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The Traditional Charms of Hydra

A World Heritage site with wonderful natural beauty and period architecture.

As seasoned travellers will tell you, the Peloponnese and the Saronic Gulf Islands is the heart of Greece; the essence of a country full of historical and mythological resonance, and as beautiful as anywhere in the Mediterranean. One of the jewels of this crown is the small car-less island of Hydra off the tip of the eastern arm of the peninsular. If your idea of the perfect island holiday is to get away from it all and to find a fortnight of peace and tranquillity in the sun, Hydra fits the bill; as Wonder Greece puts it: ‘Allowing our gaze to drift to the isle of Hydra, one word comes to mind: nobility.’

In 1939, Henry Miller wrote in The Colossus of Maroussi: ‘The town, which clusters about the harbour in the form of an amphitheatre, is immaculate. There are only two colors, blue and white, and the white is whitewashed every day, down to the cobblestones in the street.’

The island is a reminder of a simpler time, when life was lived at a slower pace, when you could more easily be lulled into the illusion that nothing really mattered beyond where to settle for lunch. Today, Hydra is a regular stopover for yachts, small cruise ships, and there are daily ferries and hydrofoils from Piraeus. There is no motor transport at all on the island, and the paved and cobbled streets of the town and the unpaved roads linking the outlying villages and beaches are traveled by boat or donkeys. Arriving with your suitcases off the ferry, looking for a ride to your hotel, this will be your taxi. Alternatively, for anyone who needs to travel around the coast or explore the island’s beaches, you can hail a water taxi in the harbour.

A noble boardwalk by the harbor

Visitors love to walk around the marble-paved harbor, fill the sea-front restaurants, or mingle with the locals in the evening, attracted by the cooling breezes, the yachts, and glorious sunsets.  Days can be spent exploring the intricate alleyways and fine shops of the town, going on excursions to the historic sites, churches and monasteries, visiting the beaches or hiking in the hills. Hydra has no large holiday developments, and the town is preserved as a national monument. In the restored 18th century house you will find the boutique Cotommatae Hotel conveniently located in the center.

Wonderful Beaches to explore

Where doplhins and seals come to visit…There are many beautiful and varied pebble and shingle beaches on the island, from the secluded little coves accessible only by boat, such as Ayios Nikolaes or Limnioniza, to the popular beaches of Plakes and Kamini, within walking distance of the town, which offer all you’ll need in the way of comfort and refreshment: beachside tavernas serving freshly caught local seafood, umbrellas and sun beds for hire, and excellent swimming in warm, clear water. The shallow water of the small, south-facing Bisti Bay makes it ideal for families with children, and good for sunbathing or snorkelling. Two kilometres outside the town and accessible on foot or by water taxi, Vlichos beach is also good for families with children, although the larger pebbles probably make the wearing of sandals advisable. According to hydra.com.gr: ‘ … the beauriful beaches with the grey colour of the rocks and the blue of the sea, give to Hydra a natural wild beauty and make it the ideal place for inspiration and creation…’

Hiking

For its size, Hydra is impressively mountainous, with arid, rocky hillsides, sparsely covered with pines, sloping down to the sea. It is good walking country, with a number of well-established routes that will take you along the coast or into the hills. Mount Eros is the highest point at 598 metres, from where the views of Hydra port, the Saronic Gulf and Myrtoan Sea are spectacular. On the way up the mountain you pass the monastery of Profitis Ilias and the convent of Ayia Efpraxia, famous for the nun’s embroidery. More experienced walkers might be tempted by the long hike to the Panagia Zourva monastery at the far eastern tip of the island, where you can also see the Zourva lighthouse. As a reward for your efforts, you can take a dip in the beautiful secluded cove below. Greece satellite maps . For the less energetic, the water taxi is always an alternative option, although the climb to the monastery is still quite an ordeal.

Easter celebrations

Easter is a special time in Hydra. During Holy Week, pilgrims flock to the island where the annual processions follow the narrow village streets and alleys of Hydra port and the other smaller towns of the island. Each day has a different event, culminating in the Good Friday procession of the epitaphios, the bier of Christ, decorated with flowers. This is carried on the shoulders of several young men of the town, who proceed along the coast road, through the fishing village of Kamini and down to the waters edge and then into the sea, with the night illuminated by many candles carried by the people following the procession. Then comes the Saturday night Resurrection Mass, followed by the Easter Sunday feast of roasted lamb celebrating the end of lent and happy voices sharing “Christos Aneste!”—Christ is risen!’

 

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