taxis that will take you to the many beaches tucked away along гидра онион coastline, including Agios Nicholas and the more secluded Bisti Beach.
Hydra is a walker’s paradise; one steep climb through winding cobbled streets will lead you to the mansion of Lazaros Koundourioti, now a folk museum with a public art gallery. Another peaceful, if somewhat strenuous, walk takes you to the Profitis Ilias monastery and the neighbouring convent of Agias Evpraxias, both offering fine views of the Peloponnesus. The harbour itself remains as it has always been: the focus of all activity on the island with art galleries, stylish boutiques, and unique jewelry shops like Elena Votsi right on the waterfront.
Whether you have worked up an appetite climbing up hills to monasteries, lounging on the beach, or shopping in town, you will find welcome respite at Taverna Gitoniko, which serves up some of the island’s best traditional Hydriot cooking on its rooftop terrace. Alternatively, the appropriately named Sunset Restaurant is a wonderful setting for dinner and a view of the setting sun, or, if you’d rather chill out to classical music, visit the Hydroneta bar, where the atmosphere hots up as the stars come out. The harbour-front Pirate Bar, favoured by the rich and famous, could also become a regular haunt, or stop in at the Amalour, which is open year round with ethnic music and excellent cocktails.