Episkopi

The first organized settlement on Hydra was located here, at Episkopi, far inland and up in the mountains, invisible to passing ships. These early settlers were primarily shepherds and farmers, not sailors, and this concealed location provided protection from marauding seafarers, although the village was ultimately destroyed, probably by pirates. Artifacts such as architectural ruins, Classical and Roman pottery shards, and Byzantine gold and silver coins have been recovered from the area, which today is largely uninhabited and serves as a mountain retreat largely for the island’s hunters.

Episkopi is one of the oldest settlements on Hydra, once the denizen of pirates. It is situated on a high plateau above a pine forest. The landscape offers a surprising contrast to the rocky, barren hills so characteristic of Hydra. Episkopi is punctuated by fields of grain, pine and olive trees and reveals a breathtaking view down to the Myrtoon Pelagos. The houses of Episkopi are inhabited [during] ploughing and at harvest time and for brief retreats by hunters and those seeking its special serenity.

The name “Episkopi” comes from the Arvanitikan “piskop”, which means “staff.” This may well derive from the idea that it is useful to have a staff during your walk up to Episkopi, which will take you along the northern shore of Hydra and up through a pine forest. It is an easy and pleasant ascent; there is only one rather steep stretch which provides a significant shortcut.

—Anna Barry, Focus on Hydra

Hiking to Episkopi

From the bridge at Vlychos, follow the coastal road, which will take you inland a bit, behind the village of Vlychos, until Plakes Vlychos, or the Four Seasons hotel and beach resort, after which the road will once again follow the coast.

Continue along the coast until you reach Palamidas, a boatyard with a pebble beach, and a large farmhouse to your left. Just at the end of the beach, the road curves sharply to the left and heads up into the mountains, past the farmhouse, fields of olive trees, and several other houses. You will see the red Chapel of St. Irini on the slope to your left. The cement road eventually becomes a dirt road.

After you cross a stone bridge, you will have two options: stay on the main road, which leads more gradually uphill and arrives in Episkopi in about another hour, or leave the main road and walk up the path ascending on right through the trees and the brush. This shortcut will connect with the wide, well-trodden road in about fifteen minutes, knocking quite a bit of time off the walk. When you reach the main road, continue your ascent.

Continue up the road past the Chapel of St. Marina on your left. You will then pass a small old cistern, and a cluster of houses will come into view ahead. When the road forks, you again have two options: take the cement road ascending on the right to Western Episkopi, or bear left and continue on the road with its stone walls on the righthand side. You will come to a gate on the left which is an entranceway to a small chapel. Just beyond it is the “Fotias house,” now in ruins but built in 1860, with a family chapel and a separate dwelling for the family children’s tutor.

Past the “Fotias house,” the road is covered with large, sharp stones, making walking difficult. After passing more ruins, you will arrive at a gate. Facing the large main entrance of a recently renovated property, the tiny Christ chapel clings to the rocks, which affords a view of the southern coast of Hydra to the peninsula of Cape Rigas.

To visit the western part of Episkopi, retrace your steps to the fork in the road and take the ascending cement to the top of a hill and the center of the settlement. Continue straight pass through a wooden gate onto a path leading downward, past a traditional treshing place, and ending in a valley.

Directions adapted from Anna Barry’s Focus on Hydra, “Hike 7.”