Photograph courtesy of George Skordaras
11 Reasons Why Hydra, Greece Needs to Be on Your Summer Vacation List Now!
Written by Scott McGinnis | Goombay Tally Blog | Goombaytally.com | Hydra, Greece
Let me be direct: there are essentially a billion reasons why you should book your next vacation on the beautiful island of Hydra, Greece. I will only write about a mere handful of them in this article.
For example, if you really only needed one (solid) reason to vacation in Hydra this summer, consider this: If you are one of those health-conscience, “I have to watch my figure” tourists who constantly worry about indulging a little too much on the local cuisine during your lavish summer vacation and consequently, needing to sheepishly request a lap belt extension from the airline flight attendant on the plane ride back home; please consider planning your next trip to a beautiful island in Greece called “Hydra” (pronounced ‘Eee-Dra’).
There are no cars, buses, or trains on the island. That means you walk everywhere, and the last time I checked, walking was really good for your health.
Hydra is one of the Saronic Islands of Greece and located in the breathtaking Aegean Sea between the Saronic Gulf and the Argolic Gulf. If you are anything like me, the only thing I really knew about Greece was what I vaguely remembered in the middle of intense daydreaming sessions during my Western Civilization class back in college.
Here’s the deal: I was initially ignorant of the fact that Greece was such an awesome vacation destination.
So Hydra’s general layout is pretty simple. For example, there is one main town, known as “Hydra Port” with a population of about 1,900 people. However, Hydra’s stunning harbor is arguably one of the most beautiful and picturesque in Greece. To add to its Renaissance-like charm and simplicity; and as mentioned previously, Hydra has no cars on the island. O.K., with the exception of one small garbage truck and one ambulance vehicle hidden away for medical emergencies, Hydra has virtually no vehicles or traffic. That means you don’t have to worry about the kiddies running into busy streets and dodging wild speeding taxis.
In fact, on Hydra, teams of donkeys really serve as the island’s Yellow Cabs. Donkeys are used to transport luggage, groceries, supplies, big screen T.V.s, washing machines, and sometimes “people” up the winding cobblestone steps.
Simply put … Hydra is a gem of an island in Greece that despite its WiFi-enabled cafes and ATMs, has successfully managed to meticulously and thoughtfully preserve its old world beauty and charm.
So what about the beaches?
There are a number of beaches on Hydra for your summer enjoyment but I must warn you that most of them are not your traditional “white sand” variety that you are familiar with in the Caribbean, North America, South America, or elsewhere. I’ll be frank, Hydra has a lot of beaches with small rocks and pebbles that may be somewhat of a turn-off for die-hard “beach bums.”
Having spent a lot of time in Florida and Central America, I do have to admit that it took me a while to truly appreciate this aspect of Hydra’s beaches but trust me, with the incredible turquoise-colored water, spectacular hillside backdrops, and warm and inviting sun, you will ultimately enjoy Hydra’s beaches regardless.
Personally, I love Kamini, Bisti, and Saint Nikolaos Beaches because of their food and snack service, incredibly scenery, and magnificent, crystal clear water. Both beaches are approximately 30-45 minutes by boat from the harbor…but well worth it.
The majority of Hydra’s commerce, entertainment, and general day-to-day “hustle, and bustle” occurs in its unique, crescent-shaped harbor. This is where you will find your traditional Greek stores, jewelry shops, markets, banks, galleries, night clubs, cafes, and of course, restaurants.
Let’s talk about Hydra’s restaurants.
Simply put, “I love to eat.” I am not a fat man mind you, but I do love to stuff my face with food like an ancient Pompeii degenerate.
More specifically, I enjoy walking down to the harbor with my family around 9:00 AM for breakfast as the sun starts to beat off of the cobblestone streets and through the winding alleyways.
In the evening, we would walk back down to the harbor around 7:00 PM as the sun began to set in the distance and we decided which traditional Greek dish we wanted to try that evening.
