High on Hydra

 

by Camilla Ridley

Here's our concise guide to the fabulous Greek Island of Hydra, a sophisticated and secret holiday destination

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Enjoying a sundowner at Hydretta Beach Bar in a relaxed Sadie dress in the statement metallic floral print. A view of Kaminia beach

I hope you’re all having a fantastic summer and enjoying warm weather wherever you are. Perhaps you’re reading this stretched out on a beach lounger somewhere hot, or you're at home contemplating a trip abroad later in the summer. We’ve just spent a fabulous 10 days on the island of Hydra, and if you’re looking for a unique summer holiday destination that's I really couldn’t recommend this beautiful and unique destination highly enough.

As Greek Islands go, Hydra is relatively small, wonderfully unspoilt, and the most sophisticated of Greece’s Saronic Islands, attracting a cosmopolitan and arty crowd in search of tranquility and authentic Greek charm. There are still no cars or vehicles on the island, and absolutely none of the obvious trappings of mass tourism. Most visitors stay in or within an easy walk of Hydra town, and further away beaches and beauty spots can be reached by short water taxi rides. Goods deliveries, luggage and people are still moved around by Mule. And the lack of traffic noise and pollution, makes the whole experience incredibly relaxing, allowing one to wander through the pretty, cobbled streets lined with bright white houses or enjoy the waterfront cafes or hidden piazza restaurants with only the gentle hum of conversation and the coming and going of boats in the harbour breaking the silence. Like much of the Greek Islands, Hydra has a strong nautical element, and is a destination for sailors. Much like Venice, boats and water taxi’s become part of one’s daily routine, enabling one to explore the surrounding Islands and enjoy the scenery and vistas usually reserved for Luxury yachts.

Hydra is blessed with crystal clear turquoise waters and a number of beautiful beaches and secluded swimming spots, although if you’re looking for miles of sand this probably isn’t the place for you. In my mind however, this is easily outweighed by the natural scenery, fantastic little Tavernas and beach clubs, and wonderful waterside bars for straight out of the sea sundowners! I’d definitely recommend packing water beach shoes as clambering into the water over stones can be somewhat uncomfortable and ungainly. Hydra is also blessed with some really great restaurants serving everything from simply cooked fresh fish and Greek classics to exceptional, up to the moment fine dining cuisine. The local Greek wines are also brilliant, there’s the fantastic Cool Mule Gelato Bar, and some of the cocktails we sampled are really out of this world. In fact, everywhere we ate and drank was superb quality, served by charming staff and overall great value.

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Views of the charming white streets and Hydra's harbour. A spot of shopping in our Ridley London cotton Manon dress in the blue and white Flourish print, a fantastic holiday dress 

Given all this, it’s hardly surprising that Hydra has remained a destination to many of the worlds most celebrated writers, artists and creatives. From the likes of Henry Miller and Leonard Cohen who Made it home in the 1960’s to Jeff Koon’s and his extraordinary Apollo installation on show this summer in a disused slaughterhouse, now used for regular art events by the DESTE foundation. For those who want a bit more inspiration, there are plenty of Novels and books chronicling Hydra’s bohemian beauty, I’ve listed some of these below. And to complete our culture fix, we overnighted in Athens and spent a really enjoyable 24 hours partying at the buzzing Balthazar restaurant with the Athenian glitterati and taking in the extraordinary history at the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum. All in all this was a trip with real variety, I just wish it was a little longer. We’re definitely coming back!

Getting There...

3.5 hour flight to Athens, followed by a 45 minute cab ride to the port of Piraeus to catch the 1.5hr Flyingcat (Sea Cat) to Hydra. Avoid airport queues and book a Cab with the excellent Michael Pantelis Taxis. They’re super charming, helpful and efficient: T: +306944646761 e-: michael.pantelis@yahoo.com Athens taxis only take cash, but there’s an atm right by the arrivals exit. We’d also recommend booking your ferry tickets upfront at ferryhopper.com or download their app onto your smartphone for seamless digital tickets.

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Enjoying a wonderful Greek lunch in a relaxed printed floral Savanna sun dress. Two of our favourite lunch spots the Castello Hydra restaurant at Kaminia Beach and the Four Seasons restaurant at Plakes Beach

Where to Stay...

We stayed at the charming Phaedra Hotel perfectly located in Hydra town which recommended in the Telegraphs recent guide to Hydra. It’s really comfortable and excellent value with attractive rooms and pretty terraces and courtyards to enjoy their Greek breakfasts. The Hotel is run by Hilda who is absolutely lovely and very helpful, and will ensure you enjoy all the best Hydra has to offer. We’d definitely go back.T:+302298053330 or e-mail: info@phaedrahotel.com for more information. If you’re looking for something a little more fancy or contemporary the Cactus Apartments nearby looked interesting, as did the Four Seasons Suites located on one of our favourite beaches a 5 minute boat ride from Hydra town.

Best Beaches...

