Hydra -- a paradise Greek island

Hydra port - the main town on the beautiful island of Hydra.
Hydra port - the main town on the beautiful island of Hydra. | Source
Hydra - one of the islands in the Saronic Gulf of Greece.
Hydra - one of the islands in the Saronic Gulf of Greece. | Source
A typical street on the island of Hydra.
A typical street on the island of Hydra. | Source

The Saronic Islands off the Greek mainland:

  • Aegina
  • Angistri
  • Poros
  • Hydra
  • Dokos

Hear the phrase 'Greek Islands' and it brings up visions of paradise. Warm days, laying on the beaches and rocky shores of the islands, dipping in the water to cool off, splashing in clear azure water, finding sponge fish, and watching the yachts and cruise ships as they arrive and depart from the island.

Sitting at waterside cafe's sipping ice cold coffees, lemonades, iced teas, or ouzo. Eating souvlaka, mousaka and baklava. Dancing Greek dances in the restaurants and throwing plates. Riding donkeys up and down the streets of Hydra port and sleeping on the roofs of the hotels under the beautiful Greek stars. Walking all over the island and finding the nude beaches in the out of the way places on the island. Shopping in the the stores and markets.

This is the idyllic life on the Greek island of Hydra. Hydra is located in the Aegean sea between the Saronic and Argolic Gulf and is considered one of the Saronic Islands. This group of islands is an archipelago in Greece and named for the Saronic Gulf. Hydra is separated from the mainland of Greece by a narrow strip of water. Today, many of the native Athenians and other Greeks have vacation homes in the Saronic Islands.

Hydra gets its name from the Greek language and it means water. It was named this for the ancient springs of natural water on the island. Today, however, the ancient springs are nearly all dry and the island imports water by boat from the Greek mainland.

Hydra port is the one main town on the island and has a u-shaped harbor surrounded by restaurants, cafes, shops markets and art galleries. The streets are steep stoned stairways that lead up and outwards from the harbor area. Located on these streets are the residences, hotels and intimate bed and breakfastes.

There are several other small villages and towns on the island where the natives live, but Hydra port is where the action is on the island.

Tourism is the main economy on the island as tourists flock here from all over the world, but it is also host to a large amount of Athenians as visitors also. Visitors are transported from the mainland at Piraeus, Greece on high speed hydrofoils and catamarans the thirty-seven nautical miles from Piraeus. The island itself offers ferries to other Greek locales and islands.

Absolutely no cars or motorcycles, or mopeds are allowed on Hydra. The only form of transportation are by donkeys, bicycles or foot. Donkeys have been used for transportation on the island for its entire history because they can best navigate the stoney, hilly terrain of the island. Most natives and tourists walk everywhere one the island because it is so small. But, it is fun to ride a donkey once in a while and hope one doesn't get a stubborn one.

Hydra is a popular yachting destination for Athenians and tourists from all over the world. The island has a strong maritime culture and there are several former captain's mansions and residences on the island to tour.

Many Greeks have vacation homes on Hydra that dot the hills of the island. The average tourist can rub elbows with the millionaires and billionaires on Hydra and not know the difference. Everyone is there for the sun, sea, sailing and relaxation. There are boat tours of the nearby islands offered.

When I arrived on Hydra, I spend the week on the island taking in the sights of the island, the people and the culture. I planted myself on a rock and dipped in the sea for refreshment and ate at the cafes and restaurants that dot the harbor. I walked all over Hydra and once took a donkey tour of the island. While the donkey is fun, it is hot and smelly and I prefered to walk the island.

I thoroughly recommend visiting the Greek Isles and there may be more beautiful ones, i.e. Santorini, but Hydra is smaller and easier to get around. There are tourists, but not as many as you find in Santorini, and I was able to experience more of the native Greeks and their culture in Hydra.

Private yachts at the port of Hydra.
Private yachts at the port of Hydra. | Source
Donkeys literally deliver water to the natives and businesses in the port of Hydra,
Donkeys literally deliver water to the natives and businesses in the port of Hydra, | Source

Hydra's history

The island of Hydra has a varied history as it changed hands of conquerors over time. It belonged to many different cultures that all made an imprint on the island and the inhabitants over the years have come and gone several times. It has stayed on the margins of history for centuries because the island was sold many times and passed through so many hands.

