The picturesque island of Hydra belongs to the Saronic Gulf islands and it is located between the islands of Poros and Spetses. It lies close to the Myrtoon Sea and is at a close proximity to the eastern region of Peloponnese. Since the 1960s, Hydra has been a fashionable place as it was considered the "best get away place" of all Greek movie stars. Since that time, it has been able to keep its cosmopolitan image intact to its numerous visitors down the years. The port of the island is evident of the constant influx of tourists as you notice several boats, luxury yachts, cruises all anchored here.
Such an interesting place is supposed to have an interesting historical background as well. But not much about the island's history comes to light before the 15th century. Excavations on Hydra have revealed that its prehistoric settlers were Mycenaean. During the Turkish raids in the 15th century, the residents of tried to hide away among the mountains to avoid a direct conflict with the savage Turks. From then onwards the island became a safe place for refugees. The 17th and 18th centuries saw Hydra emerging with a prosperous merchant navy that carried out trade with the distant lands of France, Spain and northern Africa. The natives always feared about the Turks and thus they started mobilizing their navy against a possible attack. During the Greek Revolution, many wealthy merchants used their ships as warships and sent financial help to the revolutionaries, who were fighting against the Turks. Two famous personalities of that time were Andreas Miaoulis and Lazaros Koundouriotis.
With World Wars, Hydra's economy faced a downfall but it started recuperating with fishing business. But soon the Greek Agricultural Bank issued restrictions against sponge fishing which caused a sharp decline in the economy of the island. However, the recession soon came to an end in the 1950's when the island emerged as a captivating tourist destination. It was the movies that depicted and enhanced the glory of the panoramic landscape of the island and soon this tourism became the profound source of economy for the island. As the high profile visitors started flocking to Hydra, the island's popularity started growing rapidly among all countries around the world. The wealth of the island from the 17th and 18th centuries caused many wealthy merchant families to build lavish mansions there. These mansions were built according to the Venetian and Italian architectural concepts. As tourism flourished, these mansions turned into fabulous touristy spots. Some of the most famous on the island include the Koundouriotis, Voulgaris and Tombazis mansions.
On Hydra Island, there are basically three villages. They are Hydra Town, the main city; the fishing village of Kaminia and a very small village named Vlichos. As you take a tour of these villages, you will notice that the houses are all closely nestled to each other. Hydra Town covers almost two hills on this island. There, the houses seem to jut out from the slopes and also seem to be very tall. Maximum of the houses in these villages are built of stone and have contrasting colourful doors and windows and bright coloured tiled roofs. Since there is no natural source of water on the island, the islanders can't plant trees and flower plants. Hence they use bright coloured paints to create a charming and attractive vibe. Not only the exteriors but the interiors are also exquisitely eye-catching. The ceilings are painted, the columns are decorated with gold plated designs, beautiful chandeliers adorn the ceilings and exclusively crafted wooden shelves are visible on the walls. Even the windmills of the island have colourful roofs.
Hydra Town is the main shopping centre of the island. The alleys and streets are filled with shops selling different kinds of items. You can buy traditional clothes, jewelry, beautiful pottery, shoes and even paintings from the galleries that are found here. There are also local products available in the markets and you should definitely try out the famed "amygdalota" and a variety of sweets that are made on Hydra. At the fish taverns, you can try out the different sea foods that are very tasty.
The island renowned as a cosmopolitan hub definitely has an exotic nightlife. To enjoy it, you have to head to the harbour front that is filled with night joints where you can spend the night dancing away to rock, pop and Latin rhythms.
An impressive thing is that the island is banned from using any sort of automobiles. The only means of transport allowed are horse carriages and taxi-boats. Donkeys and mules are also available and they are the easiest means of transportation on the uneven rugged roads.