Among all islands of the Argosaronic archipelago, Hydra is the most prominent, with its scenic town, stone mansions and intense nightlife. A rich and influencing place since old times, it is a meeting point for art-oriented people and favorite destination of wealthy Athenians during weekends and holidays. Cruise ships are frequent visitors as well, unloading tourists for a walk among the cobbled streets and the busy promenade. Hydra is also the only Greek island where motor vehicles are completely prohibited and the only means of land transportation is a team of about 500 donkeys.
Hydra (also Ydra, as pronounced in Greek) is close to the Argolis peninsula on Peloponnese. Daily ferries connect it with Piraeus (about 2 hours journey) and with Porto Heli and Metochi on Argolis, as the last route is the shortest.
Architecture on Hydra is strictly protected and no new construction is allowed unless it corresponds to the traditional style of the island. That is why all the buildings have the same appearance as they had in the previous centuries when most of them were possessed by wealthy families. The town and port of Hydra is the liveliest place, the soul of the island. The oldest part of the town arose in the area around and above the port, today known as the Kiafa quarter (the view from the top of Kiafa is spectacular). Main historical sights of the town are the bastions and the bell-tower of the Church of the Assumption, dating back from 15 century. Around the promenade one can find numerous tavernas, cafes, bars and souvenir shops. Behind the seafront, all houses are built amphitheatrically and the narrow streets between them are full of flowers and unspeakably quiet since no sound of passing cars and motorbikes can be heard. Accommodation is available in both luxury hotels and small guest houses but prices are a bit above the average.
There are two more settlements on the island, Kamini and Vlychos but Kamini is just 1 km away from the town and merged with it. All villages are on the north coast facing mainland, the south area is rocky and not populated, with a dozen of churches and monasteries scattered here and there. Beaches on Hydra are not its strong side but visitors do not really expect that. There are a few organized beaches outside the town: Vlychos, Mandraki, Kamini and Bisti. They can be reached by boats departing for the port, or by donkey (or by foot, if you are staying for more than a day and you are ok with walking). There is also a nice beach called Plakes, close to Vlychos. It is maybe the largest and widest beach on the island and managed by the Four Seasons Luxury Hotel. Note that all beaches on Hydra are pebbly or rocky, if you are looking for soft sandy coves - there are no such. Very close to the town port are two emblematic swimming spots - Spilia and Hydronetta, terraced rocks on which people sunbath during the day or watch the sunset in the evenings. Spilia has a taverna and Hydronetta a pleasant bar playing lounge music all day and night.