While the larger, more popular Greek islands like Santorini have a lot to offer tourist, people sometimes want a more relaxed experience. One of the most unique stops that people can make while island hopping in Greece is Hydra, a fairly large carless island that is located not far from Athens. The island offers great nightlife and a number of opportunities to spot celebrities who regularly vacation there. Furthermore, the island only allows buildings that are representative of traditional architecture. That feature, combined with the fact that water taxis and donkeys are the primary modes of transportation, make Hydra a unique destination.
Hydra as a municipality consists of two primary islands, Hydra itself and Dokos, although several smaller and uninhabited islets are also located nearby. The main town, known as Hydra port, is tiny, but has some great shops and restaurants. The island as a whole is largely known for its arts scene, and part of the Greek School of Fine Arts is based on the island. Individuals can easily reach the island by boat or hydrofoil from the mainland or other island destinations. Once they arrive there, a number of exciting options exist, including the following:
1. Breathtaking Churches
While Hydra is a relatively small island, it has hundreds of churches and six monasteries. While is can be hard to choose which one to see during a short visit, the Monastery of the Assumption of Virgin Mary should definitely be on the list. The structure, which is the main cathedral on the island, is situated in the center of the harbor just underneath a large clock tower. According to legend, a nun built the cathedral after arriving at the island in 1643. The structure was built in a Byzantine style and has frescoes that date back to the 18th century. Inside, visitors will find a vast array of Orthodox decorations.
2. Gorgeous Beaches
Like the other islands throughout Greece, Hydra has its fair share of picturesque beaches with crystal waters. One of the most popular ones is Vlychos Beach, which can be reached by water taxi or on foot from the main town. The beach remains rather quiet and undisturbed. Slightly closer to the main town is Kaminia Beach, which is located in a small fishing village that has some great restaurant choices. Another beach near the main town is Spilia, which has a number of rocks and is ideal for diving. One of the more remote choices is Agios Nikolaos, a beach sheltered within a charming cove. For a great panoramic view of mainland Greece, visitors should head to Plakes Vlychos. Since the beach is located in front of the Four Seasons, individuals can arrive there via a boat hired by the hotel to serve as a taxi.
3. Intriguing Museums
A number of different museums are located on Hydra. Perhaps the most well-known one is the Historical Archives Museum, which dates back to 1918. The museum displays various artifacts and documents related to the island and is a perfect way to obtain a sense of its traditions and culture. The museum also has an extensive library. Another option is the Ecclesiastical Museum, which is located in the former cell of a monk. One of the newer museums, it has displayed various holy vessels, manuscripts, and jewelry related to the church since 1999. Many of the mansions on the island have also been converted to museums, including one dedicated to Greek War of Independence leader Lazaros Koundouriotis. The home features various art and furniture that once belonged to his family.
4. Animal-Based Exploration
As stated above, donkeys have become one of the primary forms of transportation on the island, especially when people need to carry large items with them. Guests can hire someone to transport them via mule, and more than 1,000 of the animals live on the island. For a different experience, individuals can book a horseback adventure that lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to an entire day. Available itineraries include coastal walks and longer hikes up into the steeper terrain of the mountain.
5. Engaging Hikes
Due to the lack of cars, many people choose to get around the island by simply walking. As a result, a number of different walking routes exist. One of the most beautiful routes exists between the main town and Kamini, a small fishing village. This route is located off the beaten path and away from tourist shops, meaning that individuals can obtain a genuine feel for the island as they pass by churches, mansions, and even old ruins. Along the path is Sunset Restaurant, a great place to have dinner and watch the sun go down over the water, with mainland Greece in the background. More adventurous travelers may enjoy climbing the bastions. Hydra used cannons to protect itself during the 18th century, and the bastions still exist on both sides of the harbor. While climbing up to them, individuals will discover great views of the Aegean Sea while having an opportunity to experience some unique Greek history.