Travel Diaries: Mesmeric Meanders in Hydra, Greece

Did you know that there are allegedly anywhere between 1,200 to 6,000 islands in Greece? Of these, only up to 227 are actually inhabited. That is to say, there are as many picture-postcard destinations to retreat to for a day-trip or a week-long sojourn in this mythical country.

Some are of course conspicuously more popular (read: more frenzied) than others, owing in no small part due to the double-edged sword of social media. Insta-Search for #Santorini and you’ll be rewarded with over five million photogenic posts (and counting!), setting a ridiculously-likeable scene against white-washed steps and dreamy sunsets, stretching beyond the island’s iconic blue and white domed churches. 

Keen to discover more of the allure of the Greek isles whilst venturing a bit off the gregariously ‘grammed path this summer, we set sail from Piraeus (the ancient port of Athens) on a hot and hazy morning in June, lazily drifting into Hydra a couple of hours later…


Sequestered in the Saronic gulf, just off the mainland of Greece, the diminutive island makes a dramatic first impression – its port arching into a crescent framed by gently-tumbling hills, their slopes speckled with fairytale homes capped with cheery orange and golden yellow roofs.

The waterfront cafés lining the harbour are as laid-back as they are busy, thrumming with tourists and locals who were once visitors too, but have since become residents of this idyllic island.

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Hydra has in fact long since been a second home for Greek gentry as well as eminent foreign figures (most notably, Leonard Cohen!), its boho-chic charms a natural draw for poets, writers, musicians and artists. Summer is a particularly sociable season – the island’s cultural agenda heralding the arrival of serious art collectors and enthusiasts for a dizzying series of art expositions hosted across galleries high up in the hills.

Despite its popularity , Hydra is at heart unhurried.

There are no cars or motorised vehicles allowed here, with transport limited to three traditional options: atop a donkey, by boat or on foot. Correspondingly, hospitality has been somewhat limited to B&B-esque hotels housed in historic villas and stone mansions. Needless to say, there’s a timeless beauty embedded in the intrinsic atlas of this island.

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Hiking is a key attraction, leading to breathtaking landscapes that can’t help but serve as a reminder of the incredibly small place we occupy in a larger world.

The intrigue of adventure in Hydra is matched in equal measure by an innate sense of idleness. permeating across sleepy neighbourhoods and laidback cafés. There are cats around every corner, purring gently as they wait patiently to be fed by benevolent locals.

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The streets have no name here, so Google Maps is a bit redundant. We soon abandon a carefully-researched bucket list of must-visit bars and tavernas, instead exploring at will, the enchanting labyrinth beyond us.

The afternoon transpires in a blur of delicious discoveries as we dawdle past dreamy doorways and homes overrun with summer flora. We stumble upon one of the first pharmacies of Greece, Rafalia’s. Housed in a mansion dating back over a century, it’s quite possibly the most prepossessing pharmacy you might ever encounter!

We sip on a revelatory twist to iced coffee – freddo cappuccino – and graze on Mediterranean dips at Plakostroto, a leafy hide-out offering sheltered shade and chatter in cheerful spades; saving room for a scoop (or a few) of the finest gelato we’d had outside Florence, at The Cool Mule.

And when the scorch of the afternoon sun blazes to near unbearable levels, we hop onto a water-taxi which ferries us around the island, languorously breezing past pebbled beaches and rocky inlets curving in from the coastline.

We’ve utterly lost track of time as the day starts drawing to a close, the arrival of our boat back to Athens trumpeted by seagulls flocking overhead. Their squarks are heard even as we fade back to reality, as a not-a moment-too-soon nostalgic reminder of the enduring idyll we’ve left behind.

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Getting to Hydra: https://www.ferriesingreece.com/

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Author: The Foodie Diaries

A food travel & lifestyle journal, chronicling my culinary and other adventures around town.

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