Hydra, or Ydra, lies just 37 nautical miles south of Athens between the gulfs of the Saronic and Argolis. It has something of an artistic pedigree as well as being a popular weekend destination for Athenians.
Hydra, pronounced 'eedra', was 'discovered' in the late 1950s by artists such as the Canadian singer Leonard Cohen and its harbourside cafes have frequently entertained celebrities, ranging from US writer Henry Miller to British rocker Mick Jagger.
The long, thin island is characterised by its rocky interior, virtually uninhabited with just the odd farmhouse to accompany its few, remote and deserted monasteries.
Beautiful 18th-century mansion houses are a reminder of Hydra's past as the home of wealthy merchants and shipbuilders when during the 18th and 19th centuries Ydra boasted a substantial commercial fleet.
Today, strict building laws protect the island's traditional architectural styles and help preserve its serene beauty, although some might find the freshly painted walls and doors just a little too twee for good taste,
Donkeys and boats are still the only forms of transport as cars and motorbikes are banned.
Hydra may have no notable beaches, and much of its woodland has been lost to forest fires, but it's still a Greek island that oozes charm although wealthy Athenians make up a significant proportion of its regular visitors.
Hydra is not a great island for beaches. The dominant features are a heavily indented rocky shoreline backed by bare mountains, pine-carpeted valleys and the odd farm. Almost all 2,500 inhabitants live in and around the main port of Hydra. Half a dozen small pebble beaches are strung along the north coast while the south has only the odd cove.
Hydra Town has a crescent-shaped harbour fringed by tavernas, cafes, boutique shops and mini-markets, often packed with yachts and other sailing craft.
Steep stone streets lead up from the harbour lined with stout grey houses and impressive mansion houses, most of them topped with red tiled roofs.
Once densely populated by wealthy merchants and shipbuilders, Hydra's imposing mansions are not seen in such abundance on any other Greek island.
Many homes are tall and narrow, a consequence of steeply rising land, and many have been restored by wealthy Athenians who opted for bright colours on shutters, doors and walls.
The most populated area is the oldest, Kiafa, which sits high above the port with exceptional views over the bay. Arched bridges cross some streets to connect the houses and stone windmills at the summit complete the scene.
The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin, in the centre of Hydra Town, has a notable three-storey bell tower made of Tinos marble. Founded as a monastery in 1643, only the church and a few monk cells remain.
Behind the church, the Kountouriotis museum is housed in a former mansion house and has engaging exhibits of Hydra's maritime heritage. Through the archway, under the waterfront clock tower, is the Byzantine Museum with its extensive collection of religious artefacts.
The beach at Mandraki lies about two kilometres east of the port at Hydra along a broad and level coast road that's lined with small stone houses and villas.
Footpaths branching off the main road lead up to the remote monasteries perched on the surrounding hills and sea views usually include a taxi boat making its way to Mandraki.
The bay, backed by steep, rugged hills and dotted with a few pine trees and lots of scrub, has two beaches.
One is stationed in a small sheltered cove below a taverna, mostly pebble and rock with sun loungers and some shade from trees. Water taxis dock at a small jetty.
Around the bay is a larger sandy area overlooked by the Miramare Hotel. There is sand here, rare for Ydra, but it's sharp gritty stuff.
Busier than other beaches Mandriki has sunbeds and watersports while a shallow pool near the jetty makes it a popular choice for families with children.
The hotel offers facilities to day visitors that include a restaurant, games room and volleyball, while a beach bar has all-day music.
Grey rock has been blasted from the hillside at Spilia, just west of at Hydra port, to create terraced cement decking where tables and loungers are positioned over the sea.
The water at Spilia is clear and a deep blue colour, ideal for diving and swimming, although it's a lot easier getting in than out.
Next to Spilia is a deck of rock and stone called Hydroneta sited below cannons that project from the walls above.
A beach bar sets out its dramatic stall on a cliff face overhang and it's a favourite spot for those who also enjoy all-day pop music.
Alluring sea views include offshore islets and Spilia is a good spot to enjoy some romantic sunsets, even though it can be to the background bleating of pop radio pap.
