Hydra- something a little different
Next we flew from Mykonos to Athens and took a ferry to Hydra (located in the Aegean Sea between the Saronic Gulf and the Argolic Gulf). This was the wild card of our trip – we had no idea what to expect from Hydra. A Greek local recommended it and we decided to give it a try. It turned out to be amazing from the onset – the harbor was breathtaking.
We stayed at the Angelica Hotel. Hotel was nice – not super luxurious but had everything we needed. The views from our room were beautiful and we enjoyed a glass of wine on the terrace as we watched the breathtaking sunset. They also included a breakfast buffet each morning.
This is the front of our hotel – Angelica Hotel.
Since there are NO cars on the island- this is a picture of how our luggage got from the ferry to the hotel…
This is me keeping out of the sun in my wide brimmed hat.
My favorite part of Hydra is that there are no cars (see above how narrow and empty the streets are) allowed on the island. How do you get around? You walk OR go BY DONKEY! This has kept the island free from major highways and tall buildings and has preserved its old world feel.
As an aside, Hydra was home to Leonard Cohen and its waterfront cafes have hosted international celebrities for years. It’s a quiet town but does have some nightlife, fine restaurants, B&B style hotels, villas, gold shops and traditional architecture.
Hydra is a favorite weekend destination for Athenians because it takes little over an hour to get there from Pireaus on high-speed ferry.
Here’s a picture of the donkeys on the waterfront waiting to greet visitors:
When I returned home I found that Chanel had created a new line of cosmetics carrying the name Hydra. Although I’ve done a bunch of research the best link I can find is this: “Blue Serum by Chanel was created using 3 natural ingredients from “Blue Zones” from around the world. Green Coffee from Costa Rica, Olive from Sardinia and Lentisk from Greece are all combined to help prepare the skin for your regular skincare routine.” Since Greece is known for longevity, they picked the name “Hydra” but I could not find a link between Chanel’s ingredients and this specific island.
As an aside, I’ve tried a few of their products and haven’t been overly impressed. The one product I did like from Chanel’s Blue Serum/ Hydra Line is the hydrating mist. The lasting effects are not any greater than a cheaper mist like the Evian mist below. However, it smells so nice and does feel more luxurious as you spray onto your face. I enjoy bringing it on a flight and hydrating when I land for a quick pick me up. It’s a huge splurge but will make you happy.
I must digress from the travel and beauty blog post above to mention something I find so interesting- Blue Zones. The term first appeared in the November 2005 National Geographic magazine cover story “The Secrets of a Long Life” by Dan Buettner. Buettner identified five geographic areas where people live statistically longest: Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icaria(Greece) and among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. He offers an explanation, based on empirical data and first hand observations, as to why these populations live healthier and longer lives. It’s intriguing and I plan to dedicate an entire post to this topic sometime early summer.
Now back to my Hydra trip. Another guilty pleasure (aside from skin care) that I enjoy is ice cream. While in Hydra be sure to check out the Cool Mule ice cream and coffee bar. You can taste the freshness of the ice cream and coffee beans- you will not be disappointed.
Hiking: To burn off the ice cream, I suggest you hike up to the Profitis Ilias Monastery.
To get acclimated to the area we climbed to the Profitis Ilias Monastery. As an aside, make sure to put on a ton of sunscreen and wear a hat. I personally love the Elta Sunscreen below or Skinceuticals.
The monastery is a white compound perched on the highest hill above the town, viewable only while approaching the island. (The two monasteries left of the harbor are Sts. Triada and Matronis.).
I was given these directions from the hotel- I’m not sure who to credit for the beautifully descriptive directions but if you are reading this and you wrote it please contact me so I can give you a shout out.
To get to the Profitis Ilias Monastery, set out from the ferry harbor via the “main street” of the town, Miaolis Street, to the left of the Cathedral. At the top of the final switchback past the horse farms above the town you will arrive at a tree-lined “avenue” that leads to the church of St. Constantine, patron saint of the island. Don’t go that far. Take the first abrupt left turn upward, a sharp U-turn. After a few turns, you will reach a confused scramble of paths leading leftward. Scramble up one and you will find the pine-shaded trail to the monastery.
Above the trees, the trail divides. A sign to the monastery points left. An island mystery. Actually, the monastery entrance is to the right. So is the convent of St. Efpraxia. If you decide to climb the beautiful long steps to the front gates of the monastery and look over the town and the mainland, take the right path. If you want spectacular views of the monastery and the cliffs of the windward side, go left.
The left path follows a deep valley that curves around the monastery. Glance upward to the right to watch the massive white monastery gradually come into view. The trail “ends” at a goat farm and a white cottage at the top of a slope. Greet the goat owner politely. Now pay attention because it gets a bit tricky:
Look down the slope at an angle to the right. The monastery field stone wall drops to the bottom of the slope. Head directly for this spot at the bottom. Nearing the stone wall, you will spot a sign haphazardly planted that says “Mt. Eros.” (This is NOT Mt. Eros, which lies far beyond the wall.) Place your right hand on the sign and position yourself so that the sign and your arm are at 3:00 on an imaginary clock and you are facing 12:00. You will see two faint paths ahead of you. One parallels the continuing stone wall. The other, at 10:00, is your path. Relax, it gets more defined.
Follow this path through the trees. Gradually climb for ten or fifteen minutes. When this path curves definitely to the left, scan the trees to the right for a well-defined path that departs at 90 degrees. Take this path. Within a few minutes, you will see the vast sea and sweeping slopes of the windward side.
The trail now drops steeply downward in switchbacks. Stop here. It does not lead to a beach. It is used by goat herders to reach their farms. If you have a whole day ahead of you and are ready for many hours of hiking, go ahead. Evenutally, you will curve left and hike around the island to arrive at the Monastery (convent) of St. Nicholas.
If you reverse your steps, turn left when you reach the “avenue” of trees and visit the shade under the veranda of the church of St. Constantine. Descend the steps on the far side of the church, circle left around the two small churches, make a quick right, circle left around the next church (don’t worry, it’s obvious when you’re there) and wind your way down to the harbor through the tiny lanes.
Most of the time they will not allow you to enter the Monastery. We were luck enough that someone was headed in and we could take a peek inside as the doors opened. It seemed extremely serene on the inside.
OK- hug tip: Bring a ton of water and a snack. There are no shops or stands on the way up or at the Monastery. We enjoyed some water and trail mix under a tree in front of the monastery.
We had a quick bite that evening at Manna. The food was good and the service was great. We enjoyed the local wine. Very casual but nice dinner after a day of hiking. While in Hydra we also did a boat tour (but I can’t remember the details) and visited the beaches. Beaches were beautiful but after spending time in Santorini and Mykonos they were nothing special.
Last stop- Athens.
Stay tuned for details from the Athens portion of our trip.
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I use all of the products that I link to and recommend them because they are companies and products that I have found helpful and trustworthy.