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Map & Synopsis: Saronic Gulf Greek Islands Group Page 5


the saronic gulf greek islandsThe slow ferry from Piraeus takes about 3 ½ hours, hydrofoils 1 ½ hours. This is one of the places in Greece where concrete box-like-houses and apartment buildings cannot be built and deface the natural landscape, as Hydra island is a national monument, and protected by very strict building codes.

It is famous for its harbor with its 18th stone mansions, built by shipping merchants (and designed by Venetian and Genoese architects), rising up from the water on the hillsides. Nor can motor vehicles pull off of the big ferries onto this island, as there is a ban on all but the two garbage trucks that are far outnumbered by the mule and donkey teams that do most of the island's chores.

Densely crowded in peak season, advance reservations are essential. The waterfront is lined with cafes, bars and tavernas, the paving stones polished to a shine by the many feet that have traversed them. Accomodation tends to be pricey.

Escaping the crowds is not too difficult, with some stepped streets rising from the harbor, and some little squares and pretty lanes straight back, and there are many footpaths along the coast and across the inland hills, which are mostly rocky and dry, though some of the pine forest that burned in 1985 is coming back.





the harborHydra claims to have 365 churches, one of the most striking the Panaghia Mitropoleos, with its marble iconostasis, located near the harbor, and easily spotted by its clocktower, beneath whose archway is the entrance to the Byzantine museum. The big Miaoulia Festival is held on the third weekend in June, commemorating revolutionary hero Admiral Miaoulis, commander of the Greek navy during the War of Independence, who poured his personal fortune into the struggle and who once sent boats loaded with explosives floating towards Turkish ships, an act of daring celebrated in this festival by the burning of a boat on the water.

In late July the International Puppet Theater Festival is held on the island. Mandrhaki beach, the only sandy one near the harbor is a twenty minute walk; Kamini village is twenty minutes in the opposite direction, with swimming off the rocks, some accommodation, a restaurant and fish taverna.

Vlyhos, another village a half hour walk beyond Kamini, has three tavernas, rooms, a rocky beach, a little islet to which one can swim, and the closest freelance camping option to the main town. The small island of Dhokos is off the southwest tip of Hydra, where villagers gather olives and tend animals, though there's a beach and taverna, the latter opening for business if the caique owner who takes visitors there phones ahead. Other swimming spots are Bariami cave (near the main town), and coves with pine trees at Molos beyond Kamini. There are good walks to the monastery Moni Profitis Ilias, the Aghia Efpraxia convent, Aghia Triadha monastery, Zouryas monastery, to the summit of Mt. Eros, to the fertile plateau of Episkopi, the bays of Bitsi and Aghios Nikolaos (with a pebble beach), and to Limnioniza, also with a pebble beach in a cove with pine trees.

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