Surrounded by the Cerulean waters of the Saronic Gulf, the quaint little island of Hydra provides travellers with a journey back in time. Here, there are no cars or vehicles and people get around by horses and donkeys.
Stone houses, artist’s workshops, ramshackle antique stores, and traditional Greek tavernas line the narrow streets that are so neatly intertwined in a labyrinth-style network of alleys and passageways. Hydra provides a glimpse into life in Greece before modernity.
- 1 Falling in Love with Beautiful Hydra
- 2 Things to do in Hydra, Greece
- 2.1 Explore the Port Area
- 2.2 Visit the Museum of Hydra
- 2.3 Visit the Fishing Villages of Kamini and Vlychos
- 2.4 Watch the Local Fishermen
- 2.5 Hike Through Some of the Best Nature in the Saronic Gulf
- 2.6 Enjoy the Views from the Prophet Elias Monastery
- 2.7 Visit the Church of the Assumption
- 2.8 Go Horseback Riding
- 2.9 Climb the Bastions at Hydra Port
- 2.10 Make a Pilgrimage to the Leonard Cohen House
- 2.11 Take a Day Trip to Spetses
- 2.12 Visit One of the World’s Most Beautiful Pharmacies
- 3 Best Restaurants on Hydra Island
- 4 Where to Stay on Hydra Island
- 5 The Best Beaches on Hydra Island
- 6 Hydra Tours from Athens
- 7 Getting to Hydra by Boat from Piraeus
- 8 Getting Around Hydra Island
- 9 How Long to Spend on Hydra Island
- 10 When to Travel to Hydra
Falling in Love with Beautiful Hydra
Hydra is often referred to as being Athens’ answer to Italy’s Capri. The island certainly has an elegant air to it that feels deserved of the title.
Home to one of the most picturesque ports in Greece, Hydra also played an important role in Greek history. It was here where many of the battles between the Greeks and the Ottoman Turks took place during the 1820 war of independence.
Things to do in Hydra, Greece
Whether stopping by for a few days or simply visiting Hydra on a day trip from Athens, Hydra makes a lovely addition to any Greece itinerary. A selection of the best things to do during your time on the island is detailed below.
Explore the Port Area
A lot of Hydra’s charm is simply found in embracing the laidback Greek island lifestyle. Wandering around the port, occasionally ducking into the eclectic stores of local designers, and exploring the quintessentially Greek blue and white painted streets and plazas is a nice way to while away the day in Hydra.
As the evening approaches, the sun dips behind the clouds and the skies are illuminated in hues of pink and orange, head across to the sunset restaurant for chic cocktails and breathtaking views over the sea.
Visit the Museum of Hydra
Where: Miaouli 454, Idra 180 40, Greece
Did you know that the little island of Hydra played an incredibly important role during the war of independence against the Turkish? It was on these shores in 1821 that the Greeks engaged in one of their most ferocious battles against the Turks. The cannons scattered around the port area today were onced used to defend Hydra’s people and fleet.
The Museum of Hydra provides an interesting glimpse into the island’s history and culture, including the War of Independence. Artifacts including traditional dress, military uniform, marine maps, and weaponry are displayed in chronological order to tell the history of Hydra island.
Visit the Fishing Villages of Kamini and Vlychos
A pleasant walking trail leads beside the sea and runs from Hydra port to the adorable fishing villages of Kamini and Vlychos. The trail is easy enough to find – from the main port of Hydra turn left, past the sunset restaurant, and continue walking until you reach the two villages.
Kamini and Vlychos are both incredibly picturesque. It seems that most tourists that visit Hydra are day-trippers from Athens that simply linger around the port. As such, you won’t find crowds here.
The ambiance of the villages is altogether more authentic also – there are no stores selling tourist tat and souvenirs. Instead, you will find local fishermen preparing their boats for a day at sea, Greek Yia Yia’s doing their grocery shopping, and other scenes of authentic Greek island life.
Watch the Local Fishermen
If you can wake up early and head down to the port area, you will witness Hydra at its most tranquil before all of the tourist day-trippers arrive. Between around 6 and 8am, the only people around are the local fishermen, as they try their luck in the clear waters, or prepare to take their boats out to sea. This is also a great time to take photographs, as the sun just starts to glimmer over the horizon.
Hike Through Some of the Best Nature in the Saronic Gulf
There are many hiking trails that run through the island of Hydra. The paths are generally clear, well sign-posted and follow flat terrain so they are well-suited to hikers of all abilities.
Two of the easiest routes to find are the walk from Hydra port to Kamini and Vlychos or the ascent up to the Prophet Elias Monastery. The former takes you along the seafront. The latter leads to incredible panoramas over the island landscape.