  • During the Helladic period it is believed Hydra served as a maritime base for the kingdoms of the Greek peninsula.
  • The Dorian invasion of Greece in the 12th century BCE led to a depopulation of the island.
  • Hydra was repopulated by farmers and herders and had an agricultural economy in the 8th century BCE
  • Hydra was also populated during the Byzantine Era as the archaeological remains of vases and coins were discovered on the island.
  • During the reign of the Latin Empire of Constantinople the island again lost its population because of the pirates that attacked the island.
  • Hydra belonged to Venice from 1204-1566 and this was a long time of stability for the island.
  • From 1566-1821, Hydra beloned to the Ottoman Empire and during this time Hydra was relatively unimportant.
  • During the 17th century a small naval and commercial development began. In 1645, the island opened the first school for mariners, and the first island vessel was launced in 1657.
  • Hydra began to take on greater importantce after 1718 and the Treaty of Passarowitz and actually became a strong trader to and from other European ports.
  • By 1781, Hydra was permitted larger boats and ships (250 tons +) and became an important commerical port. At this time the island owned 100 vessels of it own.
  • However, the Ottoman Empire levied high tariffs and taxes on the island and its vessels and this limited free trade with Hydra and this constrained the islands economic success. The Ottomans only allowed Ottoman vessels to navigate the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus and therefore, access to the Black Sea.
  • Finally, Hydra began sailing under the Russian flag when Russia gained the right from the Ottoman Empire to protect the Empire's orthodox Christians. They signed a special treatly with the Ottomans to gain free passage between the Aegean and Black Sea.
  • Thus, Hydra had a boost to is commercial era and carried goods from southern Russia to western Italian ports. From 1755 on, Hydra was engaged in commerce not just transport.
  • In 1792, a plague hit the island and killed a large part of the population and as a result, many people moved off the island.
  • By the end of the 18th century, trade had again picked up in Hydra and its vessels traded as far as France, Spain and the Americas.
  • By the 19th century, the island had a population of 10,000 sailors and 125 vessels.
  • The mansions that ring the harbor reflects the prosperity that shipping brought to the island.
  • During the Greek War of Independence (The Greek Revolution), Hydra and a few of the other islands took control of the Aegean Sea away from the Ottoman Empire and contributed 150 ships and many supplies to free themselves from the Turks.
  • At the end of the revolution and the creation of the official Greek staate, Hydra gradually lost its maritime position in the eastern Mediterranean. Hydra's fleet of vessels lost its prior privileges it had in the Aegean Sea.
  • The island's economy became fishing for sponge fish and tourism.

Present day shipping port on Hydra.
Present day shipping port on Hydra. | Source

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Comments 40 comments

starstream profile image

starstream 4 years ago from Northern California

You have assembled an interesting article here. It is sad that they must bring water into the island because of a shortage of drinking water though. It just shows us all again how important our natural resources are to us.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

What a fascinating look at a place I hope to visit one day. I love the fact that they do not allow motor vehicles of any kind there....donkeys! How cool is that? Who says we need the internal combustion engine!

Great hub my friend; I thoroughly enjoyed it.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

starstream: thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed this article. Yes, I agree with you and I find it interesting that the natural springs dried up. We always take natural resources for granted and we can learn from this. They do run out. Thanks so much for your interest and your visit.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

billy: I hope you and Bev get here some day. You will love it. The donkeys are a riot. I found them too hot and smelly to ride after my intial tour on one and you have to look out for the donkey poop sometimes, but it is an interesting way to get around the island. If you can, visit in the spring or fall. I was there in July and experienced temperatures of 115, 118 degrees F. Way too hot for me! Thanks so much for your visit, Bill!


Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

Pavlo Badovskyy 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

You should not write such hubs in autumn LOL. The contrast between description of sunny island and outdoor reality is too huge . This place can become a place of your dreams. In fact Greece is a great place for a est and has an amazing traditions.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Pavlo: As I sit here as it rains and storms outside from Hurricane Sandy, I can't help but think of those idyllic days in Greece! Sounds like you have been to Greece. Isn't it beautiful and full of so much history? I also love all the ruins in the country and I never tire of seeing them. Thanks so much for your visit and I appreciate your comments!


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

What a great island. I have always dreamed of visiting Santorini but will have to add Hydra to the list. I love the fact that there are no vehicles allowed and would love to ride a donkey around the island. What fun! Great job. VU, sharing, etc.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thanks bdegiulio: It is fun to be rid of cars and just walk the island or ride a donkey. It really is island life that way and life is at a much slower pace because of it. I think Santorini is gorgeous, but I like to go to the places that are more off the beaten path. Less tourists here and more native Greeks. I like that. Thanks for your visit - much appreciated!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

How wonderful that no motorized transportation is allowed on Hydra. That is my kind of place, quiet and peaceful. Now I mist get there someday so hydra is on my To Visit list.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Suzette did you really seek out those semi-secret nude Greek beaches? Good for you! How about Hydra's transportation situation- now that is a rarity worthy of a tourist quest for sure. And nothing like the Hoi Poloi rubbing shoulders with the mega-wealthy either, provided they're not the international bankers of course. The history alone makes this isle a gem. With all the terrible news from the economically strapped nation, and parents having to give their children away being unable to feed them and all, it is really nice to read about this Hydra place and at least imagine paradise my good friend.


