Arriving for the very first time in Hydra, it’s hard not to feel the chic vibe and elegance of this cosmopolitan harbor town. You wouldn’t be far wrong if you imagined you had arrived on the movie set of a charming love story as this boutique island is well-known for its romantic past. Hydra is where “Boy on a Dolphin”, starring Sophia Loren, was filmed, where Elizabeth Taylor is rumored to have had a home and where Leonard Cohen was inspired to write many of his touching lyrics and music. Cohen’s “Bird On The Wire” creation came from the poet’s time in the ’60s living on Hydra, where he witnessed the construction of telephone poles and the birds on the wire ignited the songwriter’s imagination. “So Long Marianne”, dedicated to Cohen’s girlfriend also played out in the quiet laneways of Hydra after Cohen met Marianne and said she was most beautiful woman he had ever met. Aristotle Onassis, Maria Callas and Eric Clapton all chose to spend time on this hideaway of the rich and famous. But what is it that beguiles the unknowing traveler on their first visit to make it a place they want to return to again and again?
Due to its proximity to Athens, just 3 hours by ferry, Hydra is very popular as a summer weekend destination. It attracts the wealthy from Athens who have both modest homes and elegant stone mansions. As well as the harbor, touristy shops selling the “I love Hydra” hats and donkey plates, Hydra offers a collection of fine art galleries, custom, bespoke designer jewelry stores and cultural museums depicting the interesting and long history of Hydra. Leading up the steep slopes from the port, dotted with buildings are cobbled laneways that narrow until they reveal an enchanting forest with a sacred monastery at the top. Profitis Ilias overlooks the harbor, and although it takes a few hours and not for the faint hearted, it probably is one of the most majestic views in Greece overlooking the Hydra Channel and the Peloponnese.
One of the most intriguing things about Hydra is that motor vehicles are prohibited on the island, so all transport is done on foot, by boat or riding a donkey. In fact, the donkeys are very characteristic figures of Hydra and as they stand at the port, they can be seen to this day transporting the many imports around the island that arrive by boat from Athens.
Leaving the port, there are small coves with crystal water and green surroundings. Agios Nikolaos, Bitsi, Vlichos and Kaminia are the most beautiful beaches on the island. Just walking distance from the port is a delightful swimming area carved out of the rocks where sun worshippers can be found before diving off the rocks into the clear waters to cool down.
The one main town, simply known as “Hydra port” consists of a crescent-shaped harbor, and in the summer time, it is crowded with visiting charter yachts and internationally flagged boats. Luxury crewed yachts arrive with their glistening, electronic gang planks and coordinated crew standing mid-ships ready to ward off other yachts with their giant fenders! Come mid-afternoon, charter yachts and their crew arriving to this port will soon learn it is one of prettiest but trickiest harbors in Greece to dock. With very little room, yachts on both sides will drop anchor in the middle of the harbor and go stern to (reverse) to their side of the harbor – it can be a challenge for most, especially the next morning when yachts try to leave! For the non-yacht people, mid-afternoon in Hydra is a spectacular show and time to grab a front-row seat at one of the many cafes to simply watch the events unfold!
Hydra has so many positives, it’s easy to see why it’s one of our favorites and why we spend time on Hydra on our Greek sailing tour. If you want to fall in love with Hydra like so many before you… then come and sail Greece with us.
If you've already been to Greece, the chances are you've seen and quite likely bought a Cycladic statue as a souvenir, but do you know the history behind them?