The small island of Hydra is found in the Saronic Gulf, 61km southwest of Piraeus (Athens' main port) and 7km from the Peloponnesus. The inhabited islands of Spetses, Poros, and Aegina are nearby, and can be seen in a daytrip, as can some of the towns of the Peloponnesus. Small, uninhabited islets lie within view off the coast and to the south. Visitors can reach Hydra by sea (90 minutes by hydrofoil). During the high season (June to September), temperatures range from the mid 20s C (80s F) to the mid-to-high 30s C (90s F) in July and August.
Hydra cradles a bustling harbor packed with shops, restaurants, and quayside cafes perfect for sipping a leisurely cappuccino and people-watching. Tiny cobblestone lanes and winding limestone staircases crisscross the island's villages - there are no cars or scooters! With the exception of a few micro utility vehicles, donkeys and carts provide the island's only land transportation.
Long known as a haven for a rich blend of jet-setters, artists, and writers, Hydra also preserves a traditional, quaint way of life that has become increasingly hard to find in Greece's more heavily-touristed islands. The entire island has been preserved as a national monument and great reverence is paid to Hydra's role in the Greek War of Independence. Among other things, the island contributed one of the largest fleets to fighting the Turks at sea and spawned several national heros. Today, history buffs can explore sights and exhibits around town that illustrate the island's rich past, and several festivals commemorate its heroes.
Hydra itself measures 6km across at its widest point, and is 23km long. Much of the island is rocky and mountainous, making for dramatic coastal scenery as the crags drop to the sea. Olive, almond, and pine trees flourish here, despite dry summers, though some of Hydra's pine forests were destroyed in the wildfires of 2008. Spring brings a surprising array of bright wildflowers, carpeting hills in bright yellows, soft purples, and sprinkles of ruby red.
Cobbled roads and walking trails along the coast connect the settlement of Mandraki in the north, to the main Hydra town, the villages of Kamini and Vlychos, and the boatyard and community of Palamida to the south. The trail turns inland at Palamida and winds through olive groves and pine forests to reach the tiny outposts of Molos and Episkopi. Generally, people ride in taxi boats to reach other parts of the island, like the southern Bisti Bay.
Be prepared to walk and wander, whether through the historic architecture of Hydra town, the sleepy fishing village of Kamini, or along the gorgeous craggy coastline trails. Or, for the lover of nightlife, party into the wee hours, sleep late, and swim off the rocks in the cerulean sea.