Both hikes take approximately 3 hours round trip and lead through meadows, farmlands, and fields filled with fragrant flowers. Those who wish for a longer hike can continue onwards from Vlychos towards Palimdas and the church of Agia Marina.
Enjoy the Views from the Prophet Elias Monastery
If you decide to embark on the two hour hike to Hydra’s Prophet Elias Monastery, you will not be disappointed. The 1813 Monastery is perched on the slopes of Mount Eros – the island’s highest peak.
The interiors of Prophet Elias Monastery are just as spectacular as the panoramas around it. The site boasts a cobblestone courtyard, vegetable gardens, and interiors laden with vibrant frescoes. On your ascent to the monastery, be sure to stop by the small nunnery that is hidden in the trees (Monastery of Agia Efpraxia).
Visit the Church of the Assumption
The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin is a little church in Hydra’s port area that dates back to 1643. It was originally built as a monastery, and is worth a couple of minutes of your time as you explore the port.
The former cells of the prison have been converted into a small museum. Today, they contain a mishmash of artifacts from Hydra island – including jewelry and traditional clothing.
Go Horseback Riding
As horses and donkeys are still the main forms of transportation on Hydra island, there really is no better way to get around like a true Hydra-ite than by opting to do so on horseback.
Several reputable tour companies lead horse treks through the towns, villages, and mountains. It is prudent to check the reputation of the company before booking.
Though I personally did not do a horse tour and decided to hike everywhere, Harriet’s Horses is one local company with a good reputation. If you are concerned about ethics and the wellbeing of the animals. Harriet’s company is a good shout since the horses have been rescued from neglectful owners.
Climb the Bastions at Hydra Port
It is possible to climb the bastions at Hydra Port. From up here, you have incredible views across the Saronic Gulf and the Aegean Sea.
These bastions were originally created to hold cannons. They were used as defensive weapons against the Turkish in the 18th century.
Make a Pilgrimage to the Leonard Cohen House
Leonard Cohen’s house is perhaps something that you would not expect to find on a little Greek island in the heart of the Aegean. Did you know that Cohen lived here during the 60s? There are several places around the island which he used to frequent. There is even a portion of the beach dedicated to him.
Cohen’s former residence is not signposted as a tourist attraction (it’s now occupied by someone else). However, fans of the Singer may want to stop by his house while in town.
You should first head to the “Four Corners” grocery shop, and from there, turn right to see a three-story whitewashed building with a door knocker in the shape of a hand. If you struggle to locate the house, don’t hesitate to ask a local. You will not be the first tourist to seek it out!
Take a Day Trip to Spetses
Spetses is situated just an hour away from Hydra by boat and the two islands make a nice travel pairing. While Hydra is quaint and picturesque, Spetses is altogether more rugged and wild – boasting vast areas of a national park and numerous hiking trails that lead you to secluded beaches, ancient monasteries, and picturesque churches.
If you don’t have time to dedicate a few days to Spetses, you can hop on the boat from Hydra in the morning and return again in the evening. Like Hydra, there are no cars or public transport on Spetses and so your best option is to rent an ATV, a scooter or a bicycle.
Visit One of the World’s Most Beautiful Pharmacies
The Rafalias pharmacy in Hydra has the proud title of being considered one of the most beautiful pharmacies in the world. That sounds like a random, not-so-interesting feat but the pharmacy is so cute and particular that it grabbed my attention and made me stop to explore it before I even realised it was well-known.
Rafalias pharmacy dates back over 400 years and its interiors have been excellently preserved in order to preserve their original charm. Here you can find ornate pinewood furnishings and products sold in old-fashioned little bottles. It is easy to spot Rafalias as you are walking around Hydra.
Best Restaurants on Hydra Island
At first glance, Hydra town may seem like a bit of a tourist trap. Truthfully, there are a lot of restaurants here that are overpriced and serve food that is not very good quality. I guess that that is something that happens anywhere where there are a lot of tourists.
Among those places though, there are some wonderful hidden gems to discover. I have detailed a few of the best restaurants on Hydra island below.
Where: Tompazi 8, Idra 180 40, Greece
If it is traditional Greek food you are after, Paradosiakó is the place to go. The sign is actually in Greek so the above is the translation.
You can’t miss Paradosiakó though, it is a charming little place decorated in blue and white. More locals than tourists were dining here which is always a good sign in my book. This place was actually recommended to me by my hotel owners.
Paradosiakó specializes in fresh seafood dishes but if like me you don’t eat seafood, you can also order other Greek favourites like Soutzoukakia (deliciously seasoned meatballs in tomato sauce), fresh Greek salads, and fava beans. Paradosiakó offers excellent quality food at a good value.
