The Weekly Getaway: Hydra, a bohemian paradise close to Athens
When our speed boat docked in the tiny harbour of Hydra on a cloudy June morning, I was overwhelmed by the exhilarating feeling I felt when I was a child on my first day of summer vacation. A mere hour and a half from Athens, Hydra is the epitome of relaxed cosmopolitanism.
Photo Credits: Constantinos Sofikitis
There is nowhere in the world where you can live like you can in Hydra, and that includes Hydra. - Leonard Cohen
What makes Hydra special is that it’s car free. Escaping a city where a car is a necessary evil, I was glad I would have to use my legs for once. Hydra is indeed the best place for people who like casual walks. From the harbour to Kamini, one passes by small houses made of stones perched on hills overlooking the Aegean. In June, the island is not yet very busy so one only occasionally crosses paths with a couple of tourists or locals who always greet with a wide smile and with whom you’ll share that rewarding look of understanding you’ve discovered a small corner of summer paradise.
With its small size, Hydra is a welcoming place. After a couple of days you start recognising faces and you’re never in a hurry to do things - everything is at stone’s throw away from each other. You can leisurely take the time to enter as many stylish shops as your wallet allows, drink all the delicious iced coffees and cocktails, and daydream uninterrupted for hours without feeling you’re missing out on something. Time runs a bit slower in Hydra.
This sense of slowing time definitely adds to the Hydra’s poetic vibe. From the coming and going of stylish yachts, fishermen’s tiny boats and water taxis unloading tourists, Hydra’s pace feels more naturally choreographed than almost any other Greek island.
Hydra is really the perfect place to unwind for a couple of days (or the whole summer quite frankly). Ten seconds in and it was clear to me, why Leonard Cohen fell in love with the island, bought a house and remained devout to it for over 40 years. As for us who don’t have the luck to own one of the island’s few and coveted houses, we can simply return over and over to steal a bit of Hydra’s summery fairy dust.
- Church of the Virgin Mary in the Port - The moment you enter the courtyard of the church off of the busy seafront, you’re transported to a quiet almost mystical place. The icon of the Virgin Mary is meant to be miraculous, with a lot of interesting stories surrounding it.
- DESTE Foundation - A five minute walk along a breathtaking cliff with a view of the Aegean and you’ll find yourself at the modern art DESTE Foundation. Temporary exhibitions run through the summer, attracting art crowds from all over the world.
- Scenic walks - No cars means that everything on Hydra is done on foot (or on a mule’s back). Late afternoon is the best time to take a walk to Kamini and enjoy the sunset over the Aegean.
- Bisti - Take the small boat to one of the islands most scenic beaches. Returns are scheduled at 15.30 and 17.30, so take a little snack with you.
- Spilia - Whether you sit at the restaurant or on the peer the distance to the port makes it the best place for a quick dip in the afternoon.
- Avlaki - Just off of Techne, take the steep stairs and grab one of the coveted spots on the Avlaki peer.
- Castello - Beautiful but crowded beach bar. Good spot if you want a fuss free beach day.
- Spilia - Great place to have breakfast, light lunch or a sunset drink next to the small port. You can dip in and out of the sea while enjoying their delicious eggs with Cretan smoked pork or scrambled eggs with tomato and feta.
- Cool Mule - Don’t miss out on their ice creams. Flavours change every day!
- Techne - A beautiful garden and well-thought menu, don’t miss out on the taramosalata and the roasted tuna with potato puree.
- Kremmydi - Relaxed place to grab a salad and a gyro after the beach. Manna’s: Offers a take on international cuisine. Their sea bass tacos and falafel with beetroot marmalade are absolutely delicious.
- Hydronetta - Sunset over the Aegean. Need I say more?
- Amalour - Good cocktails and fun ambiance - this is where you’ll dance the night away. Tip: If you visit Hydra in August, make sure to book well in advance. Don’t forget to book restaurants as well - it’s tiny and there’s a finite amount of places to eat/drink at. In general avoid the cafes on the seafront, with the exception of the Cool Mule. They’re more touristy and expensive than smaller restaurants just a few meters away.
- Shop for souvenirs - there are many places to buy cute necklaces, stylish home decor, and even clothes so that you can take a piece of Hydra with you back.
Thanks to Ismini Tornivouka for her tips, and Bertha Carasso for her photography skills. And a special shout-out to Constantinos Sofikitis for sharing with us some of his photos from Hydra.