Now we’re getting deeper into glamour territory. Less than two hours out of Piraeus by fast hydrofoil or catamaran, Hydra entered the jet-set league around 1960, after Boy On a Dolphin, starring Sophia Loren, was filmed there. Artists and writers from around the world flocked to this white community clinging to the rocks over the port. Leonard Cohen, the balladeer, bought an old house, refurbished it and still spends his summers there writing hits. More fame followed. In 1962 Island Of Love, a frothy Hollywood comedy was filmed here, drawing even more personalities.
Almost all the houses – barely visible until the boat is actually almost in the port – were built around 1800 by mariners who got rich during the Napoleonic Wars by running British blockades.
That said, Hydra is not for the one who wants it easy. True, there are more than enough smart places to stay. But getting around is mainly for the young and healthy, as the town’s alleyways are steep and there are steps, well, everywhere. There aren’t very many good beaches either, and those that exist are reachable only by small boat.
Night life is fairly good with a host of good tavernas and the most famous of Argosaronic clubs, the Lagoudera, the haunt of movie stars and magnates since the early 1960s.
Hydra even now has no roads. But if you want to shut out the world and write or paint or go scuba diving (and have enough money to be able to do it), Hydra is for you.
HISTORICAL ARCHIVE – MUSEUM OF HYDRA
This is located on the east side of the harbour, next to the Merchant Shipping School (formerly the Tsamados mansion). It was established in 1918, in a building which belonged to the ship-owner and benefactor of the island Gikas N. Koulouras. It showcases rare archive material of the island from the period 1708-1865, which was collected over 40 years by Antonios Lingos, who was Mayor over this time. Lingos discovered this material in the storerooms of the Monastery of Koimisi Theotokou, and in 1952 he donated them to the Community of Hydra. From July 1996, the museum has been housed in a new building and is now open daily. It includes: an Archive Section; the Museum Section; and the Library. On the second floor there is also a lecture-projection room.
ECCLESIASTICAL AND BYZANTINE MUSEUM
Since 1933 this has been housed in the old monks’ cells of the Monastery of Koimisi Theotokou. It showcases vestments, holy vessels, elaborately decorated gospels, votive offerings and icons, mainly from the 18th Century. The icon of the Virgin ‘Rodo Amaranto’, which dates to around 1774, is the piece that really stands out.
ANNEX TO THE NATIONAL HISTORICAL MUSEUM
The house of Lazaros Kountouriotis functions as an annex of the National Historical Museum. It was donated to the National and Ethnological Society of Greece in 1979 by Kountouriotis’ descendents. It is divided into three storeys: the first ground floor, which exhibits paintings of Konstantinos and Pericles Byzantinos; the second ground floor, which exhibits heirlooms of the Kountouriotis family; and the first floor, which exhibits collections from the National Historical Museum (ceramics, jewellery, traditional costumes, weaving and embroidery) from the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.
MUSEUM OF POST-BYZANTINE ART AND HISTORY OF HYDRA
This has been housed in the house of Georgios Kountouriotis since 1991, when it was bought by the Ministry of Culture and redesigned. It houses personal artefacts of the Kountouriotis family, as well as exhibits from the modern history of the island.
This is to the east of Hydra town, a short distance away. During the time of the War of Independence it was used as a harbour, but today it is the beach with the best on-beach services on the island, with excellent facilities for water sports. The MIRAMARE Hotel is situated there, and the mountain which surrounds it is rocky and steep.
Apebbly beach which is mainly used by the Hydra Diving Centre for its organised activities (diving and kayaking), although this does not prevent other bathers from using it free of charge.
A beach covered with pebbles in the Vlychos holiday resort, which also has a number of taverns.
This beach was created when the steep cliffs in the area were blown up and covered with cement, in order to create a multi-level spot which is ideal for sunbathing. It is directly opposite the harbour, but its water is perfectly clean.
This is to the south of the island and many people consider it to be the most beautiful beach. This is why it is worth hiking for two hours to swim in its wonderfully clean waters. A rocky islet a short distance from the coast is yet another destination for visitors to this beach.
This beach, which lies directly below the cannons, has cement decks, suitable for sunbathing, and beautifully clear waters.
A sandy beach, strewn with pebbles, on the west of the island. Access is only possible by water-taxi.
From the port of Piraeus there are frequent daily ferry boats to Hydra. The journey takes around 3 hours.
BY FLYING DOLPHIN
There are daily Flying Dolphins from the port of Piraeus. The journey takes around one and a half hours.
There is no heliport on the island, but there is a flat area close to Hydra town which is used as a place for helicopters to land and take off.
Air Heli, based in Porto Heli, also has air transport links to Hydra (Tel. 0030 2103601600).
Town Hall of Hydra Tel. 0030 22980-52210, 53003
Port authority Tel. 0030 22980-52279
Police Tel. 0030 22980-52205
Marine Academy Tel. 0030 22980-52208
Post Office Tel. 0030 22980-52262, 53398
Medical center Tel. 0030 22980-52420
Hospital Tel. 0030 22980-53150
Museum of History Tel. 0030 22980-52355
Ecclesiastic Museum Tel. 0030 22980-54071
L. Kountouriotis Museum Tel. 0030 22980-52421
P. Kountouriotis Museum Tel. 0030 22980-52245
Hellas Flying Dolphin Tel. 0030 22980-54007, 53812
AEGEAN Flying Dolphins Tel. 0030 22980-54180, fax: 22980-54185