Where: Ύδρα 180 40, Greece
Oraia translates to meaning “beautiful Hydra” and this homely taverna could not have a more fitting name. The restaurant sits right beside the port area where you can enjoy fresh seafood as you watch the sailboats bob along in the water, and waves lap against the shore.
The taverna owners pride themselves on the freshness of their ingredients, and all of the fish and seafood dishes are prepared with the latest catches. Oraia has a reputation for serving up some of the best fish dishes in Hydra. The menu options showcase traditional Greek classics with a creative twist – e.g. fresh shrimp served with orzo pasta.
Il Casta Restaurant
Where: Il Casta, Tompazi, Idra 180 40, Greece
Hydra’s Il Casta restaurant boasts authentic Neapolitan Italian cuisine and is a nice palette change if you have been travelling in Greece for a while and are hoping for a change from the usual Greek dishes.
Think rich pasta dishes, warm chewy gnocchi, and flavourful pizzas, all to be washed down with a glass of limoncello and an iced granita.
Where: Taverna Christina, Kamini Town, Idra, Greece
If you do decide to embark on the scenic walk from Hydra town to Kamini and Vlychos, Kamini’s Taverna Christina is a nice place to stop for lunch to break up the journey.
Situated in the sleepy fishing village of Kamini, Taverna Christina is a family-run restaurant that has been passed down through the generations (now managed by the children of the namesake owner Christina).
The vegetables prepared in the dishes are grown at the restaurant’s own garden, and the fish dishes are served using the day’s catches by the local fishermen. As you dine, you have lovely views over the Kamini marina.
Where: Sachtouri 75, Idra 180 40, Greece
Taverna Gitoniko has been capturing the hearts of locals and travellers for more than 25 years. The restaurant is tucked away down a little side street in Hydra’s city centre, where ascending the ramshackle staircase to Gitoniko’s terrace leads you to some of the best views on the island.
All of your favourite Greek classic and meze dishes can be found here – from zucchini balls and saganaki to souvlaki and kokoretsi. Vegetarian options are available, and the meat and fish dishes are prepared with quality ingredients sourced locally. Be sure to enjoy your meal with the wines sourced from local vineyards.
Techne Restaurant Hydra
Where: Epar.Od. Mandrakiou-Molou, Idra 180 40, Greece
Techne Restaurant provides a sophisticated dining choice just outside the centre of Hydra’s Port area. The menu here focuses on modern versions of classic dishes from across Greece and the Mediterranean.
From Techne’s outdoor dining area, you have unparalleled views over the Aegian sea. Innovative cocktails prepared by the resident mixologists make a perfect accompaniment to your dinner.
Where to Stay on Hydra Island
There are plenty of charming boutique hotels and B&B style accommodation choices in Hydra. Comfortable rooms in the centre of the town can be found at prices starting from 30 euros per night. A selection of highly-rated hotels on Hydra island are discussed below for your consideration.
I stayed at the Athina Guesthouse for two nights and definitely recommend it. I had an incredible view of Hydra from my lovely little room and the owners were very friendly and even collected me from the boat port to help me with my luggage which I thought was very kind. You can browse the latest availability and room rates at the Athina Guesthouse here.
The Hydra Hotel provides the ultimate luxury getaway experience. The chic rooms are set inside an idyllic blue and whitewash building that is oh so quintessentially Greek.
The decor is bright and modern, and the luxury ambiance comes without the luxury price tag – rooms at the Hydra Hotel start from just €65 per night including breakfast. Click here for the latest availability and room rates.
The Hydrea Hotel offers a travel experience fit for a King (or Queen). The five star hotel is set inside a renovated 19th century mansion, just a stone’s throw away from Hydra Port. Rooms are elegantly decorated, and the hotel’s terraces and private balconies offer breathtaking views over the water at sunrise and sunset.
Rooms at the Hydrea Hotel start from around €240 per night. Click here for the latest availability and room rates.
A Note on Booking Hydra Hotels
Hydra is popular during the summer months, particularly as a weekend getaway from Athens so if travelling between June and September it is advisable to try and reserve your rooms a week or two in advance of your intended arrival in Hydra.
The Best Beaches on Hydra Island
Hydra’s beaches may not have the same tropical island paradise feel like those on other Greek islands but they are a nice place to stop and relax in the midst of sightseeing. A selection of Hydra beaches to add to your radar are detailed below. Some are accessible on foot, while others require the use of a water taxi.
Agios Nikolaos Beach
Hydra’s Agios Nikolaos beach is perhaps the most idyllic on the island. It is nestled within a secluded cove and surrounded by translucent turquoise waters and pine trees.
Agios Nikolaos beach is accessible on foot or via a sea taxi from Hydra port. The beach is serviced, and it is possible to purchase refreshments and rent umbrellas here.
