Hydra is an island of the Argo-Saronic area that is a popular tourist destination thanks to its character, history and short distance from Athens. It consists of an area of approximately 50 square km. and a population of about 2,000 inhabitants. Its name derives from its many, rich springs and streams that it had in antiquity.
The island presents an important naval history and tradition. Renovated mansions, the old harbor, museums and monasteries, all contribute to the island’s image that reveals its important historical significance. Hydra, along with Spetses and Psara, played a vital role in the Revolution of 1821 due to its great naval power.
The preserved settlement of Hydra is the only town on the island where the majority of the population is gathered. One characteristic of Hydra is the fact that wheeled vehicles are forbidden and most transports are carried out using animals, walking or by water taxi.
Hydra is a typical example of a Mediterranean landscape as it combines special characteristics of an Aegean island, but also of the neighboring Peloponnese. In addition, it combines wild rocky landscapes with low vegetation and forestlands with pines and cypress trees.
Actually, it is a rocky mountain range, 20 km long and 1.5 to 6 km wide, with its highest peak being Eros (588 m). The island’s climate is typically mediterranean, temperate, dry, mild, with a prolonged summer weather and mild winters. The main northern winds remove the sea mist and create a bright and clear horizon.
Hydra has a large number of wildflowers and herbs, while there is also a fair share of Aleppo pines, cypress trees, olive trees, sages, thymes and other bushes. The island’s fauna is important due to its location which makes it an important station for migratory bird species, but also a permanent habitat. Like most rocky ecosystems, Hydra has a large number of reptiles and amphibians, while its fauna mosaic includes mammals such as common rabbits, hares and wild goats, apart from horses, mules and donkeys bred by the locals for their transport needs on the island and other lambs and goatlings.
To the south-west of Hydra, there is the island of Dokos, an important archaeological site with similar natural features and there are also several smaller islets around.
Culturally speaking, Hydra is very rich by presenting exhibitions, museums (Historical Archive – Museum of Hydra, Ecclesiastic and Byzantine Museum of Hydra, Lazaros Kountouriotis Historical Mansion – annex of the National Historical Museum, Manor of George Kountouriotis – After-Byzantine Art Museum, etc.), monasteries (6 monasteries and 300 churches and chapels) and cultural events.
Reference must be made to Miaouleia, the celebrations in honor of Admiral Andreas Miaoulis, for his contribution to the struggle for the liberation of our Nation, held each year at the end of June. Kountourioteia is a six-day celebration event organized by the Municipality of Hydra in August, in honor of the First President of the Hellenic Republic, resident ofHydra, Admiral Paul Kountouriotis.
It is important to visit the island’s Mansions, buildings of a characteristic architecture, more than 200 years old. Some of the most prominent of these mansions are the ones of Paul and Lazaros Kountouriotis, Tombazis, Tsamados, Kriezis, Voulgaris, Bountouris. You must also pay a visit to the Bastions, with their cannons to the right and left of the harbor, which protected the settlement of Hydra.
Hydra’s special character has attracted a significant number of people from culture and arts, both from Greece and abroad, who either live or have a summer house on the island.
The name Hydra is attributed to the abundant waters that sprang from the rich springs that the island had in antiquity. Historians mention the island under the name of Hydraia and, to the inner part of the island, traces of ancient settlements have been rescued, as evidenced by archaeological excavations at the site of Episkopi, the main centre of agriculture and livestock breeding of the island and one of the places that seems to have been inhabited during all eras, as there were rich water springs. The settling on the island dates long before the period of Homer, ie in the Late Neolithic Period (3000-2600 BC).
During the Early Helladic Period, settling was carried out near Zourvas, Agios Nikolaos, Agios Georgios Bistis and Nisiza, where people with their ships used to trade obsidian.
It seems that Hydra has failed, during the centuries that followed, to evolve into a socially and historically structured place. During the Classical Period, it appears that due to the frequent pirate raids, a great number of Hydra’s inhabitants left the island while the rest retreated towards its inner part, as evidenced by the findings of Episkopi.
In the early days of the 15th century, Hydra is inhabited by a few agricultural and pastoral families. In 1460, the first intense settlement in Hydra begins. The new inhabitants of Hydra merge with the locals and the rocky, infertile soil of Hydra forces them to turn to the sea and become excellent sailors. This is the time when the rebuilding and the construction of the city of Hydra, as we know it today, begins. In the 18th century, the residents of Hydra began to construct small sailing boats and, from the middle of the same century, large ships that sailed across the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
In the late 18th and early 19th century, Hydra evolves into a naval force with a merchant fleet of 150 ships. At the time, the island experienced its greatest strength and, hence, its economic and spiritual boom. The residents of Hydra gradually became masters of the Mediterranean sea routes and Hydra emerged as the first naval force of all Greek islands.
Hydra helped significantly in the Greek War of Independence of 1821. Its fleet consisted of 186 small and large ships. The fleet of Hydra, along with the fleets of Spetses and Psara, dominated the sea during the seven-year war, thus decisively contributing to the liberation of Greece and sacrificing, at the same time, human lives, ships and money. Leaders and fighters such as Miaoulis, Oikonomou, Tombazis, Tsamados and others were the prominent personalities of the war.
During the antiquity, it was called Aperopia. This was attributed to the infinite view that was provided by its strategic position, with this name also being mentioned by Pausanias. Ιt gained the name Dokos during the Byzantine period, as it is a passage to Hydra but also to Ermioni. It is one of the few Greek islands that has a male name. The island is mountainous, rocky, it has an altitude of 308 m and has always been a well-hidden strategic spot. On the eastern side, there are ruins of a large Byzantine – Venetian castle. During the Revolution of 1821, the fleet of Hydra used it as a winter anchorage.
Αccording to archaeological research, the island had been inhabited since the Bronze Age, 6,000 years ago. In 1975, the oldest known shipwreck, dated between 2500-2000 BC, was found near the coast. This shipwreck consists of clear evidence of the major importance that shipping had in the wider region.