HYDRA TOWN consists of a crescent-shaped harbour, fringed by tavernas, cafes, boutique shops and mini-markets. The harbour is often packed with scores of yachts and other sailing craft in the summer and the tavernas and cafes around it are packed with people.
Steep stone streets that lead up and out from the Hydra Town harbour area are lined with stout grey houses, some impressive mansions and most of them are topped with red tiled roofs.
Such impressive mansions are not seen in such abundance on any other Greek island. Hydra Town was once populated by wealthy merchants and shipbuilders and they built themselves some luxurious homes in the 18th and 19th century.
Most homes are tall and narrow, a consequence of being built on steeply rising land, and many have been restored by rich Athenians who have opted for bright colours on shutters, doors and some walls.
The most populated Hydra Town area is Kiafa which sites high above the port and is the oldest residential area offering good views over the bay. Arched bridges cross some steep streets to connect the houses. Stone built windmills at the summit complete the scene along with some notable churches in Hydra Town itself.
The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin stands out. It sits in the centre of Hydra Town, with its magnificent three-storey bell tower of marble from Tinos. It was founded in 1643 as a monastery but only the church is left.
Some old monk cells house the municipal offices and a small ecclesiastical museum. The Kountouriotis museum, behind the church is also worth a visit. Housed in a former mansion house it has many exhibits from 19th century and examples of Hydra's maritime heritage. Through the archway under the waterfront clock tower is the Byzantine Museum which has a good collection of religious objects.
There are regular daily ferries from Piraeus and from Nafplion, on the nearby Peloponnese coast. Most visitors fly to Athens and catch the #E96 Express bus to Piraeus.
At Piraeus hydrofoils leave at regular intervals from 8am. There are also ferries to Poros and Spetses.
Water taxis line the jetty in the main port and most owners have mobile phones so they can be contacted any time. There is no official tariff but owners have agreed set prices and there is a central phone 0298 53690 answered by the first boat owner available.
Most water buses can take up to 10 people and you can cut costs by teaming up with neighbours to take a boat at the same time.
Caiques also go to various beaches around the island. Boards on the jetty announce prices and times of sailing. The problem is that you sometimes have to wait a long time until the boat is full enough for the captain to think it worth sailing. Caiques also go to offshore islets of Dokos, Kivotos, and Petasi, as well as to secluded restaurants in the evening.