hydra harbor & town
Hydra Harbor and Town are collectively the island’s commercial and social center. Here you will find the bulk of hotels and guesthouses, bars, restaurants. and tavernas, cafes, shops and municipal services, banks, and so forth.
Hydra Harbor, or Port—technically that area directly on the waterfront, where the yachts and water taxis moor and all boats to and from Piraeus, the mainland, and other points on the island embark and debark—is really the heart of Hydra. In addition to cafes, boutiques, and tourist shops, you will find the island’s three banks. The morning bustle of business and daytripping typically gives way in the early afternoon, after shops close until evening, to a leisurely cafe culture of socializing, boat gazing, and people watching, although in high summer, the afternoons can remain a bit crowded in the harbor. Yet even in the off season, when most nonessential businesses and services have shuttered for the winter, you will find locals congregating in the harbor cafes to share a coffee and catch up on island news.
You have entered Hydra Town as soon as you leave the port and start wending your way to points overlooking the harbor or toward the back of town into Hydra’s various neighborhoods. At any time of year, the cobblestoned streets and alleyways offer a relaxing venue for wandering and exploring, meandering up to Four Corners and Kiafa, down to Kala Pigadia and Bougia, and mazing in a labyrinth of lane and pathways in between, taking in the bright whitewashed walls, the colorful bursts of bougainvillea and plumbago, the stunning views of the Saronic and the Peleponnese, and the otherwise spectacular scenery, to the clopping and braying of mules and in summer the buzzing of cicadas.
The island’s status as a national monument ensures its enduring charm. All cars, mopeds, bicycles, chain hotels, and neon signs are all banned. All building construction must conform to the styles and techniques in use at the turn of the nineteenth century (c. 1800), making stepping off the boat like stepping back two hundred years.
Hydra Town comprises six main areas: East Harbor, West Harbor, Hydra Town (center), Bougia, Kala Pigadia, and Kiafa. Each has its own characteristics.
Hydra Harbor East & WestResidences, some modest some grander, climb the hills embracing either side of Hydra’s horseshoe-shaped port. These homes typically have gorgeous sea views and may entail a fairly steep climb of between 5 and 20 minutes, depending on location and individual pace. Houses on the east side of the harbor typically have glorious views of the sunset over the water but get the brunt of the afternoon summer sun. Houses on the west side of the harbor typically have glorious views of the sunrise over the sea and are generally more shaded in the afternoons and early evenings. Both districts host mansions built by some of Hydra’s prominent families. This is Hydra’s busiest section and bustles yearround from the early morning to mid-afternoon and during the warmer months from later afternoon to late evening.
Central Hydra TownThe roads leading back from the central portion of the port take you into Central Hydra Town. The streets in this section of the island are level, and here you will find the vast majority of nontourist-oriented shops and businesses, hotels and pensions, numerous restaurants and tavernas, municipal and private-sector services, and so forth. This area bustles in the early morning to mid-afternoon yearround and in the evenings into the night during the period between Easter and Oxi Day.
Bougia & Kala Pigadia
The Kala Pigadia district lies at the very back of town at the end of Miaoulis Street. As a quiet and laidback residential section, it offers peace and quiet, without proximity to bars and restaurants, shops and services. Read more about the history of Kala Pigadia.
Bougia is located in the area at the back of Hydra Town in the area near the football field, between Kala Pigadia and the East Harbor. Houses here begin to climb up the mountain on the southwest side of town and can entail climbs. The area itself is residential and quiet, with shops, restaurants, bars, and so forth about a 10 minute walk away.
Kiafa, Hydra’s original settlement area, sits high on the ridge behind Hydra Harbor and the central town, a location that afforded early residents protection from marauding pirates. The homes in the district entail varying degrees of climb, depending on their height, and generally face the harbor, affording spectacular views over the town and the harbor to the Saronic Gulf and the Peloponnese. There are no bars, cafes, restaurants, or shops in this quaint, quiet, cozy district. Walks to and from the harbor depend on the location of the particular residence. Read more about Kiafa’s history and Kiafa today.