Rising like an emerald from the blue depths of the Saronic Gulf, Hydra is a slow and sleepy place composed of rocky hilltops and shady pine forests. A preferred summertime destination for well-heeled Athenians and the international arts crowd, the island is a rare gem, having effortlessly retained its authentic character and traditional charms.
Perhaps due to its location less than 80km from Athens, Hydra has always been a favoured retreat of jet-setters and artists. Aristotle Onassis, Pablo Picasso, Maria Callas, Patrick Leigh Fermor, The Rolling Stones, Marc Chagall and Henry Miller have all passed time on this shimmering island, although its most faithful lover was undoubtedly Leonard Cohen. The Canadian singer-songwriter was inspired to write ‘Bird on the Wire’ after observing that very same scene from his peaceful, whitewashed house in the main town, and not much has changed since then. Follow
in his footsteps with a coffee at Roloi Cafe, once known as the famous Kafenion O Katsikas, where Cohen and a generation of free-spirited artists whiled away the long summer months.
These days, the summer months transform the island into a miniature St Tropez, filled with glamorous visitors and the popping of champagne corks, although a distinctly bohemian vibe persists, particularly in the winter months. The car-free main town is a compact maze of winding streets and alleyways, quite untouched by the modern world, and forming an imposing amphitheatre over the harbour. Mainland Greece hovers on the horizon, just a few miles away but, at the same time, infinitely untouchable through a lavender evening haze. Hydra boasts a strong maritime culture and is one of the most popular yachting destinations in Greece, home to the prestigious Kamini Yacht Club as well as a number of charter agencies.
As Cohen quipped, ‘there is nowhere in the world where you can live like you can in Hydra, and that includes Hydra’.