Hydra | Argosaronic Gulf
37.2500° N, 23.1333° E
A small paradise just off the Peloponnesian coast that has long been a favourite weekend destination for chic Athenians, Hydra has been blissfully saved from the ravages of mass tourism. Thanks to the strict laws that protect the island’s traditional architecture, Hydra is today the undeniable jewel of the Saronic Gulf.
The island became popular during the ‘60s, attracting a bohemian crowd of celebrities and artists and half a century later, Hydra still is a favourite destination for the world's rich and famous, maintaining its former glory with panache.
The strict rules that were inflicted on the construction and renovation of buildings left the island with a stunning waterfront of well-preserved mansions that breathe old-world elegance. Most of these mansions were built by the island's sea-captains and shipping magnates, reflecting its long nautical tradition.
The harbour with its neoclassical buildings, boats rocking gently at the marina, the trees that pop up among the houses and the horse-drawn carriages that cruise the promenade create the epitome of summer living that is made even more perfect by the fact that the island is virtually traffic-free.
Cars and motorbikes are prohibited in Hydra, the main means of transport being donkeys and the famous water-taxis that connect the island's villages.
The townHydra's life revolves around its port. This is where you will find the island's main market, bars and restaurants. It is also an excellent spot for people-watching, a favourite activity for the locals, whom you will often see relaxing in the waterfront's charming cafes, drinking and chatting before they get on with their business.
MiaouliaA week-long extravaganza that takes place at the end of June, dedicated to local admiral Andreas Miaoulis for his contribution to the Greek War for Independence. The celebration includes ceremonies, feasts, musical and theatrical performances and athletic games. On the last day, there is a representation of the Battle of Gerondas and the ceremonial burning of the Turkish flagship with fireworks.
Museums and galleriesHydra has a rich tradition of arts and culture, which is reflected in its first-class museums and cultural centers. The Historical Archive-Museum of Hydra hosts exhibits from the Balkan and World Wars, and the Greek War of Independence. Two old mansions have been also converted in museums that host art & cultural exhibitions and display objects from the island's everyday life.
EasterIf you happen to be in Hydra during the orthodox Easter, you are in for a unique experience. The week-long religious festival includes different events each day of the week. On Good Friday, locals and visitors attend the procession of the flower festooned Epitaph through the village of Kamini, down to the coast and into the sea, all set within in a mystical, spiritual atmosphere.
Wander around the narrow alleys of Chora to take in the island's elegant architecture and picturesque setting. Sit back and watch the horse-drawn carriages and the coming and going of yachts, sail-boats and water-taxis at one of the waterfront cafes.
Mingle with the locals to hear the stories about the artists that used to frequent the island, among them Henry Miller, Brice Marden, Leonard Cohen, Melina Merkouri, Sophia Loren, Nikos Chatzikyriakos-Gikas, Giorgos Seferis, and Chagall.
Visit the old mansions that have been converted into museums and galleries, or visit some of the 6 monasteries and 600 churches scattered around the island.
Hydra boasts a long nautical tradition, so it is heaven on earth for sailors and the yachting crowd. The island hosts two major sailing regattas, one in March and one in October.
Its colourful seabed and clear waters also make for excellent diving sites. For hikers, there are 80km of trails that take you around the island, passing through landscapes of unsurpassed beauty.
The easiest way to get to Hydra by hydrofoil. There are regular departures from the port of Piraeus, and the ride lasts about 1.5 hours. Alternatively, you can drive to Metochi and take a water-taxi, or to Hermioni and catch a ferry from there.
Hydra is the synonym of the elegant and cosmopolitan lifestyle and, as such, it could not but offer some of the most exquisite luxurious private villas in the Saronic Gulf. Having kept its sophisticated traditional architecture all luxury villas in Hydra are literal pieces of art. Our list of holiday villas to rent includes welcoming havens of utter comfort for the most relaxing holidays on this tiny yet dreamy island.