This time, for our three-day trip (I love WEEK END tours!), we chose Hydra island Greece. Although it is a small island, there are so many exciting things to do and see that I complited my favourite list of 15 top things to do in Hydra island Greece. But let’s start from some general information about Hydra island, so you will have a better idea of this “piece of paradise”.
Hydra island, Greece
Hydra island is located very close to the eastern coast of the Peloponesse Peninsula and it is part of the Saronic Islands group.
The island is just an hour and a half by ferry from the main port of Athens, famous for clear and calm waters and secluded beaches surrounded by greenery. That’s why I love the Saronic islands sooooo much!
As I wrote above, to get to Hydra from Athens is very easy. From the main port of Athens Piraeus, high-speed ferries depart for the island every day. Flyingcat and Flyingdolphin ferries will get you comfortably to this beautiful island in Greece in about 1 1/2 hours. We got the 12:00 noon ferry with a ticket price 30 euros per person, one way.
Can you imagine that at the peak of the season, a resident population of approximately 2,000 is simply lost among numerous tourists, but the most amazing thing is that there is no transport on Hydra island at all, even bicycles!
Ok, they do have a garbage truck and an ambulance, however it does not count!
Therefore, we called Hydra – the island of poets and artists who come here for inspiration and peace of mind.
So, what are these 15 TOP things to do in Hydra island Greece …
#1 Hydra donkey rides
Donkey rides in Hydra is the main type of transportation, especially if your hotel or apartment is located at the hill of the port area. Although adults rarely sit on donkeys, they are mainly used to transport luggage and children, and you can walk alongside the donkeys. We felt sorry for these animals , and didn’t want to tire them out, so we got to our guesthouse on foot (even though it was very uncomfortable with baggage).
Taking pictures of donkeys or with them is also some kind of tourist attraction. Probably the most famous photographs from the island are with donkeys in the background of the port.
By the way, there are a lot of cats as well in Hydra. They are almost everywhere, lazily lying on the streets or begging near tables in fish taverns.
#2 learn the history of Hydra and climb the bastions
Getting to know the historical sights is worth a walk through the port area, the entrance to the port is crowned with beautiful bastions. For many years they defended the island from invaders and became its permanent symbol.
In ancient times, Hydra was a sparsely populated island and the first large settlement dates back only to the Mycenaean era. Everything changed in the 16th century. At this time, Hydra became a refuge for those who tried to hide from the constant collisions between the Venetian Republic and the Ottoman Empire. In the middle of the XVIII century, the inhabitants of the island began to build ships and engaged in maritime trade.
At the zenith of the power of Hydra in 1821, the population of the island was twenty eight thousand inhabitants (now it is only about two thousand). Moreover, the outstanding military leaders – Admiral Andreas Miaoulis and the Greek Fleet Commander George Kountouriotis are from Hydra island, who participated in the war for Greek independence.
Bronze monument to Admiral Miaoulis , located in the port, surrounded by cannons. It offers panoramic views of the north coast of the island. The marble monument to Admiral Kountouriotis is also located on the harbor promenade.
#3 stay in a real mansion
If you don’t know where to stay in Hydra, start to look for accommodation at the port area. This is the most popular area, easily accessible even by foot, with many taverns, cafes, bars and historical monuments, and it is also the busiest tourist area with different shops and souvenier spots.
These are mainly boutique hotels located in the mansions, such as the hotel Miranda which located in a spectacular mansion of the early 19th century, and built in compliance with all national traditions, with an aristocratic interior and breakfast made with local products.
If you are used to luxury holidays, exellent option to stay is the Orloff Boutique Hotel, it occupies a fully restored 18th-century villa. All rooms are decorated with genuine antique furniture, and one of the main features of the fashionable hotel is a lot of paintings.
If you always want to stay in the center of events, the Cotommatae Hydra 1810 hotel is ideal as it is located a few steps from the port area. The interior of the hotel is an original combination of traditions of past years and modern charm, in all rooms, in addition to large paintings and antique furniture, there is also modern room facilities.
The thematic hotel Hydra Icons is the quite original hospitality establishments on Hydra. The interior of its attractive rooms is dedicated to world famous actors and all rooms are decorated individually.
I should note that many hotels on Hydra are quite expensive, so if you want to save money you can book various guesthouses and pansions that are also located in historic building.
For our stay I choose the lovely pansion “Efie”, with a magnificant view of the port, the city, the mountains and the church from our balcony. It is a three storey traditional mansion, which is located only 50 metres from port but in the quite neighborhood. The room was not big but comfortable with a well-equipped bathroom and free internet. The price was really good for such premium location but note that the pansion does not provide breakfast.
