Visitors to Greece who want to visit the world-famous islands have so many to choose from that deciding where to start can be a challenge. If you’re looking for an island getaway that is affordable, easy to get to and family-friendly, the island of Hydra should be at the top of your list.
Pronounced Ee-dra, this little island haven consists of the main port town of Hydra, a few smaller villages and several incredible beaches along its beautiful coastline. It is flanked by several smaller islands, Dokos and Trikeri, as well as the uninhabited islands of Petassi and Agios Georgios.
Getting to Hydra is easy — ferries from the Athenian port of Pyreus get you there in less than two hours. Blue Star Ferries carries passengers to the island daily. Nestled in a small natural harbor, the port town is practically hidden from view until the final approach when visitors are surprised with a small, picturesque town that radiates out from the harbor.
The island, in the Saronic Gulf, is a favorite among locals due to its convenient location to the mainland and quiet atmosphere, making it ideal for families. Visiting the island is a bit like stepping back in time as the main forms of transportation on the island are donkey, bicycle or water taxi. With the exception of trash trucks to keep the island clean and ambulances for emergencies, motor vehicles are not allowed. This creates a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere reminiscent of the olden days when people didn’t rely on cars to get them where they wanted to go. Most of the island’s villages lie on the coast, so they are easily reached by boat and the inhabited areas are compact, making it easy to get where you want on foot or donkey.
The island was once a haven for shipping magnates, resulting in a unique island architecture consisting of numerous 19th-century mansions that once belonged to wealthy ship captains. With tiled roofs and colorful shutters, the buildings of the port town fan out up a mountainside that overlooks the tranquil harbor. Many of the island’s most iconic mansions have been converted into museums and are great places to explore the local architecture, culture and history.
One of these gorgeous mansions is home to Rafalia’s Pharmacy, operated by the Rafalia family for generations. Whether you are in need of medication or not, it is worth a trip to this fascinating building to experience the architecture and old-world design. Products are on display in old-fashioned apothecary cabinets and the line of high-quality, local beauty products are well worth trying.
If you are looking for a luxurious resort stay for your Greek vacation then Hydra isn’t the place for you. Small hotels are the norm here, and often consist of pensions, guesthouses and converted mansions. Vacation rentals are easy to find throughout the port town of Hydra. Along with the stunning views that practically every property in town offers, they are a great way to experience island life like a local.
The port town of Hydra has plenty of quaint tourist shops selling local handicrafts and artwork and there are wonderful little tavernas along the waterfront offering fresh fare. While the island isn’t known for any unique dishes, its location allows its eateries to serve up the freshest seafood possible and any visitor to the island should plan on getting their fill of fresh fish, calamari and octopus, not to mention Greek staples like the xoriatki, Greek salad made with locally grown tomatoes and cucumbers.
In keeping with the peaceful nature of the island, visitors enjoy relaxing on the local beaches. With clear blue waters and stunning landscapes, Hydra’s beaches live up to the hype of the Greek islands. Several excellent beaches are within walking distance of the port town, but those located further away are easily reached by water taxi. Taxis run regularly between Hydra town and the various beaches so getting to and from them is easily managed. The beaches are clean and the waters are calm, especially at Vlychos, reached easily by water taxi from the port town. This beach is shallow and calm, making it perfect for families to swim and cool off in the water. There is a hotel on the beach with an excellent restaurant so you don’t have to go far to satisfy your hunger after building up an appetite swimming.
Hydra is a great way to spend a few days away from Athens, whether you want to spend a day exploring its town and swimming on its beaches or if you want to spend several days unwinding and soaking up the local culture. However long you choose to stay, it won’t be long before you realize why this island is a favorite among locals.
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