It is separated from the Peloponnese by narrow strip of water. In ancient times, the island was known as Hydrea (derived from the Greek word for “water”), which was a reference to the springs on the island.
It is situated in the Greek Islands calles Saronic and lies between the islands of Poros and Spetses, near the coast of the eastern foot of the Peloponnese.
The municipality Hydra consists of the islands Hydra, Dokos and a few uninhabited islets.
There is one main town, known simply as “Hydra port”. It consists of a crescent-shaped harbor, around which is centered a strand of restaurants, shops, markets, and galleries that cater to tourists and locals. Steep stone streets lead up and outwards from the harbor area. Most of the local residences, as well as the hostelries on the island are located on these streets.
It is very popular island because of its extremely picturesque capital, full of red-tiled houses and stone-paved narrow alleys. It used to be the destination of fashionable artists during the sixties and has kept a highly cosmopolitan character
In the 19th Century, Hydra was home to some 125 boats and 10,000 sailors. The mansions of the sea captains that ring the harbor are a testament to the prosperity that shipping brought to the island which, at the date of the Revolution, had 16,000 inhabitants. During the Greek Revolution, the fleets of Hydra and the other two naval islands of Psara and Spetses were able to wrest control of the Eastern Aegean Sea from the Ottoman Empire.
When the Greek War of Independence broke out, Hydra’s contribution of some 150 ships, plus supplies, to fight against the Turks played a critical role. The Greek admiral Andreas Miaoulis, himself a settler on Hydra, used Hydriot fire ships to inflict heavy losses on the Ottoman fleet.
No cars or modern transporation are allowed on the island, with the exception of an unseen trash truck – any roads that could actually handle a trash truck are also invisible to the casual tourist. “Modern transportation”, by the way, includes bicycles and motorbikes, which are prohibited. Development of the island is a touchy subject, and a recent proposal by Richard Branson to create a small, allegedly eco-friendly complex has polarized the residents. Hydra is a very popular day-cruise destination.