Spetses’ City Guide
City In antiquity the island was named “Pityonissos” and “Pityousa” from the ancient reek word “Pitys”, meaning pine tree. The name “Spetses” came from the Venetians who used to call it “Isola di Spezzie” meaning the island of aromas (spices).
A lovely island of the Saronic Gulf, Spetses island is a popular weekend destination due to its closeness to Athens.
Places to visit:
The lighthouse at the old harbor
One of the oldest lighthouses that ever operated in Greece is located on the right side of the old harbor of the island of Spetses. It first operated in 1837 and is standing in an overall height of 27 metres from sea level on a beautiful hill with pine trees. Since 1986 the lighthouse is operating automatically with electric current.
Mountain paths and trails
On the island there is a network of mountain paths and trails through the pine forest that covers the entire mountain. The visitor will enjoy tranquility into the natural scenery and will admire the view from above.
From the main harbor the road ascents on the hill and towards the mountain. After the settlement borders, a dirt road continues for a couple of kilometres to the top of the mountain. From there you can choose one of the three directions leading to different sides of the island.
Located just 100 m. behind the harbour of Dapia the Bouboulina Museum is found, housed in a 300 year old mansion. During the tour the visitor will learn the entire story of Bouboulina, a heroine of the Greek revolution and, although a woman, awarded with the rank of the Admiral.
The museum’s exhibits include gun collections, old books, letters and documents from the Greek Revolution, paintings and ship models, maps, portraits, personal items and old furniture.
Museum of Spetses / Hatzigiannis-Mexis Mansion
The Museum of Spetses is housed in the mansion of Hatzigiannis-Mexis one of the lords of the island who took part in the Greek Revolution for Independence in 1821.
The exhibits include findings from an early Mycenaean shipwreck (around 1200 B.C), vessels of the Early Hellenic and Classical Period, sculptures and coins from the Roman and Byzantine years, post Byzantine icons and relics.
Also there are the bones of Laskarina Bouboulina, guns and portraits of local heroes, pictures of ships which took part in the combats.
Town of Spetses
Do not miss the chance to walk around the picturesque alleys of Spetses town and the neighboring settlements. They are so graphic and charming that will make you think you are having a tip into the past.
We also suggest that you have a walk during sunset around the Old Port, right be the seaside, and feel the sea breeze and its aromas overwhelm your senses.
Fish a la Spetsiota
This recipe is prepared using fish fillet like cod, halibut or red snapper. The fish is marinated in lemon juice, salt and pepper and then placed in a pan. A paste is prepared with peeled and grated tomatoes, tomato paste thinned in water, garlic, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper, and poured over the fish. Thick sliced tomatoes and bread crumbs are placed over the fish which is then baked in the oven.
Traditional marzipans (sweet almond paste)
The local marzipan is a famous delicacy of Spetses. The traditional local recipe does not include butter or eggs but almonds, honey, rose water and sugar. Therefore the marzipans, widely known as “amigdalota”, can be preserved for a long period of time. This suited the commercial sailboats of Spetses which drifted in the sea for a long time.
Restaurants and Bars
LIOTRIVI: Restaurant, Mediterranean & International Cuisine
TO NERO TIS AGAPIS:Restaurant, Mediterranean & International Cuisine
FREUD ORIENTAL RESTAURANT: Restaurant, Gourmet & Gastronomic Restaurant
KAPELOGIANNIS: Taverna,Traditional Greek Cuisine
PATRALIS: Taverna, Fresh Fish & Seafood
BAR SPETSA: Bar, International
On the island of Spetses the visitor will encounter a number of organized beaches such as Agia Marina beach or tranquil and secluded coasts like Xilokeriza beach, as well as beaches located just a breath away from the town like Agios Mamas or Ligoneri beach. The best beaches in Spetses, Greece, are allocated on a beaches’ map in Cycladia’s Spetses beach guide. Apart from the charming beaches, the visitor to Spetses will be rewarded with a beautiful natural scenery full of pine trees, common in the islands of the Argosaronic complex.
