No traffic, no cars… and I was sold! When I was told there was a place in Greece which banned cars and even motorcycles, I had to put it on my itinerary. This was my antidote to Manila’s traffic jams.
The island of Hydra (pronounced Ēdra), is a part of the Saronic gulf Islands in Greece. It is a popular holiday destination for Athenians because this little paradise is just off the mainland coast.
It is 90 minutes away from the port of Piraeus via Flying Dolphin, which is what the company calls their hydrofoil (or simply a very fast boat). It cost about 50 euros for a round trip ticket. Don’t be quick to complain about the ticket price because once you see the picturesque port of Hydra you will be blown away. Hydra is considered one of the most beautiful port villages in Greece. I read that this is Greece’s version of France’s St. Tropez or Italy’s Portofino.
Once you arrive, you are welcomed into a bustling harbor lined with charming little cafes and restaurants. Considered a yachting paradise, the only traffic you’ll see are the yachts coming in and out of the port during the busy summer season as Hydra is a very popular stop for those sailing the Greek Isles.
Since there are no vehicles allowed, we were picked up by the hotel’s unusual limo service: Donkeys! If you prefer to walk, a porter will bring a wheelbarrow for your luggage.
There are many reasonably priced boutique hotels here, and many of which are historic. The ones that did leave an impression were a former sea captains house and even a 19th century sponge factory. For the chic traveller, I recommend Hotel Bratsera (show link) and If you want a more traditional feel I recommend Hotel Orloff or Miranda.
First thing in my to do list in Hydra was to do.. absolutely nothing. I sat in a café by the water for hours and enjoyed a different pace of life. Before coming here, I read that poets, writers, actors, and musicians came to Hydra to find inspiration. I was also told that Mick Jagger calls the bar “pirate bay” here his retreat. Hydra also became world famous after Sofia Loren shot a movie here in the 50’s.
Getting around the cobbled streets of Hydra is easy, but if you prefer to ride a donkey, be prepared to pay 15 euros for a sightseeing ride around town. You could also take a water taxi for 18 euros to take you around the island to the pebbled beaches for a swim, which is inaccessible otherwise (and all the more interesting).
I was briefed about the history of Hydra upon arrival but I was too mesmerized by the sites that I missed out on many details. Two things I remember:
Hydra was conquered by the Venetians and that’s why you’ll see many Venetian influences around the island and in the architecture.
Then the next thing I remembered well was the name of the best restaurant in the island: ‘Taverna Gitoniko” (translated as neighborhood tavern) or more known as Christina and Manoli’s; the names of the owners.
Its tricky to find the restaurant If you plan to look for it on your own. The easiest way is to ask the locals for directions. The people in Hydra are so nice that a simple question on directions can lead to a 15-minute chat on food recommendations among many other things.
A visit to Christina and Manolis is like having a lunch or a dinner at a relatives place. This family run restaurant makes you feel, well, like family. The hospitality rivals the amazing dishes Christina whips up for the guests. Even before the end of our meal, we had already planned a lunch at their cousins’ restaurant in the middle of town
Honestly, there is not much to do in Hydra. I think this island is designed for pure relaxation. I was surprised though that in the two days I stayed here, I was always chasing the sunset because time just seemed to fly by so quickly. The sunset was better viewed on the other side of the island in a restaurant aptly called sunset restaurant, where most visitors in the island went to do just that.
The colors of the sky reflecting on the water made the sights even more breathtaking than they already are. Many of the photos I took from my Iphone looked like paintings.
Hydra really is picture perfect but what I liked most about this trip is that I had a chance to relax, forget about time, and find satisfaction in the simplest things in life.
Remembering the place and the people I’ve met… leaves a smile on my face...and an urge to come back to this remarkable place.
All photos taken with an Iphone