If you are looking for the perfect weekend getaway from Athens, then the picturesque island of Hydra should be your all-year-round choice.
Hydra is a cosmopolitan 50 kilometers square island located in the Saronic gulf, perfect for foodies, art lovers, and architecture aficionados. Widely-known by sailors, the island is a no-car paradise, where more than 1000 photogenic donkeys and mules are the only means of transport. With beautiful stone mansions, amphitheatrically built around its harbor, Hydra is considered to be one of the most charming Greek islands.
Luckily, almost everything of interest can be found on the waterfront or in the main streets behind the harbor, thus you will have a truly relaxing vacation. In the small town of Hydra, you can wander around the cobbled streets and admire the houses rising on the hills. Leonard Cohen, among others, bought and restored a property there, joining prominent Greeks who had long appreciated the island’s charms. Sofia Loren filmed the 1957 hit “Boy on a Dolphin” in Hydra, while Melina Merkouri filmed Phaedra, a motion picture directed by Jules Dassin.
Perfect for all art and history enthusiasts
Various museums and galleries can be found on the island:
Lazaros Koundouriotis (1769-1852) was one of the most eminent political figures of Hydra, who offered his ships, crew, and fortune to the Greek War of Independence. In this mansion, you can find family heirlooms, representative works of Greek traditional folk art, paintings of landscapes of Hydra and works of renowned painters. Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 8:30-14:30, admission: €3.
The museum gathers and catalogs documents and artifacts related to Hydra, displaying firearms, weapons, and artifacts from the Greek Revolution, Balkan Wars, and World Wars I and II, and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century heirlooms. Open daily, Summer: 9:00–16:00 & 19:30–21:30, Winter: 9:00–16:00. Admission: €5.
Every summer since 2009, DESTE has invited an artist or group of artists to develop an exhibition in the Foundation’s Project Space, a former slaughterhouse on the island of Hydra. Kara Walker hosts this year’s site-specific exhibition. Her creation, Figa, the left hand of the sphinx-like monument, has been transferred from Domino Sugar Factory in New York to Greece, the birthplace of Western civilization. Figa is thought to have magical properties and represents an emblem of fertility and protection against the evil eye. Opening hours: 20.6.2017 – 30.9.2017, Mon.–Sun. 11:00 – 13:00 & 19:00 – 22:00.
The weekend getaway from Athens for a refreshing beach break
Hydra is not widely known for its beaches but there are numerous smooth rocks and pebbly bays for swimming. Choose Avlaki, Hydronetta and Kamini if you are looking for a quick dive near the town. Vlychos is one of the island’s most famous pebble beaches and ideal for families. It is organized and hosts two tavernas and two seaside picturesque chapels. Right after the coastal settlement of Vlychos, you will find Vlychos Plakes. This is the beach of the luxurious “Four Seasons” hotel.
Bisti (pebble) and Agios Nikolaos (200m of fine pebbles and sand surrounded by pine trees) at the southwestern tip of the island have crystal clear waters and are better for swimming but you will need to arrange a boat round trip to get there (around 20’ for Bisti, 35’ for Agios Nikolaos).
Spilia is another option and the perfect place to dive, enjoy the sunset, and eat some delicious finger-food, while it is within walking distance from the town of Hydra.
High-end gastronomy and cosmopolitan nightlife
Techne Restaurant & Social is our top pick as an all-day restaurant, bar, and café serving carefully crafted dishes of Mediterranean cuisine, combining traditional recipes and modern techniques, along with signature cocktails, select wines and specialty coffee.
Executive chef and co-owner of Techne Restaurant & Social, Yannis Michalopoulos made his first career steps in the kitchens of some of the most prestigious hotels and restaurants in Greece and formerly in the UK. Now, he creates a special menu for all clients offering the freshest seasonal ingredients.
Moreover, while in Hydra, do not miss:
- “Isalos Café” for breakfast of every choice and cold coffee in an isothermal glass
- “Skipper Café” for traditional Greek coffee and Turkish delights
- “o Fournos” bakery for fresh sweet and savory pastries
- “Hydronetta” for dives and delicious cocktails
- “Castello” because it is worth the walk there as well as the recently renovated beach-bar
- “Spilia” for the views, the finger food, and the mesmerizing sunset
- “Ostria” because Greek, fresh meze is daily served by the island’s most adorable persona, Tasoula
- “The Beautiful Hydra” offering the dishes of Mediterranean cuisine with a “twist”
- “Gitoniko” taverna for fresh, local ingredients in Christina and Manolis’ dishes
- “Pirate Bar” for light lunch (until 17:00) and Leonard Cohen’s favorite cocktails
- “Tsaggaris” for the best almond cookies in Hydra
- “Anemone” aka the Flora’s Confectionery for the divine galaktoboureko, rizogalo (Greek rice pudding) and goat’s milk ice-cream
- “Karamela” confectionery for gluten-free ice cream and fresh cheesecake
- “Papagalos” for unique cocktails and mocktails
- “Amalour” for the night-out vibe of the island
An ideal destination for active natural escapes
Hydra is ideal for walkers, hikers, sailors, and riders. And when we say riders, we mean of course horse-riders, given that the island is a motorcycle-free destination.
- Try one of Hydra’s guided donkey-riding or horse-riding tours and enjoy the view of the monasteries, the beaches, and the Saronic gulf.
- Join Hydra’s Trail mountain running event which takes places every spring. From the 5 routes of the race, “Eros mountain trail” stands out, a 26,3km race with a 1.250m increasing altitude, while the event’s originality is the “Downhill” race which is the only descending race in Greece.
- Sign up for a scuba diving lesson or go sailing in one of the top destination for yacht owners.
- On your weekend getaway from Athens, go on a day trip to glamorous Poros or vibrant Spetses, the other members of the Argo-Saronic island group.
Where to stay
Situated in a quiet area of Hydra Town, only a gentle five minutes from the harbor, you will find the Piteoussa Guest House offering a superb standard of accommodation for your holiday in Hydra.
Positioned at an advantageous location overlooking the harbor, you will find Hydra Icons. This guest house combines the island aura with an artistic touch as celebrities such as Melina Merkouri, Leonard Cohen and Sophia Loren have marked with their presence the island and the rooms have been named after them.
How to get to the island
Flying dolphins and catamarans have daily, frequent itineraries that depart from Piraeus Port in Athens, in front of the church of Agios Spiridonas going to Hydra. These ferries also connect Hydra to other islands of the Saronic Gulf, such as Poros and Spetses. The trip to Hydra takes approximately 1,5 hours. Otherwise, you can drive until Metohi in the Peloponnese and take a boat-taxi for a 15-minute trip.
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Special thanks to Vee Bouganis and Yiorgos Mesimeris for providing us with the photographic material.