You can also check hotels located on the coastline from the port to Vlychos Plakes beach. You can get there by water taxi from the port or some hotels, such as the Four Seasons Hydra Luxury Suites provide for their clients their own water taxi.
Near the Mandraki beach there are also several good hotels, villas and apartments. You can get there from the port by water taxi or on foot (about 30 minutes).
#4 visit Harriets Hydra Horses
Harriet’s Hydra Horses specialize in horse treks to explore the island, visit monasteries, and “secret” bays or simply reunite with nature. The founder of the horse club Harriet speaks fluent in English and has been riding hourses from the age of three.
For children, the club provides special helmets, children stirrups and even special wooden saddles when the child wants to ride with his parents.
For a horse trek you can go alone, but mosly the club organise tours for small companies four-six persons and the trek lasts from 45 minutes to a full day. It is really an unforgettable experience for adults and children.
#5 get inspired like Leonard Cohen on Hydra
For many years, Hydra has been a favorite Greek island of famous musicians, poets, artists and actors but one of the prominent figures left a special mark in the history of the island, it was Leonard Cohen.
As Lenard Cohen himself once told, the decision to come to Greece and buy a house here was very spontaneous. On one of the typical rainy days in London, he walked along one of the streets and suddenly stopped in front of the Bank of Greece building. He went inside and asked a sun-tanned bank clerk: “What is the weather now in Greece?”. The answer was: “Spring”.
Leonard Cohen bought a house on Hydra island in Greece in 1960 and lived there for 6 years. At that time, he was a poor Canadian poet and novelist and looked for a sunny paradise, freedom, adventure, a relatively cheap life and a place to work. Leonard Cohen found all this on Hydra island.
He practically did not change anything in the house, trying to preserve his old spirit. The atmosphere of the island and home helped Leonard Cohen restore peace of mind and begin a new productive stage of his career in music and literature. Here he met his muse – the Norwegian Marianne Jensen .
Nowadays Leonard Cohen’s house on Hydra is a historical landmark. It’s a three-storey, whitewashed building, reached via several flights of steep stone steps, and it is located just above our pension with great views of the port.
#6 visit the places where Sophia Loren starred in the “Boy on a Dolphin” movie
In 1957, “The Boy on a Dolphin” movie was released with Sophia Loren, which made the island quite popular.
When reporters asked Sophia Loren what the favorite place she visited while filming a movie, the Italian superstar replied – “Hydra island in Greece”. On this island a love arose between the actress and her husband and left a deep mark in the memory of Sophia Loren.
By the way, during our stay on Hydra island, we noted a large number of Italian-speaking tourists. Could this be related to Sophia Loren and the movie? Maybe.
In 2006, the “Boy on a dolphin” statue was installed on the island of Hydra. You can find the statue on the west side of the port, just a short walk passed the canon. The statue faces the sea and offers amazing views.
#7 get acquainted with the architecture of Hydra
The architecture of Hydra is very organic and thoroughly saturated with Mediterranean color and the spirit of history.
The luxurious old mansions in Hydra that were built in the 17-19 centuries are an important symbol of the island. Many of them, as I wrote earlier, were converted into hotels and guest houses, but some remained almost in their original form and now available for visiting.
These mansions have completely restored the atmosphere of past centuries. Each mansion is a real museum with priceless exhibits, including antique furniture, beautiful paintings and tapestries, artful carpets and mosaics. Lazaros Koundouriotis Historical Mansion
Among the many old buildings, Lazaros Koundouriotis Historical Mansion is especially noteworthy, it is one of the most beautiful architectural monuments of the island.
The mansion was bulid in 1780 and later donated to the Historic-Ethnological institute of Greece. Noways it is a branch of the National museum of History. Inside the building there are rooms with many exhibitors, the frames of the ceilings are hand-painted with gilded decorations and the floor is tiled with black and white marble tiles. Among the exhibits there are paintings by Greek artists, furniture, mirrors, portraits and family relics, as well as costumes and jewelry of the 17th century.
Be sure to go up Lazaros Koundouriotis Mansion during sunset, the views are simply breathtaking.
The amazing mansion of Earl Alexei Orlov also deserves special attention, now it is converted into a luxury national restaurant.
#8 visit museums in Hydra
Of course, the island with such a rich history has several really valuable museums.
As soon as you reach the island of Hydra by ferry, a magnificent building catches your eye. It is the Historical Archives – Museum of Hydra. The museum of Hydra consists of several sections – archival and museum.
You will find information about the culture and history of the island, various documents, chronicles and archives. However, it was much more interesting for us to visit the museum part, which includes a collection of exhibits of the 18th-20th centuries, such as paintings, weapons, outfits, fragments of swimming devices and sea charts found on the island. I even found fragments of documents in Russian.
