When we were invited to a friend’s wedding in Athens, Greece, we immediately knew we just had to attend and we immediately knew we wouldn’t be spending all of our time in Athens, alone. With just three free days available to us before the wedding, we chose to visit the island of Hydra, one of the easiest islands to reach from Athens.
Why not Mykonos or Santorini? With our limited time, we wanted to spend as much time as possible relaxing before we reached Athens, and we caught wind that Hydra island is a favorite getaway of local Athenians, which sealed the deal for us.
If you have only a short period of time to explore (or in our case, relax) on a Greek island, I would strongly suggest visiting Hydra – especially if you plan to combine it with a trip to Athens. Hydra Island Greece offers nearly everything the other Greek islands offer: enchanting dark blue waters, white washed houses, fresh seafood, and plenty of spots to take a dip in the sea.
In this Hydra guide, I’ll be sharing my tips on how to get to Hydra from Athens, things to do in Hydra, Greece and Hydra restaurants.
About Hydra Island
Hydra is one of the Saronic Islands, located less than two hours by ferry from Athens in the Aegean Sea, making it the perfect quick getaway from Greece’s capitol. Life on Hydra moves at a decidedly slow pace. You won’t find any cars in the town of Hydra, or bicycles for that matter. The primary mode of transportation is by foot. Or, if you need to transport something heavy, the primary mode of transport is donkey!
You won’t find any wide, busy streets here, thankfully. On Hydra you can take your time to explore the island by foot without the hustle and bustle of a busy tourist destination. In fact, National Geographic Traveler rated Hydra island the highest out of all Greek islands in maintaining its “integrity of place”.
Today, the population of Hydra is just under 2,000, but in the 19th century, Hydra was home to 125 boats, and 10,000 sailors. In total the population was around 16,000, and the island became prosperous due to the shipping industry. After the shipping industry in Hydra collapsed (due in part to missing out on the steam ship industry that made other ports like Pireaus more important), fishing for sponge became the main industry. In fact, when you walk around the island today you’ll see sponges for sale everywhere! Nowadays, tourism is the primary industry of the island.
In the 1960s Hydra became a popular getaway for celebrities, and its easy to see how they fell in love with it. The late singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen lived on Hydra island for a period of time, and some visitors make the pilgrimage to the Leonard Cohen house Hydra.
Most visitors take a day trip to Hydra, but let me tell you, staying on Hydra for several days, taking the time to explore the winding lanes behind the port and swim in the sea is good for the soul. Hydra is a place to come and relax, to wander and just enjoy doing nothing – it sounds pretty lovely right now, actually. If you need an action-packed vacation, Hydra Island, Greece might not be the best place for you.
Things to do in Hydra, Greece
Hydra Greece Beaches
Although the beaches in Hydra might not be comparable to the beaches of say, Sardinia, there are still beautiful places to relax and take a swim in the ocean. All the locations listed below can be reached by foot – or, some of them can also be reached by water taxi if walking is too much for you.
Spilia Beach is located just outside of the center of Hydra, a very short walk from the town center. Follow the stairs down next to Spilia Beach Cafe and Bar, and you’ll find dozens of locals and tourists sprawled out over the rocks surrounding the beach. Beach may be a misnomer in this case – you’ll need to use the ladders to get in and out of the water.
Kaminia Beach is a pebbled beach, about a twenty minute walk from the Hydra port, and offers a few cafes and restaurants nearby to grab food at. Head the same direction as Spilia (to the left of the port if you’re facing the water), and continue down the walking path for twenty minutes until you reach Kaminia Beach.
Vlychos is still a bit further than Kaminia, (in total about 2km from Hydra town), so its likely to have even fewer visitors. Walking to this beach will take about forty minutes, or you can alternatively take a water taxi. This beach, unlike the others, is a true sandy beach, with lounge chairs and umbrellas available for rent, as well as a couple taverns overlooking the water.
To reach Mandraki beach you’ll need to head in the other direction from the Hyrda port, heading left instead of right. The beach at Mandraki is sandy, and maintained by Mandraki Beach Resort. You’ll find food and drinks available here, as well as lounge chairs for rent.
Although each of these beaches require a short walk from Hydra port, I think the routes to reach all of these are just as lovely as lounging at the beaches themselves.
If you still need more to do in Hydra besides going to the beach, there are a few museums to check out as well:
Climb to the mansion of Kountouriotis, a businessman who owned most of the fleet located on Hydra island, and played a big role in the rebellion. Today you can walk to his manor on the top of a hill for views of Hydra town, and pay a small fee to enter and view the museum.
Tour this 17th century cathedral, located right in the center of Hydra town. Just look for the bell tower, and you’ll find the cathedral – you really can’t miss it from Hydra port. Ensure that you wear long pants or a skirt when you enter, and cover your shoulders.
Wander… just wander through Hydra and take in the charm
I’ll let these photos speak for themselves. Sometimes there is nothing better than getting lost with your camera in a new place…
If you love seafood, culinary opportunities don’t get much better than on Hydra. I’m pretty sure that you can’t go wrong anywhere you eat, but here were a couple of my favorites:
Sunset Restaurant is exactly what it sounds like – the perfect place to watch the sun go down on Hydra island! Sunset Restaurant is located just a short walk from Spilia beach, making it easily reachable from Hydra town. This place is not only romantic, but classy, and features delicious food. According to their website, the restaurant is known as one of the best in Greece. Speaking of Greek food, there are so many delicious traditional dishes to try when you’re in Greece – get inspired with this list of traditional Greek dishes.
I’m no expert, but I can say that Sunset restaurant came highly recommended to us by our Greek friends. You’ll likely be fine to show up here with no reservations, but it might not hurt to get a table ahead of time in peak tourist season.
Kremmidi is the place to go if you’re looking for a pita, and boy, are they good here. Kremmidi is a very short walk from the Hydra port, located on Tompazi, the lane following behind Alpha Bank, and is located around the corner form 1821 cocktail bar. Make sure you grab a table outside, order a pita, and enjoy your evening.
How to get to Hydra from Athens
Getting from Hydra Island to Athens is simple – no plane ticket needed here. Boats from Athens to Hydra run frequently from Piraeus to Hydra island. The Hydra to Athens (and reverse) ferry runs about five to six times per day, and takes around two hours.
We booked our tickets ahead of time through Direct Ferries, and the total round trip cost was about $150 per person. There are cheaper ferries available for about $85 dollars, but those trips take substantially longer.
Once you arrive at Hydra port, chances are your accommodations will have arranged a donkey (or two) to transport your luggage to either your hotel or your AirBnB. You probably won’t have to worry about dragging your luggage through the town and up stairs to your accommodation.
How to get to Hydra couldn’t be easier, and once you arrive to Hydra port, you’ll feel worlds away from Athens.
Where to stay in Hydra, Greece
We stayed in Hydra town, just a short walk from the port, in an AirBnB with panoramic views of the town and port. I’d definitely recommend staying somewhere a few minutes walk away, and located on a hill. A location in the hills will cut down on noise from other tourists, and will likely give you beautiful views of the town below. One of the best things about our stay was the walk to and from our AirBnB.
Every time we ventured out we noticed something new – a beautiful doorway, playful street cats, a cafe tucked away down a side street. That’s the magic of Hydra, you can wander and find something charming around each corner.
AirBnB isn’t your thing? Check out Hydra hotels below:
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Gabby is a native (Northern) Californian who spent the majority of her 20’s living the expat life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, exploring Europe and beyond. 27 countries later, she’s relocated back to her home base in California where she explores her passions for the travel and the outdoors.