Hydra is the perfect island for a weekend getaway from Athens. The speedboat ride from Athens to this small Saronic island takes just around 2 hours. What’s more, its one of the most picturesque islands I got to visit here in Greece. It’s exactly the way you imagine a Greek island!
The narrow cobbled streets are lined with small white houses with colorful shutters. The bright pink Voukamvilia adorns their rugged walls. There are large posh mansions on the hills overlooking the town and the sea. Thousands of cats of all shapes and colors are lounging in the midday sun. The crystal-clear sea is irresistible in the afternoon heat. And in the evening the air has a delicious aroma of Jasmine and grilled fish from the many taverns.
But the best thing about Hydra is that there are no roads, no cars, no motorcycles, and even bikes are not allowed! To get around you can either walk, take a water taxi or hire a donkey. Donkeys are not only used to carry the tourists to the beaches. As in many other places in Greece, they are still part of the everyday life of the locals. You can always see one tied up at a corner waiting for his next load or you can at least smell the ever-present poo.
I got the first glimpse of Hydra few years ago during the classic one-day tour to Hydra, Poros and Aegina. This cruise is a good way to get the taste of the Greek islands if time is very tight. However, it doesn’t give you enough opportunity to enjoy and explore any of the islands. I was intrigued by Hydra ever since the cruise so when my sister come for visit and wanted to see the island life this was my immediate choice.
Hydra is not an island for a budget holiday. Everything is expensive here, from the speedboat to accommodation, food and the small pretty shops and boutiques on the seafront. The return ticket from Piraeus port costs around 60 euro. For accommodation, I choose one of the cheapest rooms I could find and it was still 60 euro for two people per night. This is more than twice as much then in some of the bigger islands like Paros or Rhodes. I don’t write this to discourage anyone, the money is well worthy.
There is a trick to save money on the ferry, though. Some of the big phone companies like Vodafone or Cosmote offer special deals for their customers. This includes offers on the ferry tickets. Sometimes it’s a buy one, get one free sometimes free return but either way, it can save a lot of money. All you have to do is activate a sim card with 5 euro prepaid card and send SMS to get the voucher.
We visited Hydra at the end of September and the weather wasn’t the great. The first day we wanted to walk to the monasteries up on the hills above the Hydra Town. However, just when we passed the last houses we were caught in a terrible storm! In few minutes, the pleasant path became a very unpleasant river and we had to run back to the town to hide. When the skies cleared in the evening we climbed through the picturesque streets to the top of the hill above the port to watch an amazing sunset.
For dinner, we went to the Lulu tavern hidden in one of the small streets just off the port. There are many nice taverns to choose from at the sea front and around the town. This one had a homey feel and was pretty busy even in an off season which is always a good sign. As we expected the food was simple and delicious and the prices more than reasonable.
Next day I sneaked out early and went for a photo walk before breakfast. The port was a completely different place in the morning. The streets were almost empty except for the occasional donkey tied up to a post and few elder gentleman drinking their first Greek coffee. Later, the cargo boats come bringing supplies from the mainland. Then the shutters opened, the streets were swept, the displays decorated and suddenly all was ready for another batch of tourists coming to see this pretty town. This was also a clue for me to return to our Erofili rooms for a delicious homemade breakfast.
The weather looked almost like a summer again so we decided to check the beaches to the left of the port. The first one, Hydroneta, is not exactly a beach but a cluster of rocky terraces sloping down to the sea. There are ladders for an easy access to the crystal clear water and a beach bar for refreshment.
The path continues along the coast to the little port of Kimini and further to the Vlichos beach. It’s very well marked by yellow signs but even without signs its easy to follow. Kimini is a beautiful little sleepy port with huge cat population! Actually, we’ve only seen cats walking around or relaxing in the sun here, no people whatsoever. The trail itself is beautiful, too, with superb views over the sea and towards the mainland.
In Vlichos there is a large pebbly beach with sunbeds. We went for a swim here and took two frappes and two sun beds for the crazy price of 12 euros!
To return back to the port of Hydra, we choose to take the inland path for a change of scenery. It passes through a rural landscape of olive orchards and fields and the upper part of Kamini village. It is equally beautiful as the coastal path but watch out for angry small dogs along the way! I was almost bitten by one under the sight his owner, laughing hard from the top of his donkey!