Hello all, and apologies for the long silence. I have been on the road and unfortunately without the use of a computer for the past few weeks. The up side of this is that I have lots of new adventures to write about, if only I can find the time.
I stayed for a while in the centre of Athens and used it as a base to explore some of the surrounds of the beautiful country of Greece. It is the first time I have visited this country and it has been everything I hoped it would be.
One of my favourite adventures so far has been to Hydra (pronounced “hidra” with a short ‘i’ sound), which is one of the Saronic Islands close to Athens.
You can get to Hydra quickly and easily by ferry. If you are staying in the centre of Athens, you can get the train (M1 line) directly from Omonia to the port of Piraeus in just over 20 minutes. Once in Piraeus things can be a little confusing as there is no central departure board (so far as I could find). Your ferry ticket will have a departure gate written on it. Have a look at this handy map of Piraeus so you know how far you will have to go to your gate. E7 and E8 are the closest to the train station and, luckily for me, every time I transited through these were the gates I used. I gather that there is a free bus to get you to the gates further away – keep in mind that Piraeus is one of the largest ports in Europe, so you might have to cover a fair distance.
Your ferry will have its destination written on it somewhere. Another clue will be the name of the ferry company. And the fact that it is in the right place, at the right time, with people queuing to board.
The ferry ticket itself I bought about two days in advance from an agency in the centre of Athens. I had looked online and already knew exactly what I wanted, but baulked at paying the 8 Euro online booking fee. If you buy it in person there is no fee, and you don’t have to worry about going to collect your ticket anywhere either. They will print it for you on the spot. Easy.
You could also buy your ticket at the port on your day of departure, but it’s recommended to plan a bit further in advance during the busier summer months in case the ferry you want is sold out. Prices are the same regardless – I never saw any ‘last minute’ special discounts, nor did I find any advance purchase discount. Hydra is not the cheapest Greek island destination as you have no choice but to take the faster (and therefore more expensive) hydrofoil and catamaran services; the slower ferries have been removed from that route in recent years.
Travel time from Piraeus to Hydra was about 90 minutes each way stopping at Poros and Spetses. The day I went the ride was smooth and, despite being prone to seasickness at times in the past, I felt absolutely fine.
Hydra is one of those tourist hotspots where cars have been banned. Its cobblestone streets are bordered with cute independent shops and cafes.
You will arrive in the main town (Hydra Town) where most of its 1948 inhabitants reside.
There are several walking trails you can follow to explore the coastline, the small villages, viewpoints and swimming spots.
The island’s original name was Hydrea, derived from the Greek word for water, a reference to the natural springs that could be found on the island. They have since dried up.
Horses, mules and donkeys, and water taxis provide public transportation. The inhabited area, however, is so compact that you can easily walk everywhere.
I was tempted by the novelty of a donkey ride – and the donkeys on Hydra looked healthy and happy, unlike some other islands – but there was no real need.
So there you have it. I enjoyed my day on Hydra, despite the dire weather (no, it’s not always sunny in Greece, even in June!) and carried away with me a yearning to buy a kitten.