Watching sunset from atop the Lazaros Koundouriotis Historical Mansion, you can see how Hydra curls around and away from its port like an amphitheater, a horseshoe creeping up the arid hills. These hills are dotted with mariner’s 18th and 19th century mansions (like Koundouriotis’), white or yellow, with terracotta-coloured roofs. One of the most charming things about Hydra is the absence of cars. Stepping off your hydrofoil from Athens, you’ll notice donkeys lined up at the port. Motor vehicles aren’t allowed on the island, instead, a donkey is available for everything from transporting luggage and groceries to building supplies. Hydra’s picture-perfect port, rimmed by cafés and bars, boutiques and jewellery shops. One of the many donkeys you’ll see chilling around the laneways of Hydra. Fresh watermelons and produce to cool down in summer edge the streets. Hydra offers the kind of Greek charm that’ll keep your Instagram game lit. There are abundant whitewashed buildings trimmed by Grecian blues. Another of the gorgeous buildings you’ll see strolling the cobblestone laneways. Hydra was Leonard Cohen’s spiritual home and creative retreat since the 1960s, and it’s easy to see why. Hydra is still firmly on the international art circuit and has many incredible galleries, spaces and events. Hydra Trading Company is a second-floor homewares and textiles shop in an old police station. A feast for the senses, mother and son team Veronique and Tom Powell also display works by local artists throughout the year. One of the many picturesque, cobblestone lanes snaking through Hydra town from the port toward the hills. Hydra may be known for it’s art, but its beaches don’t receive the same recognition. There are no long stretches of sand, but countless coves with crystal clear, turquoise water are accessible by foot (or boat from the port). There are also beach bars, like this one at Spilia, where you can grab a spritz in between dips. As you continue to stroll along the path, you’ll come to Hydronetta, another beach bar and café full of fabulous people. There are many little spots to sunbathe, read and sip on a drink – and no chance of sand in uncomfortable places. A bite to eat at Hydronetta. As you round the corner up the hill, you’ll spot Avlaki beach down below. This is still only an easy 10-minute stroll from the main port of Hydra, that glittering water calling to you from afar. Finding our spot at Avlaki. Walking the sun-baked path from Hydra town past Avlaki will lead you on a lovely walk towards the village of Kamini. Continue on for vistas of desert-dwelling plants opposed by deep blue Aegean sea. You’ll pass little tavernas along the way. We stopped off for a perfect summer’s meal: sardines and squid, some house white and simple salad. Just past Kaminia village, you’ll come to Castello Beach, which sits in front of an old armory that has been restored as a restaurant and bar called, surprisingly, Castello. You can rent a lounge or umbrella, but the beach is public. Head up to Castello’s restaurant and do as the Greeks do by grabbing a freddo cappuccino – an iced coffee with whipped milk on top – while enjoying the view. Bisti beach is reached by boat (easily taken from Hydra’s port), a beautiful pebbled beach on the western tip of the island. Further around on the southern side of the Island is Agios Nikolaos (St Nicholas beach), a striking strip surrounded by those arid mountains. You can easily spend the day here on your lounger, swimming in the green-blue sea and nibbling on a sandwich from the café. Boats drop off and pick up frequently during summer. St Nicholas beach is a must. Back in Hydra town, blossoming summer bougainvillea overlooking the white-washed buildings and craggy mountains. Local vendors show off their fresh produce, as if straight from a movie scene in the 60s and 70s. A table for one. Surrounding tiny islands like Kivotos might seem deserted, but there is usually a church. Sunset from Kivotos island, where my friend was married. The magic is palpable. Just another day on Hydra.
In the midst of the Aegean Sea, a glittering gem of the Saronic Gulf continues to send its siren call to artists, writers and soul-searchers. Just under two hours from Athens by hydrofoil, travellers fall under the hypnotic spell of Hydra; elegant yet earthy, casually hedonistic and full of old-world charm. With its commitment to restoration as opposed to new development, rich artistic culture and simple seafaring roots, Hydra is the epitome of modern classic.