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Hydra

Greece

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Nestled in the Saronic Gulf at just one-hour ferry drive from Athens, spellbinding Hydra sings a Siren’s song to which everyone gladly surrenders - including the singers and artists who flocked here in the Sixties, seeking creative refuge. They contributed to the well-knit community and international flair of this untroubled, car-free island. Atypical, yet profoundly Greek in its sunny, timeless nature.

Editor: Ottavia Mapelli Curator and Photographer: Sophie Van der Perre

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intro
intro

Intro

As you disembark from the ferry connecting the island to the Athenese port of Piraeus, you may feel as though you’ve sailed off map, leaving Greece to enter a mysterious land of Venetian influences, stone architecture and a melange of languages, filling the air with a tuneful hum.

The essence of Hydra unveils itself with the first step onto the island: suspended, idyllic, and cosmopolitan, subtly animated by a devoted community of Greeks - who consider it a beloved long weekend destination - and discerning visitors drawn to its tranquil lifestyle, making it the perfect destination for yoga and mindfulness. 

No cars on the island - it’s a place for wandering, sauntering, and trekking, as you’ll soon realize. But don’t rush - the first rule to successfully navigate the island - no need to climb up its narrow streets just yet. How about an Ouzo? Look for the striped-shirt waiters of Isalos Cafè, located on the left side of the port, and sit for a drink with a soundtrack of Latin, Traditional Greek or Acid Jazz, depending on their mood for the day. Your journey begins here.

the-port

The Port

The iconic Isalos Cafè serves as an excellent starting point for your Hydrean journey. Savor your cappuccino while watching amazed newcomers dock on the island.

You can then embark on your delightful Odyssey, following the Eastern coast in pursuit of a colossal golden sun - Jeff Koons’ homage to Apollo, the Greek god of music and divination. The sculpture is part of an iconographic exhibition housed in DESTE, a former slaughterhouse transformed into a foundation for contemporary arts which now acts as a temple to Koon’s dialogue with classic symbolism. As you’re drawn to the sun like a modern Icarus, note an elegant stone house hosting the Hydra Museum, your gateway to uncovering the island's tumultuous history.

Venture further east to discover Hydra’s only sandy beach, Mandraki, along with a 5-star beach resort promising “the perfect haven for intentional bliss. “ For a less luxurious but uniquely charming accommodation, consider Dimitri House: designed by an award-winning Greek architect couple, this downtown Hydra residence offers a mesmerizing view of Hydra’s port and magnificent interiors, each well-curated detail gleaming with the story of Dimitri’s family, a tale he delights in sharing with guests.

Cap off your first day at Turquoise, a clothing and textiles shop that has been an integral part of the island for 15 years. Then, dine beneath the tree at the beloved Tavern Douskos, where Leonard Cohen would sing and enjoy freshly caught fish and mousaka.

spilia-beach
spilia-beach

Spilia Beach 

Spilia is the closest beach to the port, a perfect spot to reach for a reinvigorating early morning swim. After a bit of meditation on the beach, head to the nearby Pirate Bar - sipping its cold Espresso Frappé is a less holistic but still delicious way to savor island life, an experience this iconic spot generously provides. From early risers to late-night partygoers, everyone finds a piece of paradise here - Leonard Cohen included, as this was a cherished rendezvous for him and his bohemian friends.

Before devoting your day to bask in the sun, pop into Karagiannis, the bakery next door. Its popular spinach and feta cookies are a favorite snack to go  - conquering a few is a sort of initiation ritual, savoring them in the sun is one of those simple moments you’ll forever be nostalgic for. 

As the sun sets, Hydronetta is the place to be. This beach bar is the perfect spot for sunset views and cocktails with catchy jazz as a soundtrack. The experience may  elevate during the Full Moon, traditionally celebrated with a modern dancing ritual. The experience may elevate during Full Moon, traditionally celebrated with a party that the whole island religiously shows up to. 

Our favorite hotel on the port is Bratsera - a former sponge factory thoughtfully restored to become a boutique hotel and lush retreat in the heart of the old town. For a luxurious option, consider Hydrea, a 5* hosted in a private mansion built in 1803 named Greek Hotel of the Year. 

avlaki

Avlaki 

Head a fit further west and you will discover Avlaki, a beach we consider the most beautiful on the island; there are several roads to get here. If you opt for the top road, you’ll pass by Sophia Loren’s Windmill - a name paying homage to the 1957 film she starred in, one of many filmed on the island. The crystalline waters of this tiny cove will shimmer with your name as you walk down to the beach through the pine-covered cliffs, heading to one of the most memorable swims of your life. 