Every September on Spetses the celebration of “Armata” is held in memory of the naval combat which took place on the 8th of September 1822 when the Greek fleet under Andreas Miaoulis defeated the Turkish after Kosmas Barmatsis managed to explode the Turkish flagship. The celebration lasts a week and the programme includes music concerts, art exhibitions, traditional dances, theatrical shows and many more. The festival closes on a Saturday – the closest to the 8th of September – with the representation of the battle in the harbor, where a wooden effigy of a Turkish ship is set on fire and explodes accompanied by a lot of fireworks. It is really an impressive show!
Bouboulina Museum Cultural Festival
This newly introduced festival is held in late July and beginning of August and its programme includes music concerts, operas, theatrical shows, dances, choreographies, book presentations and many more artistic events.
Usually the religious feasts that follow the morning church services are accompanied by traditional music, dancing, food and drink till late in the night.
Find below our suggestions so that you enjoy a feast during your stay on the island.
Every year on the 17th of July the celebration of Agia Marina is held where people take part in the service at the chapel of Agia Marina located above the beach that bears its name.
On the morning of the 26th July the celebration of Agia Paraskevi is held annually with a service at the chapel located on the homonymous beach too. The celebration lasts until midnight and the programme includes music, live concerts and dances.
Hydra’s travel guide
Hydra is blissfully free of motor vehicles except for a few miniature rubbish trucks – photogenic donkeys (or mules) .
A whaleback ridge looming from the sea, Hydra shot to fame in 1956 as the location for A Girl in Black, directed by Michael Cacoyannis, with an extra filip in 1957 for hosting Boy on a Dolphin, starring Sophia Loren.
The clip-clop of the beasts’ hooves on marble pavement and their drovers’ cries are very much part of the soundtrack here.
Soon various foreign personalities (including Leonard Cohen) bought and restored property here, joining prominent Greeks who had long appreciated the island’s charms. Sumptuous mansions and humbler vernacular homes arrayed amphitheatrically around the marble-quayed harbour date from the 18th and 19th centuries, when Hydriot seafaring prowess brought great wealth. Despite its high-profile reputation, and the mid-day arrival of “One-Day Saronic Cruises”, the island remains endearingly time-warped: as a listed architectural reserve, all new construction is (theoretically) banned, and it’s blissfully free of motor vehicles except for a few miniature rubbish trucks – photogenic donkeys (or mules) do most haulage. The clip-clop of the beasts’ hooves on marble pavement and their drovers’ cries are very much part of the soundtrack here.
Places to visit:
Once on Hydra, it’s shanks pony or taxi-boats – no buses, no scooters for hire. Baggage is transferred to the better hotels by hand-cart, while taxi-boats (€3 one way) ply as far as Plákes Vlyhoú with its hotel from early in the season. Only later in the summer are little boats to Bísti beach (€10 one way) at all reliable, leaving around noon and returning early evening.
Some mansions once belonging to ships’ captains have become museums (best of these the Lazaros Koundouriotis inland and up on the westerly hillside, March-October 10am-2pm and additionally in summer 5.30pm-8.30pm Tuesday-Sunday;); the Historical Archives Museum on the east quay (daily 9am-4pm, also July-Aug 7.30-9.30pm;), exhibits costumes, old gravures and artefacts from the War of Independence.
Outside summer, Hydra is ideal for walkers. You don’t need a map for the coastal path to Vlyhós (35min from port) and beyond to Plákes Vlyhoú (45min away), or up the steep stairs to hilltop Profítis Ilías monastery above town.But one is certainly useful for the 75-minute hike to Limnióniza beach on the south coast, or (more ambitiously) to the cape and monastery at Zourvás in the north-east (4hr one way, arrange a boat transfer back). The grand-daddy of all Hydriot hikes, though, is the longitudinal island traverse southwest to the bays of Ágios Nikólaos or Bísti.
Want something classier than the mule rides touted at quayside? Then check out Harriet’s Hydra Horses, run by amiable Harriet Jarman, resident on Hydra since childhood and also ex-British Army. She offers ten set itineraries, starting from a corral at the back of the town, inevitably up into the steep surrounding terrain, except for two treks along the coast. Excursion length varies from 45min to all day, prices €20–140 plus 13% VAT per horse, children (even toddlers) and adults equally welcome. Animal welfare is a strong point, with at least one of Harriet’s five well-cared-for mounts having been rescued from an abusive owner. Contact tel 00 30 6980 323347, hydradirect.com.
