It should come as no surprise that this island devoid of cars and other vehicles is a top hiking spot throughout the country. Its many diverse paths offer walkers of all abilities some of the best routes in Greece, particularly during spring and autumn. Along the way, the island’s beautiful scenery and rich flora can be enjoyed just about everywhere, be it along the coast, through the meadows or up in the mountains. Many flower species are endemic to the island and found nowhere else.
The downside is that the path system is so intertwined and complicated, that finding your way around can be time-consuming and confusing. Many trails aren’t even included on most hiking maps, and other are misrepresented with either a complete lack of, or inaccurate signage. But this is also what makes walking so exhilarating here: hidden valleys and secret beaches pop up unexpectedly and new paths converge with the old so that you can never truly say you’ve seen it all. Thankfully, once you learn the three main trails, venturing off along the smaller, intersecting paths is much easier and enjoyable.
Route 1: Profitis Ilias to the harbor
This uphill journey begins from Hydra Town harbor and meanders its way up the island’s highest point, a hill where the monastery of Profitis Ilias lies. You’ll need to follow the town’s main street (Miaoulis). Past the horse stables, a road with three lanes and lined with trees, leading to the Church of Agios Konstantinos. Instead of reaching the church, take the first left (almost a U turn) upwards and follow along until you notice a vague trail veering off towards the left. Follow that and you’ll soon arrive to the main shaded pathway leading to the monastery. Though the sign for the monastery points left, its entrance is actually on the right. No matter, left will take you where you need to go in order to reach above the monastery and enjoy amazing views over the island before starting the “real” journey.
Photo by: Takis Zotos
You will want to look down towards the right until you find the monastery’s wall at the bottom of the slope. This is where you should aim to arrive. Once you get there, you’ll see a sign which (mistakenly) reads Mt. Eros. You should see two trails before you, one running parallel to the stone wall, and the other continuing away from it. This is the one you need to take. It becomes more defined as you continue on through the trees. The path heads slightly upwards for about fifteen minutes before curving towards the left. If you look to your right, you should see another clear path. This is the one you want. After a few minutes, your view opens up to the sea before you. From here you can continue down the zig zag trail, but it does not lead to a beach, rather, to goat farms and after several hours, the convent of St. Nicholas.
Most likely, you’ll prefer to simply hike the trail back in reverse before arriving back into the edge of town. From the church of St. Constantine, follow the steps on the side of the church, and eventually make your way down to the harbor.
Route 2: Zourvas Monastery to the Lighthouse
This is one of Hydra’s most challenging yet beautiful trails. It takes a while, so plenty of water and snacks are ideal. Due to difficult signage and overall difficulty, it is highly recommended that you take the water taxi to the monastery and begin your hike from there, rather than arduously trying to reach it and being exhausted before the real route even begins!
If you choose to follow this tip and begin at Zourvas, you want to head back towards town. The path is pretty straight forward, though you’ll be on it for hours. Fear not, as rewards its hikers with some of the best views down towards town and over the entire island. You’ll pass goat farms, as well as the churches of Profitis Ilias and Agios Nikolaos (actually a convent.) From here you’ll be able to see the edge of town and its approach. A good route is that which leads straight ahead on the large road that passes between the Monasteries of St. Matronis on the left, and Agia Triada on the right, after which, you’ll notice a small trail that leads upwards toward the left. Follow this towards the stone tower and continue on through the valley. You’ll wind up at a cemetery towards the upper part of town. From here, reaching town is pretty straightforward.
Route 3: Hydra Town to Episkopi
This is a great path to take in the warmer months, as it’s the flattest of all three and it passes several beaches along the way. Leave Hydra Town by following the coast towards the coastal hamlet of Kamini, and once you reach its beach, continue along the dirt road to Vlihos.
Continue along the coast until reaching the dock at Palamida. If you’ve had enough of walking, you can take a water taxi back to town from here. If not, then follow the road leading inland and upwards. You’ll soon come to a cluster of homes called Episkopi. It is believed to have once been the site of a Byzantine village, though today you’ll find only goat herders and solitary types. If you continue towards the bottom, you’ll reach a swimming cove. You’ll need to jump the gate and traverse a rocky field, and after doing so, you should be able to make out a path in the trees ahead of you.