“Spilia” is a nice place to relax close to the Hydra port during the summer months. Spilia is not exactly a beach per se, but a rocky plateau that protrudes from the sea. While you cannot dig your toes into the sand here, Spilia is popular among locals for diving into the waters, swimming and sunbathing.
Vlichos beach is the namesake beach of the fishing village of Vlichos. This pebbled beach is well-serviced and is perfect for families or those who want a beach that provides all the amenities. It is possible to rent sunbeds and umbrellas and Vlichos beach, and a plethora of tavernas and bars line the shores offering plenty of opportunities for refreshment breaks.
Bisti beach is a pebbled beach set inside a rocky cove. The rugged scenery that encompasses the beach feels wilder and more undisturbed than most Hydra beaches.
The beach is commercialised, with refreshments and rentals served, but its location on the islands west coast means that Bisti escapes the attention of tourists. The rocky pools beside the beach are filled with sea life, and a popular place to search for crabs, starfish and sea urchins. The dirt trail that runs behind the beach takes you to the little whitewashed chapel of St. George.
Avlaki beach can be found just a short walk away from Hydra town. If you continue walking along the coast from the rocky outcrop of Spila, you will find the secret cove of Avlaki.
The best way to reach Avlaki beach is on foot. The clear, translucent waters of the beach are perfect for swimming and snorkeling. It should be noted that you have to descend down several stone steps to reach the beach.
Hydra Tours from Athens
I would recommend staying overnight on Hydra island if your schedule permits. This allows you the chance to visit some of the secluded beaches and cute fishing villages that are only accessible by hike or sea taxi.
If you are short on time, you may wish to consider the below Hydra tours that depart from Athens. It is also possible to book “island hopper” tours that allow you to cover several Saronic Gulf islands in one day.
- Full-Day Saronic Island Tour from Athens
- Full-Day Cruise to Aegina, Poros, and Hydra from Athens
- Full-Day Saronic Tour from Athens with an Archaeologist
Getting to Hydra by Boat from Piraeus
Hydra is easily accessible via a short boat journey from Athens’ Piraeus port. To reach the island, you will board the “flying dolphin” – a compact, speedy little boat that zips along the waves.
Boats from Piraeus to Hydra depart several times per day. You can check the precise schedule here as it is subject to seasonal changes. The journey takes approximately two hours. You can typically pick your tickets up from the ticket office at Piraeus port on your intended day of travel, however, if you are travelling during the summer season or you need to board a specific boat, it is advisable to purchase them online in advance.
Getting Around Hydra Island
No vehicles are permitted on Hydra island and locals tend to get around by using donkeys and mules. Your best options for getting around Hydra as a tourist are to either walk, or take the water taxis.
Hydra Water Taxis
It is possible to take a water taxi from just outside the Corner Cafe in Hydra’s port area. Hydra’s water taxis will take you to the villages of Kamini and Vlychos, and some of the secluded coves that are not accessible on foot (e.g. Saint Nicholas beach).
Check the price before boarding. Ideally, speak to your hotel owner to clarify how much you should pay. If you are getting a water taxi to a remote area, you will need to book your return journey in advance, as there will be nowhere to do so on the other side.
The port area of Hydra is so compact that you can easily explore its entirety in a few hours. Routes to nearby villages and beaches are well-signposted with black and yellow-painted signs.
How Long to Spend on Hydra Island
I would recommend spending at least one night in Hydra in order to give yourself the opportunity to go a little off the beaten path and away from the main town.
Two nights are great for moving at a more relaxed pace. That said, it is wholly possible to take the first ferry from Athens in the morning and return in the evening.
There are also Saronic Gulf boat tours like this one that departs daily from Athens. These tours offer a “whistle-stop” tour around several Saronic Gulf islands which are great if you are limited for time. That said, you should keep in mind that these tours will only provide you with one or two hours to explore Hydra.
When to Travel to Hydra
It is possible to travel to Hydra between March and September each year. While it is technically possible to travel during the Autumn and Winter months, travellers should keep in mind that the boats tend to run on a more limited schedule. Adverse weather conditions during winter in Greece can often mean cancellations and disruptions.
If your main interest in visiting Hydra is for hiking or exploring the towns, consider visiting during the spring (March to early June). This enables you to enjoy pleasant temperatures that are not overbearingly hot.
Travelling at this time also means fewer tourists and lower travel costs. Summer is a nice time to visit Hydra if you want to enjoy the beaches and resorts. However, you should keep in mind that this is also the time that a lot of Greek locals take their vacations.
Have any questions about things to do in Hydra or Greece travel in general? I live in Pagrati, Athens and would be happy to help with any questions you have. Feel free to just drop me a comment below. Safe travels, Melissa xo
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