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for another wonderful tour. It is hard to believe such places exist. But I have seen some of them.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

It was fun reading about the Greek Island of Hydra. There cannot be too many places in the world that do not allow motorized vehicles. The Island of Mackinac in Michigan is another one although it is far away from Greece. I wrote about our friend's vacation there if you are interested. They have horses instead of donkeys and also bicycles if not traveling on foot. Sounds like a great vacation you had! Up votes and sharing.


Suzie HQ profile image

Suzie HQ 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

Hi suzettenaples,

What a lovely insight into one of the lesser known Greek Islands that should be on everyone's radar when visiting Greece. I do love the fact that no motorized transport is there! Donkey travel I agree can be good to try but walking is the best for small places! The history of Hydra is very interesting, I had no idea it was such a valuable port.

I do love Santorini but would also love the quiet, laid back attraction of this beautiful island.

Congrats on a lovely intro to a wonderful part of Europe!

Vu more and shared:-)


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

Wow...this is a great island. I had never heard about it before. You give me a new spirit to write about travel. Thank you very much for writing and share with us. I really enjoy all the pictures. Voted up!

Prasetio


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Wow! Suz...this is just fabulous. Greece is an exquisite county in total,. Well, except for their unfortunate economic melt down as of late... How neat would it be to travel by donkey!! Hmmm, I've traveled before, with a few jackasses......is that the same?.......Love the way you bring us such interesting and lovely places!!!......UP+++


Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

The first thing I noticed, aside from the obvious wealth of the island seen sitting in the marina, are the "streets" comprised of stairs. No cars or mopeds make for a cleaner environment than in most of the rest of the world. Although it would seem obvious, I have to ask, Suzette, what is the predominant language spoken? I was surprised to learn that English is the language most commonly spoken in Belize.

I envy all the beautiful places you have visited, Suzette. If I ever win the lottery, I'm going to come back here for a reminder of your favorite places to visit before I make my plans. Thank you for this awesome tour of a Greek island I didn't know existed.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Yes, Hyphen, add this place to your list - a must do! It is charming because there are no cars. Most of the streets are stairs because the island goes straight up. The leisurely life style is wonderful and I will never forget my week there. Thanks for your visit and your comments - most appreciated!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Alastar: Of course I checked out the nude beach on Hydra. I'm not dead yet! LOL I have heard there are nude beaches all over the Greek Isles. Think of your dad and your grandpa nude on the beach and that is what it is like. LOL You do see the Greek men that look like Adonis, but they are few and far between on the nude beach. Of course, I was more interested in the culture of the island, don't you know! LOL Anyway, it is a fun place and I felt like the poorest tourist on the island. Everyone had yachts! Seriously, it is beautiful and sunny and even better than Naples, FL! And, we were able to take our mattresses up to the roof of our hotel and sleep under the stars. (And, it was cooler there) You can't imagine how beautiful that was. So I recommend that you check this out, Alaster, as you have the option of a nude beach!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Oh Mhatter, this would be such a romantic place for you and Arlene! I highly recommend it. But, it sounds like you may have been to the Greek Islands. It is another world completely. Thanks so much for your visit and I'm glad you enjoyed this.!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

PeggyW: I have heard about that on Mackinac Island. I would love to visit there someday also. I have never been there. Horses are a little more appealing to me than donkeys. I know donkeys have a certain charm, but horses are more comfortable! Thanks so much for your visit and I'm glad you enjoyed reading this!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

SuzieHQ: Thanks so much for reading. Hydra is a lesser Greek island - I know the place to go now is Santorini - but with no cars etc. it has a really laid back atmosphere and culture. You really get to experience what the natives do on this island. Thanks for your comments and input - much appreciated!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

prasetio: Thank you so much for reading this. I'm glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate the visit. Well, the country you are from has beautiful islands too, if I remember correctly. If you are ever in the vacinity of Greece, check out Hydra and/or the rest of the Greek Islands. Life is good there!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

effer: I was waiting for someone to ask that question! LOL I know what you mean. You are a hoot! Yes, travel in the entire of country of Greece is beautiful - especially the Parthenon - but the islands captured by heart and soul and I love them. Life is truly idyllic there. Thanks so much for your visit and making me laugh out loud!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi Amy: Most of the streets in Hydra are streets of stairs. There are some normal streets like we are used to but the majority are stairs. It is charming as the island just goes straight up. Even though I hob-nobbed with the yachting crowd at some of the restaurants and cafes, I travel on a teacher's salary and I stay a pensions and hostels. For me, the only way to travel! LOL Greek is the official language of Greece and the islands, but many Greeks speak English because of the tourists. English is the official language in Belize because it originally was part of the British Empire. It was one of the few countries taken over by the British in the land of the Spanish. It is an independent country now, but kept English as the official language. There is a lot of Spanish spoken in Belize also. Any time anyone wants to get an HP tour together in Europe, I will be your guide!

