The Episkopi Valley, more or less in the centre of Hydra Island Greece, makes a great destination for those who prefer to walk along a clearly defined route rather than hiking over rough terrain. From Hydra Town to the centre of the Episkopi Valley it takes approximately 2 hours to walk.
From Hydra Town, you take the coast road heading west passing Avlaki, Kamini Harbour, Vlychos and Vlychos Plakes before reaching the Palamida boatyard. An average person 45 minutes to walk this distance.
There is no regular boat service to Palamida.
If you prefer to reduce the coast walk from Hydra Town during the summer, you can always buy a return ticket for the beach boat that services the beach at Vlychos Plakes. From the beach, it's another 10 minutes walk to Palamida.
Alternatively, you can take a sea taxi one way (or both).
From Palamida, follow the wide level road as it continues behind the beach then turns inland to the back of the valley. When you reach the sharp left bend that goes over a small bridge, you are on the way to Episkopi. From this point, it's about another hour of walking the same level, but now inclining road, to reach the Episkopi Valley.
The Palamida to Episkopi route is a wide, level, unmade road and very easy to follow. In the summer it gets very dusty and while you could walk it in flipflops it would be better for you to wear canvas shoes or trainers. In the winter it gets very muddy and you will need trainers or better still walking boats.
To start with, the road zig-zags gently up behind the Palamida Valley with views to the sea over the olive groves. As you reach a higher elevation you will see a surprising number of houses and even chapels that you don't notice from the valley floor.
The route steadily heads west and you will notice that the landscape starts to change dramatically from the rocky barren east end of the island to the tree-clad west end. The pine trees provide welcome shade and respite from the glare of the summer sun as well as protection from winter winds in the off-season.
The next bay you will see from above is Molos. At the back of Molos beach is a privately owned estate. There is no access to it from the road. Looking out to sea, there are a couple of islets off Molos Beach. The larger, flatter one is called Kivotos, which is the landing pad for the non-emergency helicopters that transfer visitors between the island and mainland or Athens International Airport.
Further out to sea is Dokos Island and beyond that the beginning of the bay on the Peloponnese mainland where you can almost make out Ermioni.
On the road overlooking Molos Bay there is a roadside chapel which is a good halfway stopping point for refreshment and the opportunity to take photos.
The road at this point turns inland putting the Peloponnese behind you as you continue walking towards Episkopi and the sea on the south side of the island.
The Episkopi Valley is a large, bowl-shaped area with lots of houses spread over a wide area. All of the ground that is reasonably level has been cultivated to grow various crops. Some of the houses are full-time homes where the owners are fairly self-sufficient. Other houses are summer homes and only occasionally used. Mains electricity is limited and there is no mains water or sewage services. Most properties have their own self-sufficient Vothros (sewage filtering system) and Cisternas (rain-water collection tanks). And of course, there are many ruins. Sadly, European laws & restrictions have meant that many of the small farms are no longer viable as businesses and so the crops & olives, etc. are grown for the owner's use rather than to go to market. It is a harsh existence but there is a very strong community here. There are no shops or tavernas, so you will need to bring your own water or refreshments.
The road descends into the valley and then splits either side of an olive grove. Take the right fork to go up to what was originally the main village. You will probably come across herds of free-ranging horses and possibly goats. They aren't dangerous but will be fascinated to see you and will likely stand and stare at you. Just wave your arms and make shushing noises to move them on. You know when you have reached the centre of the village when you see the ruin shown in the photo above. Walk to the shaded open ground to the right of the ruin and through the trees, you will glimpse the north coast and sea towards the Peloponnese. Walk to the left of the ruin and you will be overlooking the sea to the south of the island (which eventually arrives at Crete).
There are no public buildings at Episkopi but you can walk around the perimeters of the houses. The largest property in the village is the Papastrotos family home with its beautiful chapel, Ag. Anargyrou. On the name day, the owner of the house invites everyone to attend the service and enjoy the views and hospitality of this marvellous property. The Ag. Anargyrou name day is celebrated on the 29th June each year.
If you go left at the olive grove, you can walk through the lower part of the valley to see the farms up close.
There are footpaths some better sign-posted than others, to Eros and Bisti - but don't head in those directions if you don't have a map with you.
The quickest way to return to Hydra Town is to retrace your steps.
TAKE CARE - While in my opinion, walking to Episkopi is a gentle walk, some parts of the route are unmade tracks. I advise everyone to add the volunteer emergency service number to their phone contacts before they leave town. The number is 199. So if you twist your ankle and can't walk, phone 199 and not only will help be sent but they will be able to pinpoint exactly where you are by GPS.
Also note that once you pass Vlychos Plakes, there is nowhere to buy water or refreshments. So please, at least make sure you have a flask of water in your rucksacks for everyone in your party. A hat, sunglasses and sunscreen are also sensible if you go in the summer.
Copyright Kelsey Edwards of HydraDirect June 2019.