The Greek islands are famous for putting the breaks on even the most restless visitors with their relaxed pace of life, but step onto the petite island of Hydra and that sentiment is supercharged. Located in the Saronic Gulf, the island is just 19 square miles in size and all motor vehicles (bar a mini fire engine and small rubbish truck) are completely banned – horses, mules, donkeys and water taxis do all the legwork here,
which creates a slow, peaceful rhythm to island life that’s all-consuming. As strolling is obligatory in Hydra, it won’t take long for you to realise there are no street names either – tourists are invited to head to the hills and meander the many tight cobbled roads; getting lost just adds to the fun. There is only one port and town, simply called Hydra Town, and it’s crescent-shaped harbour is full of cafes, restaurants and shops, and behind, stone houses and impressive 18th century mansions built by wealthy merchants and shipbuilders rise up into the hills to create a classic amphitheatre. One of the closest islands to Athens, Hydra is a favourite weekend destination for Athenians and at the height of tourist season, a summer crowd brings a glitz to the island that’s palpable. Leonard Cohen and Sophia Loren were both seduced by Hydra’s intoxicating beauty and creative types are still drawn here by the gentle buzz of its art scene. There is a welcome lack of activities on this easy-going island, so Hydra holidays are characterised by its total and utter relaxation. Get ready to slow your pace to a standstill, champagne glass in hand.