65km (35 nautical miles) S of Piraeus

Hydra is one of a handful of places in Greece that seemingly can't be spoiled. Along with Mykonos, this was one of the first Greek islands to be "discovered" by the beautiful people in the '50s and '60s. Today, there are often more day-trippers here than "beautiful people," although when elegant Athenians flee their stuffy apartments for their Hydriote hideaway each summer, the harborfront turns into an impromptu fashion show. If you can, arrive in the evening, when most of the day visitors have left, and rejoice in the cool of the evening. Whatever you do, be sure to be on the deck of your ship as you arrive, so you can see Hydra's bleak and steep hills suddenly reveal its perfect horseshoe harbor overlooked by the 18th-century clock tower of the Church of the Dormition. This truly is a place where arrival is half the fun. But the best is yet to be when you step ashore.

Let's start with the cars -- or, more precisely, their absence. With the exception of a handful of municipal vehicles, there are no cars on Hydra. You'll probably encounter at least one form of local transportation: the donkey. When you see Hydra's splendid 18th- and 19th-century stone archontika (mansions) along the waterfront and on the steep streets above, you won't be surprised to learn that the island has been declared a national treasure by the Greek government and the Council of Europe. You'll probably find Hydra town so charming that you'll forgive its one serious flaw: no top-notch beach. Do as the Hydriots do, and swim from the rocks at Spilia and Hydronetta, just beyond the main harbor, or hop on one of the caiques that ply from Hydra town to the relatively quiet island beaches.