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A mountaintop view of the pristine blue waters of Spetses/ Photo by Krista Simmons

A mountaintop view of the pristine blue waters of Spetses/ Photo by Krista Simmons

greece_alltimeclassic_visitgreeceOrbitz and Visit Greece partnered with popular travel blogger Krista Simmons to explore the nation’s charming lesser known islands—including Naxos, Milos, Spetses and Hydra—as well Athens, the launch point for her island-hopping adventures. This post, which highlights the islands of Hydra and Spetses is the last in her four-part series on #UndiscoveredGreece.

Related: Check out the stunning sights and mouth-watering flavors Krista experienced on Naxos.

[aesop_content color=”#727272″ background=”#ffffff” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]If you’re looking to get a true taste of undiscovered Greece and take a step back in time, Hydra and Spetses are the place to do it, especially if you’re a car-crazed Los Angeleno like myself. Back home, my day-to-day consists of traffic, traffic, and more traffic, so the fact that both of these islands don’t allow motor vehicles on their roads was a real draw. An added bonus is they’re incredibly easy to access from Athens, meaning you could even come for a day trip, though I’d recommend extending for a few days to soak up the down-home island vibes. And did I mention the beaches? Look at them, they’re gorgeous! Here’s a run-down on what to see, what to eat, and where to stay when visiting these lesser-known isles of the Saronic Gulf.

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[aesop_parallax img=”https://s3-us-east-2.amazonaws.com/orbitz-media/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/16152429/C5A4992.jpg” parallaxbg=”off” caption=”A donkey on the island of Hydra – Photo by Krista Simmons” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”on” floater=”on” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]

 

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[aesop_content color=”#727272″ background=”#ffffff” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]Hydra has been one of those places I’ve wanted to visit since reading Daniel Klein’s Travels With Epicurus, where the author ventured to the island in search of the a philosophy on aging gracefully as the Greeks do. It’s certainly not that life is worry free on Hydra – Greece is in a state of economic crisis after all — but you really get the sense that the residence have an appreciation for truly living. Family life is very important throughout the Greek culture, as is lingering over a good meal and spending time outdoors, and all of that is amplified on a car-free island like Hydra. The island’s inhabitants get around the hilly island on foot or by donkey, like the cutie pictured above.

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[aesop_parallax img=”https://s3-us-east-2.amazonaws.com/orbitz-media/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/16152421/UC5A4972.jpg” parallaxbg=”off” caption=”A beach along Hydra’s walking paths – Photo by Krista Simmons” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”on” floater=”on” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]

[aesop_content color=”#727272″ background=”#ffffff” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]When arriving on Hydra via boat, which you have to do since there’s no airport, you’ll be greeted by folks renting out donkeys to get around, if you’d like. But for me traveling via the island’s 14 miles of footpaths is an ideal way to get around. Bring a good pair of walking shoes or sandals, as well as some snacks and water, and choose a path depending on how long you’ve allotted to hiking. (You can download maps for the six different hiking paths here.) Since I only had a few hours, I opted to head west from the port, making my way through the fishing villages and taverna-and church-dotted hillsides to a lovely seaside beach bar called Castello on Kamini Beach. I spent a few hours there chatting with locals and other travelers, enjoying the warm Saronic sun.

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[aesop_parallax img=”https://s3-us-east-2.amazonaws.com/orbitz-media/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/16152425/C5A5095.jpg” parallaxbg=”on” caption=”A boat being build by hand on Spetses – Photoby Krista Simmons” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”on” floater=”on” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]

 

[aesop_content color=”#727272″ background=”#ffffff” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]I was sad to have to leave Hydra after such a short afternoon visit, but getting to Spetses was certainly a wonderful consolation prize. The largest of the Saronic islands just 45 minutes by boat from Hydra still has plenty of charm despite its size, which let’s be honest is still small compared to my SoCal hometown. It’s known for its boat-building culture, secluded beaches, plethora of yacht marinas, and proximity to Athens. Being a bit larger than the rest, it means that there’s a vibrant food scene and plenty of well-appointed places to stay. Being a quick two hour boat ride from Athens, it’s a popular vacation destinations for locals, too.

