Hydra is one of Greece's Saronic Gulf Islands, one of the Aegean Sea's most accessible groups of islands and a destination which is always popular with Greek Island cruisers. Hydra port boasts a beautiful and naturally deep harbour and a ban on privately-owned motor vehicles and high-rise buildings means it offers visitors much in the way of timeless Greek Island charm.
The island's name has nothing to do with the famous creature of the same name from Greek mythology, but is derived from the Greek term for water, a reference to the natural springs found on the island. In its earliest history, Hydra was populated by farmers though throughout history always maintained a small population. Like a number of areas in and around the Aegean Sea, it passed into the hands of both the Venetian and Ottoman Empires during its time until the 17th century when it began to develop a strong trading reputation and maritime pedigree. In the 19th century, the port contributed vessels and supplies to the Greek War of Independence against the Turks, though following the revolution, the port lost its economic significance and today, it survives on its thriving tourist trade.
The most important thing to note when considering sightseeing on Hydra is that there's a ban on motorised transport, so if you're thinking of exploring further afield than the town centre itself, you'll need a water taxi or a donkey. The harbour of Hydra port is the first place that most cruisers explore and indeed, there are plenty of shops, markets and restaurants to choose from. It's a great place to sit back and watch the world go by and offers some nice photo opportunities, too.
In Hydra itself, key cultural attractions include the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Church, which dates back to the time of Venetian occupation and boasts an attractive bell tower and a beautiful interior which comprises hundreds of gold and silver coins. The second floor of the church functions as a small museum which features a number of notable exhibits from the island's history. Speaking of museums, the National Historical Museum within the town is also worth a visit, telling the story of the islanders' invaluable contribution to Greece's naval conflicts. One of the most important exhibits is the embalmed heart of Andreas Voskos Miaoulis, the naval commander during the Greek War of Independence.
Though Hydra's not known for its sandy expanses, there are plenty of pebble-strewn beaches which are popular with sunbathers and the island's famously blue waters are a beautiful sight. Mandhraki Beach is one of the most popular, being that it is walking distance from the main port and the sunbeds are free.
Shopping on Hydra
The centre of Hydra's tourist trade is the port and it's here where you'll find most of the shops, too. It's far from a retail hub, though it is possible to pick up a local trinket or two. Art is one of the main commercial enterprises on the island, so art lovers will delight in browsing the galleries for a bargain.
Eating out on Hydra
There are many places to eat on Hydra, so you'll have no problem finding somewhere to enjoy a meal. Seafood is the predominant theme, though not all restaurants actual serve the local catch. You'll know you've found one which does, as the cost will be considerably higher.