Hydra is not known for its beaches – they can’t compare with those of the Aegean or Ionian islands. Besides pebbly Limnióniza, the closest recommendable ones to town are Avláki (shingle), just 10 minutes’ walk west towards Kamíni, Kastéllo (officially Mikró Kamíni, beyond Kamíni), currently with no facilities, Vlyhós (also shingle), with sunbeds, two tavernas and the possibility of swimming out to an islet, and Plákes Vlyhoú (15min past Vlyhoú), small pebbles despite the Greek name (‘Slabs’), with more sunbeds and a decent taverna, reviewed below. Bísti (pebbles, seasonal sunbed concession) and Ágios Nikólaos (200m of fine pebbles and sand) at the south-western tip are better, but arduous to hike to (see directions above); most people go by taxi-boat in at least one direction (one-way fares quoted).
The obvious off-island one is to Spétses – the next, and most remote, member of the Argo-Saronic group, with equally imposing mansions, excellent (if dear) dining and better beaches than Hydra’s.
Eating out can be down-to-earth both in atmosphere and (with careful selection) prices – Hydra feels like a “real” town, with a busy produce halle just behind the central quay. Many town restaurants operate eight to nine months of the year, but often only at weekends during low season.
The island’s most popular waterside dining, with seafood a specialty – including fresh locally caught squid in the right season, and scaly fish at a slight discount during spring and autumn. Dishes may come garnished with krítamo (rock samphire). Great sunset view.
The remotest taverna on the island, and your only en-route lunch option if hiking to Ágios Nikólaos or Bísti .
This jolly inland spot, with ample seating indoors, or out on a terrace, does two or three casserole dishes per day, but to order those would be to completely miss the point.
The most creative and reasonable ouzerí on the island.
Geitoniko (aka Manolis and Khristina’s)
Equally popular with residents (including, formerly, Leonard Cohen) and visitors, this durable all-rounder does everything from vegetarian casseroles to grilled meat and fish.
Kryfo Limani/Secret Port
It’s worth showing up at this appropriately secluded courtyard spot just for the decor, a riot of 1970s–80s taverna kitsch.
Bars and nightlife
In this habitual bolt-hole for Athenians, nightlife aside from hanging out in the quay cafés is respectable. All the action is along the quay, or in lanes just inland.
A Hydra evergreen, attracting a somewhat older crowd, but no less lively for that, with the best playlist on the island.
Occupying a former fuel depot near the entrance of the port, the premises have a venerable history as a day-and-night spot.
Another war-horse, going since 1976, which has seen numerous glitterati through its doors but managed to remain chic without getting snooty.
Hydra Trail Event
Cross-country races taking advantage of the island’s extensive network of track and trails, usually first weekend in April. Up to 900 participants for 5-, 10- and 26-km courses. Info for next year’s competitions should be on runningreece.com in due course.
Processions and rituals on Hydra rank among the most famous and vivid in Greece, particularly on Good Friday. In the morning, a gallows is erected on a boat at the main port, and an effigy of Judas Iscariot hung therefrom. At dusk, locals ‘execute’ him with all available firearms before the local bishop boards the boat and sets Judas alight. Finally, the epitáfios (Christ’s funeral bier) is paraded into the shallows of Kamíni port to bless the fishing boats and calm the seas.
A week or so in late June of cultural events commemorating local Independence War hero Admiral Andreas Miaoulis, whose fleet bested a much large Ottoman one at the 1824 Battle of Gerontas near Samos, culminating at the weekend in a re-enactment of the destruction of the enemy flagship and a spectacular barrage of fireworks.
Saronic Chamber Music Festival
The multinational, nine-member Leondari Ensemble performs annually during early August in suitable venues across the region, with typically 2 concerts on Hydra, at the Bratsera Hotel’s lovely functions hall; consult saronicfestival.com for this year’s programme.
Hydra Rebetiko Gathering
Aficionados of that Greek urban musical style with its roots in Asia Minor have convened annually since 2001, usually the first Thursday to Sunday in October. The pivotal event is a Saturday-night live concert at the Xiri Elia taverna. It’s all organised by Ed Emery and his SOAS Rebetiko Band; learn more at facebook.com/events or, in case of a glitch, the band’s own page facebook.com/londonrebetiko.