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[aesop_parallax img=”https://s3-us-east-2.amazonaws.com/orbitz-media/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/16152419/UC5A5124.jpg” parallaxbg=”on” caption=”The mermaid sculpture on Spetses – Photo by Krista Simmons” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”on” floater=”on” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]

 

[aesop_content color=”#727272″ background=”#ffffff” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]Rent a scooter to tour the island, or take public transit to visit its many beautiful beaches, including Anargyri beach, where you’ll find the majestic Bekiris cave, well worth the trouble of swimming into. It’s known as a popular filming destination — as well as a spot for wedding proposals — and with it’s stunning isolated nature its easy to see why. Another must is visiting the morning fish markets, where local fisherman sell their wares to the island’s many restaurants and residents. Also be sure to keep an eye out for artwork from famed sculptor and local artist Natalia Mela, pictured above.

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[aesop_parallax img=”https://s3-us-east-2.amazonaws.com/orbitz-media/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/16152423/C5A4892.jpg” parallaxbg=”on” caption=”Hyrda’s own almond macaroon makers – Photo by Krista Simmons” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”on” floater=”on” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]

 

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[aesop_content color=”#727272″ background=”#ffffff” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]If you’re after something more polished on Hydra, dine at Omilos, a popular restaurant with jet set former clientele including The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Jackie Kennedy where you can dine on local seafood and fresh vegetables. Another must, aside from the wonderful beach bar mentioned above, is picking up some of Hydra’s famous almond macarons, a dish formerly carried by sailors on their journeys at sea, as the sweets wouldn’t spoil due to the lack of dairy. But they certainly don’t lack in flavor. At Tsagkaris Hydriot Macarons, they are made by hand every day by the family, and they are absolutely delicious.

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[aesop_parallax img=”https://s3-us-east-2.amazonaws.com/orbitz-media/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/16152417/FullSizeRender-copy.jpg” parallaxbg=”on” caption=”A meal of anchovies, stuffed cabbage and fava puree on Hydra – Photo by Krista Simmons” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”on” floater=”on” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]

[aesop_content color=”#727272″ background=”#ffffff” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]Spetses is chockers full of great options for eating. For sweeping views of the port and a unique Greek tapas-style tasting menu, dine on the veranda at the Poseidonion. Over in the Old Harbor where the boat building takes place, dine on fresh local seafood and grilled octopus at Tarsanas, with a glass of crisp white Greek wine of course. And be sure to make it to Orloff Restaurant for epic seaside views and local dishes like grilled octopus with black eyed peas or stewed mussels in a white wine and herb sauce.

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[aesop_content color=”#727272″ background=”#ffffff” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]I didn’t have the opportunity to stay on the island of Hydra overnight, and opted to stay at the Orloff Resort Spetses for my my one evening in the Saronic isles. The hotel was minimalist but clean and well- kept, complete with a wonderful buffet breakfast and clean swimming pool for dunking after a trip to the beach. I’d definitely recommend a longer stay on each island to get a true feel for the culture. If you decide to stay on Hydra, you can refer to their tourism board’s booking site for recommendations. As with the other islands, it’s cheapest to get to and from the islands on the Helenic Seaways ferries.

discount airline tickets

Tagged: Europe, Greece, Photo essay

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Krista Simmons

Krista Simmons

Krista is a culinary travel writer based in L.A. You can follow her adventures bite-by-bite on Instagram @kristasimmons and on her blog at kristasimmons.com.

2 thoughts on “Undiscovered Greece: The islands of Hydra and Spetses”

  1. We are from Prescott, Arizona and our hobby has been travel. Now in our 80’s we keep returning to Athens, love the views from the Plaka and always return to Hydra. It is our special place and encourage others to enjoy it too.

  2. We always have a good time by staying in small family run lodging where we avoid unhappy tourists and get a sense of local life. .

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