Awakened from a power nap by a mule climbing the cobblestone steps outside of my door, I jumped out of bed to throw on my swimsuit. There were a few hours to spare before the sun set on the island of Hydra. I hurried along as I went to meet my friend, but then suddenly stopped as a phrase abruptly echoed in my mind: “Slow down!” These were the words our host said to us earlier that morning.
How can you slow down when you come from a culture that’s fast? Yeah America, I’m talking about you. As I explored the wondrous coves and curves to reach the seaside, I couldn’t help but be awestruck when I saw the view: the sweet sight of the Aegean Sea. It was like the sea was asking me to do a cannonball right then and there. Welcome to the island of Hydra, right below Athens—between the Saronic and Argolic Gulfs 📍
Reason #1: No cars are allowed on the island of Hydra.
If you plan on road-tripping to, from, and around Hydra, you can forget about it. You’re in mule territory now. Get ready to arrive by ferry, explore by foot, and dodge luggage carts to see what the main islands of Hydra and Dokos have to offer. When it comes to luggage transfer, mules are your best bet—work with your housing manager to have these workhorses prepped for your arrival.
Pro Tip: In Greek, Hydra is pronounced EE-Dra. Not Hydra, like hydroflask—but nice try.
Reason #2: This is the getaway island for many artists, musicians, and creators alike.
If you are looking to go off of the radar, the island of Hydra can keep a secret. Musicians like Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones would spend their vacations here, while Canadian legend Leonard Cohen bought a house here in 1960. While many other celebs used to hang on this island, so did so many other socialites, picturesque families, and artistic travelers.
Reason #3: Your camera will be in shock at how photogenic this island is.
From the moment the first ferry brings you into the world-renowned port of Hydra, it feels like you’re in a dream. Floating up to a perfect exhibit of stone-faced homes, the color palette is like an artist painted it in real-time. The aged red roofs of every building top are as vibrant as ever, resting next to a lighthouse in the distance. As you wander down the streets of Aegean homes with stories to tell, suddenly a cat appears out of nowhere…
Reason #4: Grecian cats run the island: myth or truth?
While showing up at a quaint restaurant along Vlychos Beach ordering nothing but τιροπιτάκια—aka fancy Greek cheese pies 🤤—we were greeted by creatures of the third kind. Grecian cats. These cats, as told by the locals, run the streets as local garbage disposers. After each evening’s dinner tables are cleared—that’s when the felines strike. Around the corner of every restaurant, you’ll find a Grecian cat or ten.
Reason #5: There are more monasteries than you can visit in one year.
The Greek Orthodox weren’t shy about their time spent at the monasteries. With over 300 monasteries and still counting, each family can be VIP at their own steeple. What’s better is if you’re up for a day of sightseeing, these buildings are historical landmarks with views overlooking the island. Just remember to have an outfit that’s posh enough for church should you not want any dirty looks from a Greek γιαγιά (grandma) upon entering.
Reason #6: When it comes to handmade goods, local business owners mean business.
While chatting with local business owners in English and Greek, there is much to be said about the quality they craft into each item. When it’s off-season, their families are sewing, brainstorming, welding, painting, and taste-testing to create the best item they can. It was hard not to buy every evil-eye necklace or linen blouse made by hand. Rest assured you can find everything from clothing to souvenirs to jewelry, and much more.
Reason #7: Hydra has always been, and arguably always will be, a cultural hub.
This island served as a safe space for maritime ships during the Greek Revolution. In 1821, the island flooded with immigrants eager to get away from the notorious pirate raids troubling numerous Greek islands. Hydra became a powerhouse due to its highly commercialized fleets trading with France, Spain, and the United States. Today, the island is respected as a cultural center for those who appreciate Greek arts, literature, and world culture.
Reason #8: Rain or shine, the locals have your back.
One night while sitting at our favorite restaurant on the island, a thunderstorm hit. No ordinary thunderstorm—but a storm brave enough to nearly knock every table over, sending our server rushing to grab our cocktails from the table. While jolting to leave this restaurant in the pouring rain, a dad and his son at the restaurant next door invited us to sit at their covered patio table. We spent the rest of the evening sipping μαστίχα (Mastiha) and laughing about getting caught in the rain. Cheers.
Reason #9: Hydronetta is the best restaurant you’ll ever find on the side of a sea cliff.
If you guessed that Hydronetta was our favorite restaurant on this island—then you guessed right. Hidden in plain sight in the Hydra town is a restaurant that sits on the very cliff overlooking the sea. You have to sea it to believe it. For the entire trip, this was our spot. I almost don’t want to write about it because their τιροπιτάκια (greek feta pies) were that good. 🤤
And the best reason of them all…
Reason #10: When you slow down on the island of Hydra, you really live.
The part of this trip that will stick with me forever is the slow pace I experienced while exploring the island. I’ve always had a hard time slowing down in my life in general, but this time I embraced it. I celebrated it. I encouraged it. When our host asked us to “slow down” from the moment we arrived—I knew there was going to be something different about the island of Hydra.
I just had to experience it for myself. Come here to slow down and find out what it’s really like.
I could almost feel like I was there with you the way you described everything. The photographs are simply stunning. I would love to go there.
I felt like I was there with the way you described everything. Your photographs were simply stunning. I look forward to reading about your next trip
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