How to tell the differnce: A mule has bigger ears than a horse, donkeys have the biggest ears but are the shortest.
The infrastructure and economy of Hydra Island Greece depends almost entirely on Equine Power! Mules are the heavy loaders and are used to transport goods such as luggage, plants, white goods, furniture, shopping and building material. Horses tend to be used to transport people but only occasionally shopping or a couple of suitcases. Donkeys aren't as many in Hydra as they used to be and tend to be kept as pets or for personal transportation as they can't carry the enormous loads that mules can.
Mule & Horse Hire
The mules and horses that are available to ride or to transport luggage are found in the East corner (Alpha Bank) of the harbour.
The rates charged for various destinations, whether to carry your bags to a hotel/house or you want a ride around town, are published on the back of the notice board (next to the bins) opposite the Alpha Bank.
If you are staying in a house rental, the owner/manager of the house will most likely have arranged for their preferred muleteer to be available. Of course this means that you MUST let them know what time you will land on the island and what mode of transport you will be taking (Hellenic Flying Dolphin/Cat, water taxi, passenger ferry from Metochi or even if you are landing by helicopter on Kivotos Islet!)
If you are staying at a hotel/guest house, then it is likely that when you get off the dolphin you will see a handcart operator holiding a card up with the name of the place you are staying at. Say hello and let them load your bags in their cart then follow them.
If however you are not being met and you need to get your bags to a hotel, you will have to walk to the corner of the harbour and hire a mule (if your bags are too heavy to carry or you don't know where the accommodation is).
Prices for mule hire vary depending upon the zone you want to go to.
Basically you will pay between €10 (Zone A) and €20 per mule (Zone B) for most places but please note that even though the sign says 4 pieces of luggage, what it actually means is 2 suitcases and 2 pieces of handluggage. So if there are four of you, most likely you will need 2 mules.
Anything higher or further out of the town will cost slightly more and you should check the price before you set out.
Rides around the town are a popular activity if you want a short novelty ride. The pricing causes a bit of confusion so here is a summary:
A short ride of 15 minutes round the town will cost €15 per mule (only one person on the mule!)
If there is a group of 20 or more people, the price of a 15 minute ride comes down to €10 per mul (again only one person on the mule).
All rides start with each person mounting from the steps on the corner of the Alpha Bank (it's easier and less ... personal, than being hitched onto the mule by the muleteer!).
The town ride takes you through the back streets to the football field and back.
If you want to stay within the town and ride for a bit longer, there is a 25 minute trek which will cost you €20 that takes you up to the wells at Kala Pigadi and back.
As the saddles are the traditional wooden variety on most of the town mules/horses, to be realistic, you won't be comfortable enough to do a longer excursion.
If you do want to go further, for example up to one of the monasteries, then you should pre-book a trek with one of the horse trekking companies.
There are two trekking companies that offer helmets, comfortable western saddles with a guide and various treks. They are not found in the harbour (and sadly the town muleteers are reluctant to give directions) so if you want to go further afield, click the link for more details.