I traveled a lot because I was a teacher. But then I never had any children to raise, so that made a difference. I don't think you'd trade Megan for some travel.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

Brilliant so interesting and well informed.

Eddy.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Eddy: Thanks so much for your comments and for reading this - most appreciated!


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 4 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Those poor Greeks, forced to walk everywhere they go. Can't even afford swimsuits. Only have sunshine and ouzo to sustain them. Trapped miles away from everything. And people from all over the globe go there to witness it.

Seriously, this was a nice getaway on an overcast Thursday.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hydra sounds absolutely wonderful, I would love to go and visit, I have been to Kos, Corfu and Cyprus and love them all to bits! lol! after going to other places too I found that I really missed going to Greece, and Hydra sounds perfect, what a history, venice, russians and turks as well as greek, amazing, great hub suzette, voted up! nell


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Oh mckbirdbks, yes the poor Greeks! LOL They do know how to live on Hydra. I love the pace of life there. Yes, we flock there to experience their daily life. Yes, I wrote this in the middle of five days of non-stop rain from the hurricane. Dreaming of sunnier, warm days. Thanks so much for your visit. Most appreciated!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Nell: I see you can relate to the Greek Isles. Aren't they gorgeous? I have to say there are more beautiful islands than Hydra, but I love the life there and that there are no cars. Yes, this island turned over many hands during its history, but I'm glad it remained Greek. They are a happy people. Thanks so much for the visit, Nell - most appreciated!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Oh Suzette - What a marvelous and beautiful hub. You have described Hydra so very well. It has been over 45 years, but I can remember the small towns and villages along the coast. Greece is such a magic place. Thank you for an exquisite walk down memory lane. :) Sharing. ~~Theresa


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thanks, Theresa. You know what Greece is like and I know you can relate to this. I like the whole country. I spent a week on Hydra, but also a week on the mainland in Athens and many of the ruin sites. I remember especially, the Parthanon and Thessilonika and a few more places I can't remember the names now. It has such a wonderful history and culture and the people are so friendly and happy. Of course, I haven't been to Greece during their economic problems, so they may not be so happy at the moment. I just hope all works out for the country as it is the basis of our western culture. Thanks so much for the visit. Most appreciated!


Elias Zanetti profile image

Elias Zanetti 3 years ago from Athens, Greece

Very nice travel hub Suzette! Hudra is indeed a very beautiful island and your presentation is wonderful. The best thing with the Saronic islands is that they are very close to Athens so they are the ideal destination for weekends. Especially during summertime, when heatwaves makes living in the city very hard you can break your routine and enjoy a short visit there.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Elias: Yes, you are so right. Hydra is close to Athens and can be a great weekend getaway as well as a vacation spot. I love the Greek Islands and I hope to get back to Hydra some day. It is the epitome of paradise to me. Glad you enjoyed this hub and thanks so much for your comments. Most appreciated.


Kappygirl profile image

Kappygirl 2 years ago

I love all the history you included about Hydra. I just used our day trip there as my first hub! It is such a gorgeous place and going back would bring me a lot of joy. I would love to explore more of the island.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Kappygirl: It is good to find another who loves the Greek island of Hydra. It is certainly paradise to me. I'd love to revisit Hydra too one day. I am so glad you enjoyed reading this and that it brought back pleasant memories. Thanks so much for your visit and comments. Most appreciated. I will look up your article.


Kappygirl profile image

Kappygirl 2 years ago

Let me know what you think @suzettenaples and if it brings back memories.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Kappygirl: I think you hub about Hydra is excellent. Thanks for sharing your experience because it gives great ideas on how to enjoy Hydra. You really packed in a lot in your visit and your article is a terrific guide to seeing so much of Hydra. Thanks for sharing that with us. And, thank you so much for reading my hub.


Kappygirl profile image

Kappygirl 2 years ago

suzettenaples: Thanks for the positive review. I look forward to reading more of your posts..


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 24 months ago from Taos, NM Author

Kappygirl: Thank you and I enjoyed reading your article on Hydra. I has been many years since I've been to Hydra, so I enjoyed reading yours because you recently have been there.

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