You arrive on the small Saronic island of Hydra by boat. On the cobblestones, a line of donkeys wait patiently to carry your suitcases to your hotel. It’s incredibly enchanting to arrive somewhere that doesn’t have any cars. To be honest, I actually opted out out of the donkey-suitcase-carrying. I felt the donkeys had it a bit tough, lugging heavy suitcases up and down in the heat, and I could use the exercise after all the pastitsio and saganaki I’d been eating in Greece.
There are no land vehicles on Hydra. It’s wonderful and makes for a very relaxing and zen holiday. I did spot a rubbish truck early one morning – even Hydra must succumb to such mortal activities as garbage disposal, despite appearances. So yes, almost all vehicles are banned for all time. So it’s incredibly peaceful, yes, but this has also meant that there hasn’t been the construction of huge touristy chain hotels. It’s simply too difficult. So the island is never overcrowded and is unspoilt by ugly developments.
The main town is situation on a horseshoe-shaped port and without a private boat, this is the best place to be based (we stayed at the Bratsera Hotel). The little village is dotted with white-washed buildings, slender meandering streets, 18th century mariners’ mansions and those beautiful cobblestones, all eventually leading up steep steps into the hills. Even the shops in Hydra are charming, filled with authentic Greek products and handmade goodies, not a colourful rubbery flip flop in sight.
If you are lucky enough to visit Hydra on a boat, you can circle around the island, pulling into deserted private beaches and enjoying the entirety of the island, although to be fair, I don’t know there is a huge amount outside the main village. If you are sans boat, it’s very easy to take a water taxi and explore these little coves and pebbly beaches. Or if you’re feeling particularly athletic, you can hike over the island to reach many of these spots. The island is only 50 square kilometres. A walk up to one of the monasteries is also a great way to start your day whilst staying on Hydra.
We went for a long walk along the east coast one day, the sea on our left and the dry hills, dotted with little houses on our right (and a couple which are much bigger and built into the side of the island!). It felt quite wonderfully remote.
WHERE TO EAT IN HYDRA
You can’t really go wrong for food here, but my favourite dinner spots were the restaurants along the coast line. Walk west along the coast from the village and you can’t miss them. We had a lovely dinner at the Sunset Restaurant. You can keep walking and you’ll find some more, all with beautiful views out across the Mediterranean. Apparently Flora’s cafe in the a square with lemon trees is lovely, and the Pirate Bar is somewhat of an institution.
WHERE TO STAY IN HYDRA
We stayed at the lovely Bratsera hotel, a converted sponge factory only 1 minute from the harbour, with a lovely little pool and tastefully decorated rooms. I would absolutely recommend staying here.
Great alternatives in the main town include:
Outside of the main town, there is the Four Seasons, which is of course beautiful and on a private beach. They have a shuttle boat to get you to and from the port.
There is blissfully not that much to do on Hydra. Sleep, eat, swim, walk, do a little shopping and eat some more. It really is one of the best places I’ve been in Greece.
One of my other favourite spots in Greece is on the Mani Peninsula in the Peloponnese.