The Port/harbour and town
The town of Hydra is actually the only town on the island (there are also some small hamlets).
It’s really great to see this town, it looks like an amphitheatre because it starts down from the port and climbs up to the surrounding hill. Some bigger structures are the mansions that belong to great sea captains that lived here during the 18th and 19th century when Hydra was really wealthy because of the sea trade. The architecture is influenced from Italy(Venetians or others) and the colors are different that other greek islands on the Aegean sea.
The port is small full of donkeys waiting for passengers, the cathedral dominates the area with the bell clock (there’s a small church museum there) and also there are many (too many maybe) cafes, side by side always full of people during the high season.
There’s not really much to do here other than relax, or spent some time just checking the boats, so different, poor small fishing vessels, bigger boats but also some glamourus yachts.
You can also buy some souvenirs from the gift shops. After a while the cruise boat brings more and more visitors so many times we prefer to check the small back alleys that are always quite with hidden churches and some more steps to make your knees hurt. Later you can return back to the cafes to enjoy a cocktail.
Both ends of the port still have the old cannons that were used for the protection of the town. The Museum of Archives is also located here 1’ away from the port and next to it the Merchant Navy Officers Training School and a branch of the School of Fine Arts (at Tombazi Mansion)
Lazaros Koundouriotis Historical Mansion
The Mansion of Lazaros Koundouriotis is a typical exable of Hydra architecture style. It was built at the end of 18th century when the island was really in economic boom because of the navy advantage of the island. L.Koundouriotis spent all his life in Hydra and it was this mansion that major meetings took place during the greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire. The Mansion was turned into a museum in 1979 when the Pantelis Koundouriotis(the grandson of Lazaros Koundouriotis) bequeathed the mansion to the state. You can see the yellow building from a distance (pic 1 shows the houses as we walk up there) but it’s worth to go there for the breathtaking view over the port of Hydra (pic 2).
Lazaros Koundouriotis (1769-1852) was an important political figure before/during the greek revolution era. Although he never achieved a political place he helped (together with his brother, the politician Georgios Koundouriotis) with his huge fortune by supporting the greek navy.
The main house (the entrance from the north yard) was a high class house for that era with furniture from west and east along with local items. Today, you may confused of what you see, I was familiar with some (typical in Greece) items but definitely he had many expensive European items there too. There are paintings/portraits of his family, his sword and medals, a bronze statue of Andreas Miaoulis and many navy items, schetches, mirrors, huge wooden boxes etc
There is also a part of the mansion that you can see traditional clothes from the 3 main navy islands (Hydra, Spetses, Psara) but also from other islands and mainland too (I was surprised to see clothes from Epirus region too!). Some of the clothes belonged to famous women of the era (his wife, his granddaughter etc pic 5 shows a dress of Stamatina Kountourioti). Don’t forget that during 19th century there were 16 fashion houses in Hydra!!
The entrance fee is 4euros and it is open March to October 10.00-17.00.
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Upperside of Hydra town
If you want to visit the upper side of the town just walk into the road right next to the cathedral. This paved road will lead you not only to the Koundouriotis mansion but also if you walk a bit more to the old part of the town that was called Kiafa.
We didn’t have any specific site on our mind to visit and the numerous steep steps were forcing us to return but at the end we didn’t regret it, the bird’s eye view from up there down to the harbor is beautiful although you have to go high to find a good spot for pictures because the narrow alleys wont give you enough space for proper shot. By the way Kiafa was actually a fortress formed by the solid walls of the houses, the towering stone yard walls were built for protection against the pirates or other invaders, it’s a typical method in many islands.
We saw some small churches, a lot of old buildings (pics 1&2) and then we followed the path to the right, we passed through the last houses of the area (pic 3) and then the town was behind us and we started to walk next to green fields with new great photo opportunities (pic 4). Up, on the top of the hill is the church of Agios Konstantinos dedicated to patron saint of the island Saint Constantine.
Finally, we saw another church next to a cemetery(pic 5), the church is called Anastaseos which is resurrection in greek and that was food for thought but then we met with an old man and asked about Vlihos area and he told that the path will takes us down to Vlihos. So, we left the thoughts about living dead behind and started to walk down towards the sea…
I was surprised when I saw this monument that has a brass plate with a name of local man that excelled in the navy of Argentina!!