Another interesting museum is Hydra Ecclesiastic and Byzantine Museum. This museum is also known as “Monastery”. The museum was built in the XVII century, and its collection includes many ancient and rare icons, for example, the icon of Virgin Mary “Unwithered Rose”.
#9 paint your first picture … or visit one of the most famous art Gallery Melina Mercouri
Did you know that Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall created their masterpieces on Hydra? Now there are the creative workshops of the Greek Academy of Arts on the island. Young artists come here absolutely free to catch their inspiration and return to Athens with dozens of bright canvases, which they will then sell in small galleries in Athens.
One of the most interesting cultural institutions of Hydra is Melina Mercouri art Gallery. It presents a rich collection of paintings by local artists and has become a permanent venue for a wide variety of cultural events. The Gellary hosts exhibitions and master classes in national crafts, as well as enchanting concerts and theatrical performances.
#10 visit 300 churches on hydra, as well as 6 ancient monasteries
Imagine on such a small island, such a large number of churches. which during the war years served as fortifications and saved the lives of thousands of people.
Of course you don’t have to visit all but some of them are definitely worth visiting.
One of the most beautiful is considered the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Monastery). The monastery is located right in the center of the port of Hydra and we heard the chime of bells every hour, as well as the evening services. The monastery can be visited at certain hours, the schedule you will find near the entrance. While visiting the Monastery, do not forget about the appropriate clothing and photographs are prohibited (but you can ask permission from Bishop).
A rather impressive religious monument is the church of St. Constantine, it is one of the youngest churches of the island. The church was built near the city center and the port of Hydra (about 30 minutes on foot), on a high hill, which offers a magnificent panoramic view of the surroundings.
During our stay on Bisti beach, we took our SUP and discovered a Church on the next door neighboring bay. This is the church of St. George. In Hydra you can also find the churches of St. Demetrius and St. Catherine, but we did not manage to visit them. Among 300 churches, there is always the possibility to visit church in honor of your Saint.
#11 enjoy the best beaches in Hydra
Despite its small size and the fact that Hydra is not the most famous beach destination in Greece, we were pleasantly SURPRISED by the variety of beaches and their natural beauty with emerald waters. After our trip, I can definitely advise you to visit Hydra if you like cozy bays buried in greenery and clear water of the Aegean Sea.
Here is my list of the top beaches in Hydra, which you can reach on foot, by boat or water taxi.
- Kamini Beach. We decided to visit this beach on the first day of our stay on Hydra, but although it is only 0.5 kilometers from the port, under the hot summer sun and streets made of stones, was not very comfortable for us. We got a little tired getting there. Kamini beach is a small pebble beach, with sunbeds and umbrellas that belong to the Castello restaurant, which you have to pay 4 euros for a sunbed. They even have Wi-Fi. There were waves that day and a lot of tourists on the beach, therefore, we did not stay there for a long time. On the beach we ordered a delicious lemonade and a Greek salad which was perfect for our day on the beach.
- St. Nikolaos Beach. On the second day we went to this beach on a special boat, which runs on a schedule (the schedule can be found on boats in the port). We took a boat (15 euro round way per person) that leaves at 12:00 noon and takes about half an hour to get to the bay. You can get there by water taxi but it’s really expensive. The St. Nikolaos beach is located in a cozy bay, mostly covered in pebbles, but at the very end of the beach where we found sunbeds was sandy. Umbrellas and sunbeds are paid (4 euros per person), but they have enough for everyone, there is also a small beach bar with refreshments and snacks. The water was spotlessly clean and with many small bays where we discovered on our SUP. You definately should to visit this beach.
There is no internet and telephone connection on the beach, so payments for sunbeds and beach bar are CASH only!
- Bisti Beach. We got to this beach next day on the same boat, the trip lasts 20 minutes and the ticket costs 12 euros round way per person. It is the greenest beach in Hydra, althrough it is narrow and many sunbeds are set up in a pine forest. Swimming here is just a pleasure. We could spend the whole day swimming and relaxing. By the way, we had Internet here (YEAH!!!) but again payment for sunbeds (4 euro per person) and at the beach bar in cash only. The last boat leaves the beach at 18:00.
- Spilia Beach. The most popular beach, as it is located right next to the port. It is rather not even a beach, but a rock platform. Mostly suitable for adults and you can get refreshments in the cafe “Spilia”.
- Hydronetta Beach. The second beach after Spilia area. This is also a platform beach with a cafe on the top. The waters here deep, so it’s also suitable only for adults.
- Avlaki Beach. It is a small rocky beach only 100 m away from port. There is no cafe nearby, so it’s better to take all refreshments with you.
- Vlychos Beach. It is mostly sandy beach, only 1 km west along the coast with all needed facilities (sunbeds, umbrellas, tavern, restaurant). You can get there also by local boat or water taxi. Vlychos beach is suitable for families with children as it has shallow waters in the beginning.
