I arrived in Hydra at 10 o’clock at night on a Tuesday night in early July after a fairly nauseating bounce across the Aegean from Piraeus via Poros. It was magical! The huge catamaran deposits arriving passengers on the quayside, loads on the departing ones and disappears into the night in the space of 5 minutes. It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust to the light – a low, yellow, warm light from the street lights augmented by twinkling candles and tiny table lamps. Wide terraces of tables and chairs line the harbourside and there is a low buzz of music and conversation – every table was full. On the corner, a line of mules and donkeys wait patiently at the water’s edge in case they are needed to carry luggage or people to some of the higher reaches of the town. By law, the only motorised vehicles permitted on Hydra are lorries for rubbish collection (although I did see one delivering beer) and so the only way to get around is on foot, by mule or donkey or by boat.
The harbour is a perfect horseshoe-shaped natural bay packed with row upon row of yachts and fishing boats. Steep slopes lead up from the harbour in all directions and the town is a crowded maze of flagstoned alleyways, stairways and bougainvillea covered red-roofed, white-washed houses and terraces. It’s a stunning place and is clearly very well-maintained. A popular destination for Athenians due to its proximity to Athens, there were also a lot of well-heeled Scandinavian and French tourists here.
Hydra (pronounced EE-dra) is one of the Argo-Saronic Islands, a small archipelago off the coast of mainland Greece in the Saronic Gulf. It was named after the ancient Greek word for water because of the presence of natural springs on the island. It covers an area of 49.6 km2 and has a population of approximately 2000 people nearly all of whom live in Hydra Port, the island’s only settlement.
I only had 16 hours in total on Hydra so I made the most of it – I sat outside and sipped an ouzo at a candlelit table and watched the people until late then got up early and walked around the coast east to Vlichos before breakfast, climbed the many stairs to the top of the town in the morning and had a walk along the coast towards Mandraki before leaving on the early afternoon catamaran. I stayed in Pension Erofili – friendly, simple and very centrally located with a lovely, vine-covered breakfast terrace. Hydra is a magical, stunning feast for the eyes. I was very glad I came, even for a few hours. The pictures speak for themselves.
NEXT ISLAND: My next islands will be the Channel Islands of Guernsey, Herm, Sark and Lihou