If you want to indulge in one special dinner, let Techne be your choice - this refined restaurant offers one of the best gastronomic experiences on the island, a skillful blend of modern Greek cuisine and Mediterranean influences, perfectly paired with the house's signature cocktails. For something more casual, take a short stroll to reach To Pefkaki, a serene and delightful spot with great sea views and a small beach to dip in while you wait for dessert. 

Feeling inspired by the starlit Greek sky? Avlaki is the perfect beach for an evening or night swim - you can comfortably indulge in your personal ritual before taking the well-lit road back to town.

kamini
kamini

Kamini

There are two ways to reach the enchanting Kamini - you can opt for the easier way by water or choose to climb the many stairs and meandering roads of the old town. Although the latter may soundless inviting, it’s the path we recommend to discover the earthly identity of Hydra - the white-washed houses and red-roofed mansions, the vibrant purple splash of bougainvillea on candid walls, the donkeys patiently carrying holidaygoers’ bags, snacking on broom flowers. This is the place to be for at least one of your sunsets on the island - sipping a cold beer and admiring the orange and golden hues unfolding behind the black silhouettes of the tiny satellite islands. 

During the Easter celebrations on the Island, on Good Friday, Hydrians parade through the village and along the coast to the beach of Kamini carrying the Epitaphios, flower-adorned wooden biers representing the funerary bier of Christ, before plunging into the waters. 

For dinner, head to the tiny Port of Kamini - whether by foot or with a taxi boat - and visit Theo at Perofani restaurant. He may not be a man of many words, but his golden heart soon becomes evident to the few lucky guests who secure a spot at his table. Ensure you are one of them and choose the halloumi as a starter, followed by the Indian curry, and finish it with the chocolate pie - our favorite menu constants. They say practice makes perfect - and this dinner will surely be.

other-beaches

Other Beaches 

Now, the choice is yours: continue your coastal stroll or opt for a boat taxi to reach Vlychos, another favorite in our books. We recommend the sea route - you’ll glide past small islands adorned with solitary churches perched on their cliffs, white-washed tokens proudly asserting Greek Christian heritage. Spend your day soaking in the sun, and as the sun sets, embark on a golden-imbued trek back home.

Venture a bit further to find glamorous Plakes - the perfect choice for indulging in a day at the private beach, followed by a delightful lunch or dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Among the locals’ favorites, the beaches of Bisti and Agios Nikolas serve as daily pilgrimage sites of a small group of aficionados, who catch the first boat in the morning to claim their best spots. We highly recommend joining them for the best possible experience. Situated on the southwestern side of the island, they offer two distinctive vibes you may equally fall for; lush Bisti boasts pristine, aqua-green waters perfect for snorkeling and is surrounded by shady forest. Meanwhile, the pebbly beach of Agios Nikolaos immerses you in a scenery entirely different from other parts of the island - a reminder to the multifarious nature of Hydra.

hydra-town

Hydra Town 

By now, you should have captured the unique identity of Hydra - a country unto itself more than an island, a gentle corner of the world that seems to be light years away from overcrowded Mykonos. Walking the meandering, marble-cobbled streets of the town allows you to delve deeper into what and who has contributed to its co-creation. 

Your first stop is the house of Lazaros Kountouriotis - a beautiful mansion painted in a distinctive ochre color that once housed the largest ship owner of Hydra and the Mediterranean; the mere view of the port from its terrace is an experience in itself. 

Continue your stroll, and you’ll find Leonard Cohen’s house, a place of imaginative beauty; Legend has it that the singer fell in love with a Norwegian islander named Marianne and wrote his song “Oh, Marianne” on an Olivetti typewriter while gazing at the sea from the windows of this very house, which he apparently bought for 1500 euros.

Another iconic Hydrian spot awaits just a few meters away - yet as you’ll have realized, in Hydra, even a brief journey may unfold as a series of staircases, ascents, and descents, transforming each step into a miniature adventure - another lesson to slow life.

Pharmacy Rafalia stands as another testament of the original identity of the island. Its Swedish Pine original furniture and vast collection of porcelain and glass jars, utensils and medical books, make it one of the most beautiful pharmacies  in Europe, as well as the oldest in Greece. Vangelis - the current owner and grandson of the founder Evangelos - is always eager to share the history and heritage of his family. As you prepare to say goodbye to Hydra, consider gifting yourself with the locally-sourced oils and creams he passionately produces based on his mother’s recipes.  

The history of Hydra seems to travel vertically - the higher you climb, the further you delve into its original identity; Continue upward to Kiafa - Hydra’s first populated area, a picturesque realm of charming corners and stunning vistas where artists and painters host arts & crafts retreats. 

Ascend to 500 meters above the sea level to reach Prophet Elias Monastery -  the only male monastery on the island, built in 1813 by thirteen monks who arrived on the island from Mount Athos - and push to 600 meters to ultimately arrive at Mount Eros, local trekkers’ favorite destination and the highest peak on the island. 



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