- Vlychos Plakes Beach. Very popular beach thanks to the nearby hotel Four Seasons Hydra. It is mix pebbles and sand beach with all needed facilitiest and about 1, 5 km from the port. The easiest way to get here by boast (6 euro per person round way) or water taxi but you can reach the beach also on foot.
- Mandraki beach. It is the only sandy beach in Hydra island, located 1.2 kilometeres east from Hydra main port. For 10 euro per day, you have sunbeds with thick matrasses, a umbrella, a bottle of water, complimentary sorbet and beach towels. You can get here either on foot or by water taxi.
- Molos Beach. A very lively bay, which you can reach by water taxi (no boat rout) or even on foot. There no beach facilities, so all refreshments and snacks you have to bring with you. Molos beach is the top place for snorkeling and here you will find multi-colors shells.
- Nisiza Beach (southwest coast), Klimaki Beach (north coast), Limnioniza Beach (south coast). They are the real “secret” beaches of Hydra with clearest waters but without beach facilities. You can reach them only by water taxi or by hiking.
READ ALSO: “Agistri: the best beaches”
#12 taste the local cuisine
Maybe there are no “special” dishes on Hydra island, but wherever you taste breakfast, lunch or dinner, they are cooked with love and local products.
Breakfast in Hydra
There are a lot of cafes in the port area which provide a breakfast menu. For our first morning, we choose one of the most popular cafes on the island – “Isalos“. It has the reach and tasty breakfast menu (omelet, yogurt, toast with jam and honey, orange juice, coffee, and orange pie) for two (25 euro) and we stayed full almost all day.
“Sinialo” cafe is another good place for breakfast. They also had a variety of breakfasts. Dimitris enjoyed the “European breakfast”, and I – “Fitness breakfast”. We paid for both 24 euro.
Lunch/Dinner in Hydra
All days in the afternoon, when we were on the beach, we mainly ordered fruits to eat, so the main feast was in the evening but what delicious restaurants we visited!
On the first evening, we visited the restaurant “H Oraia Hydra“, which is located in the heart of the port area and my friends advise me. Since it was the peak of the season and Sunday evening, I decided to book a table in advance and it is good that I did! Thirty minutes later there was no a single empty table! This restaurant has a really good choice of seafood and fish dishes. Try one of their amazing salads, several appetizers (shrimp pie was yummy!) and the main dish for each (seafood risotto must! ). Have more room? Their desserts are also topnotch!
On the second evening, we visited the “Plakostroto” restaurant located in one of the side streets of the city. What a romantic place! Tables are located in the green garden, in the back, there is also a cocktail bar. This time we ordered meat dishes that simply melted in our mouths. Be sure to try the fried cheese with local honey and the octopus with Santorini fava. Everything was divinely delicious.
I can definitely say, that it is rarely you can find so many delicious places with a good serving and service on a small island and Hydra has it all!
#13 explore Hydra’s “secret” paths and Hydra hiking
As soon as we arrived at the port, I noticed a map of the hiking paths on Hydra. The island has different paths, both for half an hour, and the most remote for the whole day. The most popular Hydra hiking paths are along Western Hydra (above five hours), Eastern Hydra (above six hours), to Heroic Harbour (about two and a half hours) and even on the uninhabited islet of Dokos. I have never thought that Hydra hiking is so popular!
While hiking along Hydra you can admire both sea and mountain landscapes, discover unexplored bays and see a lot of small churches.
#14. take a part in one of the festivals on Hydra
Hydra’s national holidays and festivals are celebrated very colorfully and the island is popular all year round.
In Ηydra you can celebrate an unforgettable Easter. It all starts from Holy Friday in the port Kamini and ends on Eastern Sunday in the main port, where the locals “burn Judas” and launch fireworks.
On November 14, they celebrate the most important religious festival of the local Saint – Agios Konstantinos.
Meaoulia festival takes place at the end of June when the sea battle with the Ottoman army is represented on the island.
During the summer, a large number of cultural events are held on Hydra, such as art exhibitions, theater performances, sculptural workshops, and others.
You can take part in the International Puppet Festival, which takes place in July and August. At this period, Hydra island hosts numerous music festivals, theater performances, and exhibitions.
#15 one day trip to Hydra
Ηydra Island in Greece is a great place for a one day trip. Due to its proximity to Athens, many tourists come to the island in the morning and leave in the evening.
You can also visit the island during a one-day cruise on the island (I have been on the island about three times during this cruise).
Since the most interesting things in Hydra are located in the main port area, and the beaches can be reached on foot, more and more tourists choose this island for a one-day tour from Athens. Although Hydra island deserves several and more days to explore it…
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