I made a small research after I returned back home and I found that Nicolas Jorje(his greek name was Nikolaos Kolmaniatis) was ancestor of Athanasios Koulouras (benefactor of Hydra, see next tip). The Ottomans gave some privilages to Hydra island, they never occupied it but they did took taxes and they were asking for some sailors for their boats. They also had a greek governor which was the “bey” of the island, just before the revolution the bey was Georgios Voulgaris which is called traitor in several archives because he was over-severe with the locals. Anyway Nikolaos Kolmaniatis was a sailor at the Turkish fleet that deserted and returned to Hydra to kill someone that teased his wife :)
The problem was that he was chased by the Turks because he left the fleet but also from Voulgaris because he killed someone. So, what he did was to escape to Argentina where he joined the argentinian fleet and fought against the Spanish kingdom, he became admiral and the government declared him nation hero of Argentina!! He died in 1864 and in 1937 Argentina sent this brass plate we see on the monument. The plate transferred with the naval ship Sarmiento and the Greeks gave them Kolmaniatis’ sword to be placed in an Argentinian museum! By the way at the Archives of Hydra you can see a copy of Nicolas Jorje’s bust that was sent by Evita Peron!
Some meters above this monument is another one (pic 3) that has the names of some locals that died during WWII.
- Historical Travel
If you visit the Kountouriotis mansion don’t miss this farmacy at the square before you start to climb up the steps to the mansion.
This traditional neoclassical structure houses the oldest farmacy of the island that operates here since the end of 19th century (1890 according to the sign sign on pic 3).
Opposite the farmacy we also noticed the hospital of the island, its called Kouloureion Hospital “Agia Faneromeni”(pic 4) and outside there are 2 statue of the couple Vera & Athanasios Koulouras (pic 5), I don’t have a lot of info about them but it seems Athanasios Koulouras donated a lot of money for the island (he was one of the wealth sea captains of his era so it was easy to become a benefactor)
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After visiting the upper town of Hydra we took the road that brought us to Vlichos.
We first saw a small stone bridge (pic 1) and in 2’ we were at the village. It is full of life during the summer months, there are some small hotels and restaurants but it was off season when we got there so the beach was isolated (pics 2-3). Noone comes to Hydra for the beaches though as most of them are just small pebbled ones. All the restaurants were closed so we just followed the path on the small hill and found another bench(pic 4) before we continue on our way back to Hydra(this time we did it by the coastal path).
You can also visit Vlichos by water taxi (14 euros) but it’s no more than 30’ on foot and the path is very picturesque (pic 5)
This is an easy doable walking trail, just take the coastal path on the far right end of the port and you’ll be at Kamini in no more than 20’.
There are some nice houses and mansions, it seems that it is a very peaceful area with a small pebble beach (pic 2) and a lot of picturesque fishing vessels and other small boats (pic 3).
It was very quiet in early October, we only saw this man at pic 4 coming with his donkey from uphill. We relaxed at a bench for a while (pic 5) before we returned back to Hydra Town
Mandraki bay is the last cove before Hydra’s port. It used to be the old military port but today is just an organized beach with a hotel etc
You cant really find many sand beaches on Hydra so many people like it here because of this.
I’ve been there about 20 years before and I remember that we were taking a small boat to visit the port but you can walk there in about 25’ or so. On our way we just saw some local houses and dozens of cats.
I also remember some amazing sunsets from Mandraki but I wonder where these old pics (from early 90s) have gone
Historical Archives of Hydra
This is a small but interesting museum located 1’ away from the ferry docks. It is housed on old mansion that once belonged to ship owner Gikas Koulouras, a local benefactor that donated the building to house the archive in 1952 but a new building was built on the same spot in 1972(pic 1) and opened to the public in 1996.
They try to find, gather, categorize and publish any kind of archives that have to do with Hydra island and the local history and tradition covering a long period from 18th century to our days). The archives of Hydra(1708-1865) were discovered by Antonis Lignos buried in cells under the monastery of Virgin Mary.
Of course, the visitors will focus on the museum. It’s not very big so you wont really get tired with it. On ground floor you can see relics from the Balkan wars along with others from WWI and WWII.
Before you go up to the first floor you can see an original copy of “Megali Harta” which was the Map of Great Greece, made by Rigas Fereos.
At first floor you can see some paintings, many aquarelles of greek was ships, local clothes (there were many fashion houses in Hydra the previous century), a lot of guns that were used at the revolution against the ottoman empire, naval maps, ship models and engravings. Of course, the highlight is the embalmed heart of Andreas Miaoulis that is kept in a silver vase (pic 3).