Hydra is blessed with some superb beaches, however they’re stoney and can feel a little exposed if it’s windy. Our favourites were: St Nicholas Beach: Well worth the 20 minute E18 return boat trip. Tucked away in a lovely sheltered cove with a simple beach bar serving great salads and cocktails. Warning, there is no mobile phone reception. Kaminia Beach is a scenic 15 minute walk from Hydra town this is a fab little beach, with stylish beach club, bar and restaurant built around an old fort serving fabulous contemporary greek food and superb wines. Great spot for a cheeky lunch! Plakes Vichlos Beach is home of the Four Seasons Beach Club, Restaurant and Suites. A stylish set up with charming staff, sun lounger service and a fantastic restaurant for lunch. Definitely slightly more on the pricey side, but so good! Hydroneta Beach is without doubt our favourite spot for an early evening dip and only 5 minutes walk from Hydra town. It's more of a swimming platform than a beach, but is served by the excellent Sunset bar with jaw-droppingly beautiful panoramic sunset views, amazing cocktails, fabulous tapas and food, and a funky Ibiza style vibe. We were there almost every evening.

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Enjoying a pre-dinner sunset cocktail in a Ridley London made to measure silk Manon dress in a new geometric print. The Michelin Star quality food at Téchnē restaurant and a view of nightlife at Amalour Bar

Top Shops...

Hydra has some great shopping offering everything from simple woven baskets and bohemian hippy style printed sarongs, dresses and shirts to more fashionable high end boutiques selling sophisticated jewellery and clothing. If you’ve forgotten swimwear, beach shoes or need a new statement holiday dress, polo shirt or pair of Villebrequin trunks for your husband. It’s literally all here. You must visit Everybody Knows run by the charming husband and wife duo and selling a stylish womensware edit and their super cool jewellery which was my biggest indulgence. If you're visiting Ibiza there's also an outlet in Ibiza Old Town.

Cocktail Time...

Head to Hydronetta Sunset Bar for a fabulous evening sundowner or one of the bars just off the port on Tompazi Street for a more lively late night vibe. The dance floor and discs at Amalour Bar became a firm favourite for a post dinner drink and boogie!

Eating Out...

The food on Hydra is absolutely excellent, terrific value with excellent friendly service. These are our absolute favourite/ must not miss dining venues: Téchnē: Innovative Italian-Greek fusion food served in a super stylish setting by friendly, knowledgeable staff. If you’re picking one place for a really special meal, this is it. And for less than E70 per head for a Michelin star quality three course menu Téchnē is also incredible value. But you’ll need to book in advance. Omilos serves stylish seafood in a contemporary romantic setting with fabulous views. The fabulous food, gorgeous setting, chic ambiance and friendly staff really deliver. Definitely one to book! The Charming, family run Xero Elia (Douskos) Taverna has become a Hydra institution. Set in a picturesque, little vine covered Piazza north of the port, visitors come for the superb Greek food, laid back vibe and excellent, friendly service. Douskos has been a favourite choice of Hydra’s artistic set over many years including Leonard Cohen. The chic bar and restaurant Castello Hydra is located in a re-furbished 18th century fort, 15 minutes walk from Hydra port. The gorgeous setting, sophisticated menu, excellent service and wine list make it a great upscale dining choice for lunches and dinners. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch followed by a refreshing swim on Kaminia beach, below. Kodylenias Taverna serves the best Calamari we tried all trip! A charming family run Taverna 10 minutes walk from Hydra Port with all the Greek classics, excellent seafood, charming friendly service with fabulous views over Kamini harbour and the Saronic Sea beyond. It's worth eating at Psaropoula Restaurant just for the stunning elevated views from the dining terrace overlooking Hydra Port. The food and service is also excellent with all the Greek classics including fresh daily seafood. It's popular so definitely book ahead. Four Seasons Restaurant is our favourite lunch spot, shaded by ancient pines with sea views and located a mere saunter from your sun lounger on Plakes beach. Amazing salads, fresh lemonade, seafood, Lobster Pasta and all the greek classics served by friendly attentive staff. Slightly on the more expensive side, but excellent quality and a superb location.

Don't Miss...

World renound artist Jeff Koon's stunning Apollo Instillation presented by The DESTE Foundation. This artwork surprises and engages all the senses in a metaphysical dialogue between the contemporary and ancient. Located in a re-purposed slaughterhouse a five minute walk from Hydra port, its well worth a pre-dinner visit at sunset for full impact. I was completely blown away by this unexpected cultural treat. The execution is remarkable, with the work provoking interesting dinner debate.

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Images of Jeff Koons's extraordinary Apollo Installation. I'm wearing a statement Sadie Dress in a printed metallic floral silk

Ridley London's new collection of made to measure statement holiday dresses is available to purchase online and in Ridley's Barnes store. Celebrate your individuality this season with a unique piece that's  individually crafted to flatter from your choice of any of our stunning new printed floral or solid silks or cottons. Or call us to arrange a virtual fitting: 

Ridley London, 82 Church Road, Barnes, London SW13 0DQ T: 01730 823097


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