General Information on Hydra
Hydra is one of the Saronic Islands of Greece, located in the Aegean, between the Saronic and the Argolic Gulf. It is separated from the Peloponnese by the narrow Hydra Gulf. The island is very cosmopolitan and modern. It was discovered by a band of artists in the 1960s who had been attracted there by its spectacular, steep-sided port. Even today, artists and movie stars visit the island and Hydra is considered an artists’ colony. Traditional and wonderful architecture, absence of vehicles, the hospitality of the inhabitants and an exciting nightlife contribute to the high popularity and incredible charm of Hydra.
The island is not only known of its beauties, but also because it played an important historical role during the Greek War of Independence in 1821. Hydra, during the 19th century, was a formidable maritime power and when the Greek Revolution commenced, it contributed all of its ships in the fight. Although the island takes its name from ancient springs, it is now dry. While Hydra previously had wells, they were blocked by seismic activity around the mid-20th century. Today, water is imported by boat from the mainland.
History of Hydra
Hydra’s past is obscure. Little is known about the island until the beginning of the Ottoman rule. The only acknowledgment of ancient times is that the first settlers of Hydra were Mycenaeans. Written sources mentioning the island date to the 15th century, after the fall of Constantinople, when people began moving towards the steeper heights of mountainous islands to escape pirates and the Turks.
Around 1460, the island of Hydra was settled by Albanian Orthodox refugees, who fought for the Venetians against the Turks. During the same time, a building frenzy started in Hydra and the first town on the hill Kiafa was founded. Because of the hostile climate in Greek cities and the more often pirate raids, immigration became more intense. In the beginning of the Greek Revolution in 1821, Hydra had a population of 27,000 people, with positive results, especially in sea commerce and in shipping.
In the 18th century, the island became powerful and prosperous because of its highly developed commercial fleet, trading with all of Greece and even abroad, with France, Spain and America. The superiority of the island fleet reached its peak during the Napoleonic wars and with the creation of the Merchant Marine Academy, was able to monopolise sea transport throughout the Mediterranean.
The eve of the Greek Revolution found Hydra ready for war, with 120 battleships, 5,400 men and 2,400 cannons. The Revolution was declared officially, in the island, at the 16th of April 1821. The Hydrian fleet dominated the sea during the seven year war with the Turks, contributing to the liberation of Greece, in costs of lives, battleships and money. The heroism of the crew members was known all around Europe and is still honoured today. Two of the most heroic figures of Hydra were ship owners Andreas Miaoulis and Lazaros Koundouriotis.
After World War II, the economy of the island was shaken. However, it recovered soon, mainly because of sponge fishing. Since the 1950s, Hydra has been one of the most important cultural centres, gathering famous personas of Arts and Literature from Greece and abroad.
Towns & Villages in Hydra
Hydra Town: This is the capital and the main harbour of the island. It consists of a crescent-shaped harbour, surrounded by commercial establishments, catering to tourists and locals. Steep stone alleys lead up and out of the harbour area. Most local residences and hostels of the island are located here. The town has been declared as a traditional and protected settlement. The spectacular port with ranked rows of restored grey and white Venetian mansions –built in the late 18th century by Venetian and Genoese architects–, is a breathtaking experience. During the 17th century, the town centre was where the old town of Kiafa lies today, and which slowly expanded towards the seashore. Kiafa is the most populated area of the town, standing high up above the port, with the oldest buildings of the island. The view from this area is breathtaking. The town is also the tourist centre of the island and visitors may find rooms to rent, small hotels in old, renovated mansions, shops, and other facilities. The picturesque and traditional atmosphere of Hydra Town is mixed with a cosmopolitan air and an exciting nightlife, which makes it a unique place and one of the most beautiful towns of the Aegean.
Kaminia: This is a small fishing village built on the slopes of the mountain range Ere. It is a very beautiful and peaceful settlement with traditional houses and tourist facilities. In recent years, because of the growth of the settlement, it slowly expanded towards the harbour, almost uniting with the capital.
Vlichos: This small resort is situated very close to Kaminia (15 minutes walk). It is a pretty small hamlet with a rocky beach and a magnificent view over the Peloponnese coast.
Beaches in Hydra
Madraki: This beach is situated on the left of the port and it is one of the few beaches of Hydra. It is organized and has pebbles and clear waters. It can be reached by a 25-minute walk from the main harbour of Hydra Town.
Kaminia: This is a small fishing port surrounded by few taverns. Near Megalo Kamini (Big Kamini) lies Mikro Kamini (Small Kamini), a beautiful little pebble beach, ideal for kids and water sports.
Spilia: Outside the main port of Hydra, towards the rocky slope, is the beautiful area of Spilia where the grey crags have been artificially formed into sun decks. The area has clear and deep waters, ideal for diving.
Hydroneta: This is a rocky swimming area with cemented sun decks, very popular because of the bar that lies on the rocks above the sea.
Bisti: This small beach is situated in the southern cove of the island. It is an organised beach mainly run by the diving centre of Hydra, but taking part in the activities run here is not mandatory. The beach is surrounded by tall rocks and pine trees.
Top Things to Do in Hydra
1. The Koundouriotis Mansion: This amazing mansion which is situated in the capital is one of the finest examples of the traditional 18th and 19th century architecture of Hydra. It was built in 1780 by the Koundouriotis family. Lazaros Koundouriotis was a ship owner who devoted himself entirely to the Greek Revolution of 1821. He used his ships and fortune to finance and help the War for Independence against the Ottomans. This mansion was donated by his great-grandson, Pantelis Koundouriotis, to the Historical and Ethnological Society of Greece. After its restoration in the 1990s, the three levels of the mansion were transformed into exhibition areas where relics from the Koundouriotis family are exhibited, as well as various items from the historical and folklore collections of the National Historical Museum of Athens.
2. Historical Archives Museum: This museum was founded in 1918. Today, it is housed in a traditional Hydriot mansion donated by ship owner Gikas Koulouras and it is located near the ferry docks, on the eastern side of the harbour. It houses a collection of portraits, an important collection of the town archives relating to the history and culture of the island, small objects dating to the 18th and 19th centuries, and many more. On the first floor of the museum is a library with about 4800 books from the 18th century.
3. Monastery of Profitis Ilias: This monastery was built during the 19th century by monk Ierotheos, on the site of an abandoned monastic community. Today it is the most visited monastery of the island.
How to Reach Hydra
Ferry: There are daily ferries from Piraeus (3 ½ hours) via Poros, Methana and Aegina.
Hydrofoil: The island is well served by hydrofoil, with numerous daily services from Piraeus. Direct services take 1 ¼ hours, but most pass via Poros (1 ½ hours).
Getting Around in Hydra
In summer, there are taxi-boats and caiques from Hydra Town to the beaches.
Weather in Hydra
As in the rest of southern Greece, Spetses has a warm and Mediterranean climate and lots of sunshine all year long, especially in summer and spring. Summer in Spetses is cooler that in other parts of Greece and the temperatures never reach more than 30 degrees. Winters are mild with low precipitation, and a northern breeze is the cause of clear skies.
Top 10 Destinations in Hydra
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Map of Hydra