It is open daily 9.00-16.00 (Saturday 19:30-21:30) and the entrance fee is 5 euros, no photos allowed inside
- Museum Visits
away from the harbour
The tourists that come on cruise boat don’t have time to see the north side of the town, so if you just want to avoid the masses you can easily get lost on the side streets, we did that and we enjoyed it, it was very peaceful with only cats here and other and some quiet small cafes with locals.
After awhile there was no one around (it was noon when the greeks take their siesta) so we were just checking the gardens, the blue color everywhere was unbelievable but at some times the garbage tracks spoiled the picture on their way to drop off the garbage.
You can also walk away from harbor but not inside the town but to the far edge of each side, you will end up at smaller harbors, some of them with a restaurant that makes them ideal for a break.
statue of Andreas Miaoulis
At the far left side of the port (after the Archives of Hydra) you can see the statue of Andreas Miaoulis.
Andreas Miaoulis(1768-1835) is one of the most famous admirals of the greek war of independence against the Ottoman Turks. Although he was born in Evoia island he moved to Hydra which was the epicenter of the naval captains, he became rich from trade at sea.
His heart rests in an urn at the Archives of Hydra (don’t believe what Wikipedia says about the ministry)
He is a national hero and every year at the end of june a festival takes place to honor him. Miaoulia Festival (which is part of the Nautical Week Celebrations) is really worth to be seen, it’s a spectacular festival with music, folk dances, fireworks, boat races, The highlight of the festival is late at night when the lights of the town switched off and the representation of a battle of a small boat attacking a big one begins and they put fire on it (like Miaoulis did at Nafplio when he broke the Turkish blockage). If you want to visit Hydra for the festival you have to book a room in advance and the same goes for the boat tickets of course.
The morning after you can watch a parade with traditional clothes at the harbor.
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Cathedral of the Assumption
The cathedral of Hydra was built in 1774 and is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Kimisi Tis Theotoku in greek).
It’s not huge but big enough. We stood there for a while checking the chandeliers, the paintings and we lighted a candle, no pics allowed inside but I asked kindly the guard (?) and he let me took some shots of the church (pic 4).
The cathedral is part of the Monastery with the same name which founded in 1643 and you enter from the port under the arch which is under the clock tower that dominates the port. The bell tower is 3 story tall(pics 1 and 3)., made by marble from Tinos island.
By the way it’s only the church that remains from the monastery while the other structures like the old monk cells now housing the Byzantine Museum and some municipal offices.
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Inside the monastery of Assumption after visiting the cathedral you can also check the small Byzantine Museum. It’s located at the first floor and houses some religious items like icons, clothes and other items, many from 18the century, although if you’re not really into iconography you may feel bored.
The most important exhibit is the Rodo Amaranto, a painting of Virgin Mary from 1774.
The entrance fee is 2 euros and it opens after 10.00am but some times it is closed without any information why this happens. If you find it closed you can check the statues on the yard in front of the cathedral (pics 2-3) or the tomb of Lazaros Kountouriotis (pic 4)
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bastions with cannons
Along the two sides of the harbor you can see the bastions that were built to protect the town. Although we visited them for the magnificent views from there we also noticed the numerous old cannons that lie there and used in the old times for the protection of the harbor, no hostile ship could easily pass through with rows of cannons pointing on it. The cannons were the main weapon of the island during War of Independence 1821.
Pics 1-3 show cannons on the left side of the harbor while on pic 4 you can see the walls on the right side, Pic 5 why the right side is preferred by the visitors, its because you can just go there, choose a bench and wait for the sunset…
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Statue of Andrea Miaoulis
The statue of Admiral Andrea Miaoulis is located to the left side of the port. He is a national hero of the beginning of the XIX century. In 1828 Hydra raised a revolt which was headed by Andreas Miaoulis, the former sea guerrilla.
Hydriots equipped the trading vessels with guns and transformed them into fleet of revolt during war of liberation against the Turks. They were assured that Greece has been released from Turkish sovereignty owing to their efforts. That was why Hydriots hardly obeyed new authority - Kapodostria (the Russian Greek), who was appointed the governor of Greece by allies (England, France and Russia).
Andrea Miaoulis occupied Poros and even made a shot in the direction of Russian vessels of admiral Rikord. The Russian frigates started to bombard Poros. Then A.Miaoulis commanded to blow up and drown the two first vessels of the Greek navy fleet - “Hellas” and “Ydra”.
Now many quays of coastal cities of Greece are named in his honor.
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