Hydra (Greek: Ύδρα, pronounced [ˈiðra]) is one of the Saronic Islands of Greece, located in the Aegean Sea between the Saronic and Argolic Gulfs, separated from the Peloponnese by narrow strip of water. In ancient times, the island was known as Hydrea (Υδρέα, derived from the Greek word for “water”), a reference to the island’s springs, long since dried up.
There is one main town, known simply as “Hydra port” (pop. 1,900 in 2011). It consists of a crescent-shaped harbour, featuring restaurants, shops, markets, and galleries that cater to tourists and locals (Hydriots). Steep stone streets lead up and outward from the harbor area. Most of the local residences, as well as the hotels and guesthouses on the island, are located on these streets. Other small villages or hamlets on the island include Mandraki , Kamini, Vlychos, Palamidas, Episkopi, and Molos.
A few rubbish trucks, a fire truck, and an ambulance are the only motor vehicles on the island, as cars and motorcycles are prohibited by law. Horses, mules, donkeys, and water taxis provide all public transportation. The inhabited area, however, is so compact that most people walk everywhere.
Hydra benefits from numerous bays and natural harbors and has a strong maritime culture. In 2007, a National Geographic Traveler panel of 522 experts rated Hydra the highest of any Greek Island (11th out of 111 islands worldwide) as a unique destination preserving its “integrity of place.” The island has almost no night-time light pollution. This is a boon to astronomy or just star-gazing.
There are numerous churches and six Orthodox monasteries. The island’s cathedral, the old Monastery of the Dormition of the Virgin, sits in the center of the main harbor, behind the clock tower.
The dominant geographic features of Hydra are its bare, rocky hillsides and pine-forested valleys with the occasional farmhouse. The island was subject to a modern geologic study by Renz in 1955. In spring, there are many varieties of wild flowers, including rare “spentzes” or cyclamen and poppies. In addition to pine trees there are cypress and olive trees. Birds species include partridges, quails, and many migratory birds. Mammals include rabbits, cats, sheep, and goats, as well as the various working equines. Hydra is an amazing ecotourism destination with many outdoors activities to enjoy such as scuba diving, hiking, and horse riding.
The weather on Hydra is generally warm and sunny. During springtime, the temperatures are ideal, ranging from 15°C to 25°C; it is the best period to visit the island, even if the weather may sometimes change suddenly and rain is not impossible. Summer on Hydra is hot and sunny, as in most of Greece; temperatures range from 25°C to 36°C and sometimes rise up to 40°C during July and August. The sea temperature is about 27°C; rainfall is very rare, and humidity is low. Autumn is also a very nice season to visit Hydra. The weather is still warm, and bathing is a real pleasure because the temperature of the sea is still about 25°C, due to the extreme heat of the summer. Winter is mild, and temperatures rarely drop below 0°C. January and March are often sunny and warm, like a spring break in the middle of the winter. Snow is extremely rare, and when it appears, it only covers the mountains and never settles.