If you follow me on Instagram, you may or may not have noticed I just took some time out in Greece – on a special little island called Hydra to be precise. It’s a magical place – cars aren’t allowed, even bicycles are banned – with no choice but to walk (or travel by horse and donkey), you’re forced to slow riiiiiiiight down and explore every tiny detail.
A holiday on Hydra is like time travelling to a 1950s throwback Greek island, not much having changed here since Sophia Loren filmed Boy On a Dolphin back the 1950s, apparently – except house prices.
We flew from London to Athens, and took a boat from the port to Hydra. It’s a pretty place to arrive into, the town is set around a natural harbour shaped like an amphitheatre and steeped in old whitewashed mansions once homes of wealthy sea merchants. There’s not a big development in sight thank you to its national monument status.
Some of the mansions have been turned into little independent guest houses, like the charming Hotel Miranda built in 1810, where the Ellie & Co team camped out for a week – and ate our body weight in Greek yogurt and honey each morning for breakfast and watched town life play out on the streets from our little window seat.
So, what to do if you’re forced to slow down and do nothing? Well, it’s easy to spend a few days getting lost in Hydra’s maze of marble-paved alleyways and little stairways, exploring, peering through gates, around corners, imagining which houses you’d buy… if only you won the Lottery.
Leonard Cohen had the right idea buying a place on Hydra in the 60s when houses cost $1500… today they go for EUR500K.
Can’t stop taking photos, help!
Don’t miss a look inside Rafalias, a local pharmacy whose interior is pretty much the same as it was when it opened in the 1850s.
Another nice day out is to follow the coastal path east to a little village called Kamini, taking in the view across to the mainland Peloponnese before hitting up the… taverna. Obviously!
The intriguing red and yellow crumbling mansion I could spy from my table at Kodlenyia Taverna needed closer inspection after my Greek salad lunch.
Along with cars and big fancy hotels, sandy beaches you won’t find either on Hydra which keeps mass tourism at bay, but there are still lots of pretty pebbly swimming spots dotting the coastline to hang out on, like this one…
… and this peaceful gem of a deserted beach which we discovered a little further on from Kamini, hiding along a narrow path and down some steps, sheltered by pine trees with no one else on it.
With all this walking and exploring, naturally food was a high priority with our best meals found in Hydra’s backstreet restaurants, like Taverna Gitoniko – an unpretentious and authentic family place with its unintentionally Instagrammable decor not to mention delicious souvlaki…
… and Krifo Limani, known as Hydra’s secret restaurant, set up a dark pathway which opens out into a quirky flower-filled courtyard…
And then there was Taverna Paradosiaco which served up delicious heaped plates of fried courgette with tzatziki. So good I pretty much wanted to eat it for lunch and dinner daily.
Hydra addresses and notes
We stayed at Hotel Miranda – stylish, affordable, close enough to the harbour and centre of town so you don’t have to walk far from the boat, but far enough away from the crowds, too. Our fave restaurants were Gitoniko, Krifo Limani, Paradosiako and Isolos (for great coffee and people watching).
(Photos: Leonard Cohen from here and Rafalia’s pharmacy from here)