I honestly cannot say that I’ve had a horrible meal on Hydra during my three trips there. Yes, (just like any other vacation spot) you will find the elite few that just “knock it out the park” in terms of quality, wait staff friendliness, attentiveness, presentation, and ambiance.
I honestly cannot say that I’ve had a horrible meal on Hydra during my three trips there.
However, I do recommend visiting Sunset Restaurant which offers a number of traditional Greek salads, fresh fish dishes, Lamb chops, Feta in crust, and fresh vegetables.
A few more recommendations.
Before you leave the island, you also have to visit Gatto Nero, Cucina Italiana. As you can tell by the name, this restaurant specializes in “Italian cuisine,” but trust me when I tell you, the food is phenomenal and the service is obscenely superb. Just in case you were wondering if you can get some wonderful Italian Gelato at Gatto Nero, the answer is “Si.”
Here’s one more. When you’re in the harbor waiting for your next boat (taxi) to your beach of choice, also visit a lovely cafe called Tassos and order an incredible cheese omelet, toast, and English tea. Ask for “George” while you’re there. George is part of an exceptional staff who will ensure you are well fed before starting your daily adventure on Hydra.
I could write all day about the incredible food experiences on Hydra but I will go back to the weight loss sale that I pitched to you early in the article. Honestly, the only occasions that I’ve actually gorged myself while on vacation, yet came back home weighing at least 5 to 7 pounds lighter, has been after our summer trips to Hydra.
Here’s the secret: Hydra’s cobblestone alleyways, and steps are literally carved out of the mountain. So unless you reserved a hotel room in a hotel near or in the flat harbor, you will be hiking up numerous cobblestone stairs to get to and from your lodging destination; several times a day.
My family was fortunate and blessed to be able to stay with my wife’s wonderful and generous parents who own a beautiful villa on Hydra. Lucky right? I must confess that the daily climb to get to and from the villa was approximately 214 steps. This served as a great vacation workout that we never had to formally schedule into our day.
To make things even more interesting, if you happen to have a toddler (like we do) who may need to be backpacked up and down the steps, get ready for your “intense” Greek-style “Stair-Master” workout. Yes, you will feel the burn in your calves and a sting on the back of your neck as your child occasionally smacks you and laughs hysterically.
Let’s be real … you certainly can’t get this combination of cardio, sweat, grit, scenery, and entertainment at an overpriced health club back in the U.S., that happens to be blasting “Taylor Swift” and “Flo Rida” songs way to loudly over an annoying speaker system.
During your first few trips up and down the mountain, you (depending on your general health and level of fitness) will be hot, tired, sweaty, and a little fatigued. However, you will quickly get used to it and start to feel yourself getting stronger and more confident each day (I hope).
If for some strange reason you begin to lose your motivation, just observe some of Hydra’s more “senior” residents who seemingly spring up and down the steps on a daily basis and may indeed make “you” look like the 70-year-old.
Please don’t let Yaiyai (Greek grandmother) pass you up on the stairs. If she does, she automatically earns the right to heckle and berate you mercilessly (in Greek of course).
Seriously, after two weeks or vacation time on Hydra this year, I lost a total of seven pounds before we wrapped up the trip and made our way back to Athens, and eventually the United States.
Mind you, I was able to accomplish the same “dieting” feat 10 years earlier during a trip to Korat, Thailand, but this abrupt weight loss achievement was directly attributed to bad shrimp soup purchased from a popular sidewalk cafe and had absolutely nothing to do with a daily exercise regiment up and down a mountain.
Unlike my wonderful experiences in Hydra, I will have to spare you the horrid details surrounding that specific vacation.
In the interim, I highly recommend adding Hydra, Greece to your next vacation destination soon. Enjoy the incredible food and please take advantage of the opportunities to come back home in way better shape than when you left.
Scott McGinnis | Goombay Tally | Goombaytally.com | Hydra, Greece