When the traffic and chaos of Athens gets all too much one of the best places to pop over to for a visit is Hydra (pronounced e-drah). Being just a couple of hours ferry ride from the big smoke and loaded with things to see and do, this idyllic destination does get a lot of tourists, however it has a relaxed feel to it and an old world charm that cannot be ignored. The port is full of yachts and fishing boats that give way to a café and restaurant strip that buzzes with activity. It’s a different kind of bustle to that which you find in the city. Most of the people here are generally holidaymakers so they’re typically relaxed and smiling, enjoying the coastal air and stunning scenery.
Now the first thing you’ll notice when in Hydra is most likely going to be the donkeys. There’s certainly no shortage of them! The reason they’re here is that there are no vehicles allowed, with the exception of a garbage truck, so the only way to get around is on foot or the back of one of these hairy critters. The narrow, steep, cobblestone streets make carting heavy goods a nightmare, so locals rely upon the donkeys to haul building materials or other cumbersome wares around for them. The ‘muleteers’ as they’re known are like cab drivers, and when not transporting goods up and down the slopes they’re giving tourists guided rides through town.
Despite its relatively small size, Hydra has a long and influential history that is deserving of countless articles, so we won’t delve too deep into it here. The architecture and statues around town are indicative of the rich and varied past of the island. Of note is the important role that it played in the Greek War of Independence. Thanks to a large and powerful fleet, under the leadership of Admiral Andreas Miaoulis, Hydriot ships with the support of vessels from Psara and Spetses, were able to inflict heavy losses on the Ottomans. To be honest, we would be doing Hydra an injustice in trying to even scrape the surface of its history, so lets leave that for more scholarly types and give you a quick touristic look at the place!
There are several museums in town that are well worth a visit, particularly if you’re after some respite from the often oppressive summer heat. That said the best way to keep cool is by checking out one of the beaches that dot the coastline. They’re generally small and pebbled, more like hidden alcoves than open expanses of sand. If we had to pick one to visit then it would be Agios Nikolaos. It’s only accessible by water taxi but the effort is worth the reward. Another place you should visit is the cathedral. The elaborately decorated interior is stunning and there’s also a small museum inside. Of an evening the harbour is the place to be. The picturesque setting is perfect for sitting back and relaxing while having a drink at one of the bars or dining outdoors in a tavern. One tip if you’re out at night is to watch your step. Donkey exhaust, aka droppings, can be a hazard!