Alavlaki is a fairly inhospitable strip of shingle next to a cement shelf at the bottom of a very steep cliff just beyond Spilia.
A very steep staircase of steps restricts access to the adventurously fit and the beach is small enough to feel crowded if more than a dozen people attempt the climb.
The steps are also not easy to find, opposite an abandoned roadside building after a couple of bends on the road to Kamini.
The short, shingle beach at Alavlaki also falls away very sharply into the sea, so it's not suitable for families with young children.
Above Hydra port is an area known as the "Four Corners" with houses around a small square where the Canadian poet/singer Leonard Cohen had a home.
A steep stepped route through here leads to the small picturesque fishing port of Kamini or visitors can opt for the slightly longer coast road. It's a 15-minute walk either way but there are regular water taxis too.
Whitewashed houses crawl back up the Kamini hillside peppered with mini-markets and tavernas. A large red and ochre building in the centre often mounts art exhibitions and music festivals.
There are two beaches here. Megalo Kamini (Big Kamini) is the least popular as the beautiful little pebble beach at Mikro Kamini (Small Kamini) has the shallow water that's popular with families. Both have sunbeds and watersports.
A fortress-like structure that towers over the back of the beach is a former arsenal, used for storing powder and shot in the 19th century. As a safety precaution, the munitions were stored well away from the fleet that once used to anchor in neighbouring Hydra.
West from Kamini, the road leads to Vlychos, or Vlihos, a pretty beach with a small jetty where taxi boats from Hydra can tie up. The walk from port takes about 40 minutes.
The grey sand and pebble beach is large with a taverna and a summer cantina. Sun loungers are laid out in the season and the gently shelving sands make it a popular spot for families.
White cube houses tumble down the hillside, many of them holiday homes built close to the sea to get the best sea views.The village has a couple of tavernas and a ruined 19th century stone bridge.
Nearby is the tiny chapel of Agios Xaralampos, and beyond the beach taverna are some small rocky coves that offer privacy.
Molos is one of the less developed beaches on Hydra with access difficult on both land and sea. The coast road from Vlichos peters out well before Molos beach and access is down a very rough track through dense pine woods.
Much of the back of Molos beach has been fenced off by local landowners, so it's not particularly easy to find a way through nor is it particularly inviting on arrival with a bank of pebble and shingle.
The water here is very shallow but it means that caiques will rarely pull in here to drop off visitors. For both reasons, Molos beach is left being very isolated.
Nevertheless, those that prefer unspoiled surroundings can hire a water taxi to ferry them if they don't mind wading ashore. Visitors will need provisions as there are no facilities.
The beach at Bitsi is in a lovely setting at the western tip of Hydra in a deep south-west facing bay and reached only by one of the taxi boats that sail daily from Hydra port.
Pine trees coat the hillside right down to the shore where a small beach has tree-shaded rocks on either side and a summer cantina sets out sun loungers along a stretch of white pebbles.
Shallow water and white stones turn the sea a captivating emerald and aquamarine while flat-topped rocks along the shore add some interest.
Excellent walking trails can be found in the surrounding countryside and small bays on either side of Bisti offer excellent snorkelling and swimming.
Just beyond Bisti, another small beach cove called Agios Nikolaos is accessible by island water taxi or by private boat.
Agios Nikolaos is one of the largest bays on Hydra and it's a favourite port of call for caiques, although the sailing from the port at Hydra takes nearly an hour.
The other drawback is the relative lack of natural shade, although there are sunbeds and umbrellas for hire. A small cantina offers basics in the summer but there are no facilities out of season.
Visitors must be sure to arrange a boat pick up as well or face a long, steep and tough hike back over the mountain.
Limnioniza is the only beach on the south side of Hydra and can be reached by boat or on foot across the island backbone ridge on a well-marked trail from Hydra port that passes through Agia Triadha.
A long cove of white and grey pebble has shallow clear water but very little natural shade although sun loungers and umbrellas are for hire in the summer season.
A summer cantina opens at the back of the beach and there are watersports on offer that include water skiing and kayaking.
Good walks are close at hand behind the beach with woodland footpaths well marked. Caiques run regularly in summer and the trip from Hydra port takes about 30 minutes.