Greek tourism

World got you down? Escape to Hydra

A lot of people around the world right now may be looking for a place to seriously escape from reality and I can’t recommend a better place to do it than the famously picturesque little island of Hydra, off the coast of Greece’s Peloponnesian peninsula. I made a brief visit there with friends recently and, though I had been there many years before, I was charmed by the island more than I expected.

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View of the port from a church to which we hiked.

Hydra has two great advantages for would be escapees from reality: 1) It is a very quick and easy 90 minute boat ride from the Athens port of Piraeus (okay, maybe not so quick and easy if you have to fly from, say, Australia, or San Francisco, but that’s another issue); and 2) Because of the absence of motor vehicles on the island, it is wonderfully, magically serene.  Yes, the wise people of Hydra have chosen to preserve the island’s unique character by prohibiting all motor vehicles, with the exception of a few small garbage disposal vehicles and a volunteer fire department truck. All other transport is carried out with the aid of the island’s famous corps of donkeys which, we observed, put in some seriously hard labor hauling everything from large sacks of construction materials to joy-riding tourists.

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It’s a donkey’s life on Hydra.

Hydra, with its narrow, winding alleyways, lovely whitewashed stone homes, and brightly painted shutters, has the same charming character as more famous Cycladic islands like Mykonos and Santorini, but feels more grounded in traditional Greece and less overrun by big money tourism. (Of course, we were there off season–I’m sure it is much more overrun in the summer.)

We were blessed with fabulously warm, sunny weather on our early November visit and took advantage of it to do some easy hiking. A very pleasant surprise on Hydra is the infrastructure of well-marked walking trails that crisscross the island. You can take a pleasant amble for several miles along the coastline, enjoying fabulous sea views and passing through small villages, or you can take a more rigorous hike inland up into the mountains. Either way, you will find it wonderfully peaceful and picturesque.

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Local fishermen and the ultra-rich on their luxury yachts mingle at the harbour.

We spent only a couple nights on Hydra and, unless you are truly wanting to escape the world, a few days is probably enough. But I look forward to going back again to enjoy the pretty harbour, the fine seafood, and the cute little nooks and crannies to be found in the main town’s alleyways. Highly recommended for anyone with a couple days to spare in the Athens area.

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