The tiny island of Idra or Hydra is located in the far south of the Saronic Gulf, off the Peloponnese coast to the south of the Greek capital of Athens and the Saronic island of Aegina.
Although Hydra is too small for an airport, daily ferries sail from Piraeus and to neighbouring islands of Spetses and Poros so it enjoys good ferry connections with the mainland and would make a good base for holidaymakers planning to tour the cultural sites of Athens.
With no traffic on Hydra, you won't need a car. All transport is on foot or water taxi – not even bicycles are allowed, and strict building regulations protect the island's unique architecture.
The interior is mountainous and virtually uninhabited, so holidays are generally restricted to the coastal resorts where most of the holiday accommodation is found.
With no traffic, this is good walking country with several mule trails crossing the island, but mountain trails are steep and often overgrown.
There is no airport on Hydra. The nearest airport is at Athens International (ATH) where travellers can find a helicopter service to Hydra island.
The helicopter flight takes about 20 minutes, but in poor weather, it is diverted to Porto Heli, on the Peloponnese mainland, where there are water taxis to Hydra.
Arriving in such style costs an arm and a leg so most will catch a ferry or fast hydrofoil from Piraeus.
Athens International Airport is located about 27km to the east of Athens and is officially called the Eleftherios Venizelos Airport it handles about 11 million passengers a year.
The E96 airport shuttle bus leaves daily for the port at Piraeus. This is a 24 hr service, and you can find the bus terminus outside the Arrivals hall.
The E96 leaves every 15 to 20 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes at night and the journey takes 45 to one hour depending on the traffic.
The taxi rank is located next to Door 3 outside the Arrivals hall. Taxi to Piraeus is are more expensive and journey times depend on traffic and can be anything from 30 to 50 minutes.
Hydra lies between the Saronic Gulf and Argolis Gulf about 37 nautical miles from Piraeus. It's a 90-minute crossing by hydrofoil and around three hours by conventional ferry.
The leading fast ferry company sailing to Hydra is Hellenic Seaways which operates up to four Flying Dolphin services daily from Piraeus calling in a Poros, mainland Ermioni, Spetses and Porto Heli.
Flying Dolphins only take foot passengers so those travelling with heavy luggage will need to book the daily catamaran service run by Hellenic Seaways.
Several ferry firms used to include Hydra on it routes including Aegean Flying Dolphins, Euro Seas Lines and Nova Ferries but Hellenic appears to be the only company offering regular ferry services at the moment.
Water taxis line the jetty in the main port of Hydra and most owners have mobile phones so they can be contacted any time. There is no official tariff but owners have agreed set prices and there is a central phone 0298 53690 answered by the first boat owner available.
Most water buses can take up to 10 people and you can cut costs by teaming up with neighbours to hire a boat at the same time.
Caiques also go to various beaches around the island. Boards on the jetty announce prices and times of sailing. Holidaymakers may have to wait until there are enough passengers enough for the captain to think it worth sailing. Caiques also go to offshore islets of Dokos, Kivotos, and Petasi.
Hydra is part of the Argo-Saronic group along with Aegina, Poros and Spetses. It found off the southern shore of the Peloponnese.
The terrain is rocky and mountainous, the highest peak being Mount Klimaki at 600 metres. It was once dense with forest but many trees were destroyed by fire in 2007 and forests are now confined to the valleys. The name Hydra means 'water' and is derived from springs that have long dried up and all water is now imported.
Hydra is elongated with an area of 50 sq km and a coastline of 56 kilometres. The population of around 2,700 and is concentrated in Hydra Town, with tourism and fishing the primary industries.
Hydra lies to the south of the sheltered Argo Saronic Gulf and summers are dry and almost cloud-free from June to August with temperatures at 21-25°C, rising to 28°C in August.
Spring and autumn are considered the best times for walking holidays on Hydra as the temperatures and humidity are more comfortable. Winters on Aegina are relatively dry but rain often falls in November. Winters are mild at an average 8°C.
Hydra/Athens five-day weather forecast
There are no vehicles allowed on Hydra except dust carts which ferry the island rubbish to the ever smouldering rubbish tip. As cars are banned, most transport is by donkey or water taxi.
Donkeys and mules are stationed at the main port to cater for new boat arrivals. Visitors haggle a price to take donkey loads of luggage to their hotels and villas. A single donkey can take two large suitcases and a couple of bags.
Water taxis are used to get to beaches. Water taxi owners have mobile phones but no meter and no official tariff. An island association sets the price each year. Water taxi seat about ten people and visitors arrange to be picked up from isolated beaches like Molos or in the Peloponnese.
Water taxis tie up on the east side of the harbour and they can be hired to go to Hydra beaches, the mainland or nearby islands.
Hydra island walking
Hydra is ideal walking country, though you need strong legs to tackle the steep donkey trails and you will need some protection from the prickly gorse bushes. Summer is too hot for cross-island walks (Hydra has a reputation for being one of the hottest Greek islands) which are best made in spring and autumn.
There are three main hiking routes across Hydra but poor signposting and forking footpaths can make them difficult to follow. It takes about seven hours to hike from the main port at Hydra to the east and west coasts. Remember to take bottled water. There are wells (pigadia) dotted about, but the water is brackish and not fit for drinking.
Despite being a small island, Hydra has a decent supply of holiday accommodation as the island is popular with weekending Greeks and because, in its shipbuilding heyday, many large houses were built to house wealthy traders and merchants.
Accommodation on Hydra is relatively expensive as Hydra appeals to wealthy Athenian weekenders and reservations are highly advisable in the summer season, especially at weekends.
Hardly surprising in a traffic-free island, most of the hotels and rooms are in the main port at Hydra Town, and most are within walking distance of the harbour. Beach and watersports enthusiasts will head to Mandraki, east of the town where the central hotel owns Hydra's only decent sandy beach and offers water skiing, windsurfing, sailing and canoeing.
To the west of Hydra town there are rooms to let at the picturesque port of Kamini and at Vlychos where locals have been known to ignore casual camping.
Hydra facts: useful facts
50 sq km
May – Oct
|Time (GMT)||+2 hrs|
|Coast Guard||Dial 191|