Hydra is the most famous island of the Saronic Gulf, it is picturesque, manorial and cosmopolitan, located at a short distance from the southeastern coast of Argolida and is 35 nautical miles from the port of Zea. The homonymous city is the port and the only settlement of the island, which has been declared protected, which is why wheeled vehicles are prohibited and movement is done only with donkeys. The inhabitants of the island, due to the barren land, are mainly engaged in shipping, fishing and tourism. Hydra owes its name to the abundant waters that gushed from the rich springs it had in antiquity.
The town of Hydra is built amphitheatrically to the middle of the north coast of the island, inside a close cove, which is being surrounded by huge rocks. The imposing houses and well-kept mansions, built amphitheatrically beneath the bare cliffs with tourist shops and jewelers, restaurants and cafes, boats, sea taxis and large yachts, compose the port of Hydra. The coastal road, the Paul Kountouriotis street, extends from the statue of Miaoulis until the location Petalo. The street's paving was completed in 1912 and to this, ends all the paved vertical paths, that start from the top and end up at the sea.
Right and left from the entrance of the port, there are the Parapets with the Canons, which protected the town. On the left side of the harbor, over the left bastion, there is the statue of Admiral Andreas Miaoulis, which was erected in 1993 and its base are buried the bones of Miaoulis, who came to Hydra in 1985. On the waterfront, under the ramparts, are the rusty old chains that closed the entrance to the harbor for safety. The road which starts near the statue, leads in Mandraki, which was the military port during the Revolution. West of the statue of A. Miaoulis, at the beginning of the beach of the port, is the Port Authority and the KEP which was being housed in the old stone made gunpowder house and a little beyond the art gallery and concert "Melina Merkouri". Next to the Port Authority, is the marble building that houses the Historical Archive-Museum of Hydra and following is the home of Tsamadou family, which houses the famous School of Merchant Marine. At the point of the harbor opposite the breakwater, beats the heart of town. Here are banks, public offices, shops, restaurants and cafes.
In the center of the harbor, is located the Cathedral of Hydra, built in 1648 and reconstructed in 1774. A three-aisled basilica with a dome, two marble towers and two silver chandeliers inside. Previously the Cathedral served as a Monastery of the Virgin Mary. Today in the courtyard of the Cathedral there are statues of Lazarus Kountouriotis and Andreas Miaoulis and the tomb of Lazarus Kountouriotis. Some of the buildings of the monastery houses the town hall and the Byzantine - Ecclesiastical Museum of Hydra. In front of the Monastery there is the Kountourioti Paul's Square with the statue of the Greek politician dominating its center. After the square, at the left, stands the Church of the Visitation with the wooden iconostasis.
Further down a steep path to the left, leads to the Mansion of Tombazis, which today houses the School of Fine Arts. Rightmost of the Monastery of the Assumption begins a narrow, paved and scenic winding road that leads to the old town of Kiafa. The road passes right by the Gyrokomeio and then leads to Kamini. Soon we meet the Mansion of Kountourioti Lazarus, built in the late 18th century and is now a branch of the National Historical Museum. Continuing to the road, we reache the Periptero, the western bastion of the harbor and one of the most beautiful location of Hydra. Under the Periptero is the rocky coast of Spilia. Over the cannons, to the left there is a small pine forest with the mansion of George Kountourioti be raised amongst the pine trees and up to the the hills stand in a line the derelict mills. The road continues, reaches Avlaki, a picturesque district built on the steep slope of the mountain, to reach the picturesque Kaminia.
Hydra has an important naval history and tradition. During the struggle of the revolution of 1821, Hydra with Spetses and Psara played an important role, due to the great naval power they had. In the Revolution of 1821 Hydra had 186 ships. Great shipowners, sailors of 1821 and politicians come from the island. Among them are Andreas Miaoulis, Koundouriotis, Kriezis, Tsamados, Sachinis, Tombazis and Sachtouris. This naval tradition is continued to this day by its masters and sailors, a small local fishing and passenger fleet and the Merchant Marine Academy, which began operating immediately after the 1821 revolution and is the oldest operating merchant school in the eastern Mediterranean. The most important celebration today in Hydra is Miaoulia, which are events dedicated to the action of Admiral Miaoulis and all the sailors and arsonists and take place every year, towards the end of June.
Hydra is connected by ferry, all year round, with the other islands of the Saronic Gulf, as well as with Methana, Ermioni, Porto Cheli, Nafplio, Tyros. It has no airport or helipad, but there is a flat area near the city of Hydra which helicopters use as a take-off and landing area.
Very little is known about the history of Hydra until the beginning of the Ottoman rule. The first settlers of the island were Mycenaeans and are traced back to ancient times as witnessed by the excavations. No major historical event is known, until the 15th century period (after the fall of Constantinople), when the inhabitants of the island started to move inland and in the mountains to escape from the numerous pirate raids and the attacks of the Turks. Around 1460, Hydra welcomed refugees from Albania, Epirus, Crete, Evia, Kythnos and Asia Minor, as well as refugees from the Peloponnese who were escaping the Russo-Turkish War during the 18th century.
During the Ottoman domination, the Turks had little interest on the island because of its lack of water. The island began to acquire a powerful merchant fleet during the 17th century but the plague of 1792 wiped out a great number of the population and those who survived moved away. Things improved for Hydra in the 18th century, when it became powerful and prosperous because of its highly developed commercial fleet, trading with all of Greece and even abroad, with France, Spain, and America. The superiority of the island's fleet reached its peak during the Napoleonic wars and with the creation of the Merchant Marine Academy, was able to monopolize the sea transport throughout the Mediterranean. The inhabitants of Hydra were beginning to fear attacks from the Ottoman fleet so they used their wealth to fortify the harbor with bastions of cannons, and their fleet power during the Greek Revolution against the Turkish yoke. They participated in the Revolutionary secret alliance called "Philiki Eteria" (founded in 1814) and many wealthy sea - captains used their vessels as warships and helped the Revolution economically. The heroism of their crews became famous all around Europe and is still honored today. Two of the most heroic figures of Hydra were the ship owners Andreas Miaoulis and Lazaros Koundouriotis, who contributed to the revolution. The superiority of the island's ships and the heroism of its inhabitants was one of the most determining factors in the success of the revolution.
After World War II, the economy of Hydra went through a difficult phase. It recovered slightly with fishing and sponge fishing but declined again due to the restrictions of financial assistance to the sponge fishing enterprises from the Greek Agricultural bank. In the 1950s, Hydra became a center of artistic creation for many artists who used its magical scenery as the main theme of inspiration. Many famous movies were also shot on the island, including the Boy on a dolphin (1957) starring Sophia Loren and Phaedra (1962) starring Anthony Perkins and Melina Merkouri. Till today, Hydra attracts many artists and various festivals take place in summer in the Melina Merkouri Auditorium.
5. The Mansions
6. The Port