Hydra Island (or Ydra or Idra) is a stunning Greek island just off the mainland coast. It’s small in size but packs so many things to do in Hydra for all visitors. It’s the perfect island in Greece to relax on, enjoy a few delicious meals, and enjoy all the beautiful beaches.
You could easily visit for one day and feel satisfied, or stay an entire week and never get bored. However long you stay, we promise you won’t be disappointed!
Where is Hydra?
Hydra, pronounced Ýdra (like ee-dra) is part of the Saronic Island group of Greece and one of the best places to visit. It is separated from the Peloponnese by a narrow strip of water and takes less than one hour via ferry to get to from the mainland.
It’s a popular Greek Island to visit, especially with Athenians, since it just a short day trip away from Athens. Hydra is a scenic island well known for it’s artsy scene, many galleries, whitewashed houses, and for it’s lack of motorized vehicles.
Yes you read that right, the only internal combustion vehicles on the island are the few city-owned trucks and a fire truck. Other than that you will have to walk, take a donkey, or sea taxi to get around Hydra.
We visited Hydra this past summer. It was our 15th Greek Island we’ve ever visited, and it quickly shot up as one of our favorites.
How to Get to Hydra
Before we dive into the best things to do in Hydra, let’s discuss transport. As far as Greek Islands go, Hydra is actually pretty easy to get to, thanks to it’s quick direct ferries from Athens. There are frequent ferries between Piraeus and Hydra that take two hours. There are also slower ferries that are a bit cheaper. It’s best to check Ferry Hopper to see ferry schedules.
In the heat of summer these ferries will book up so it’s best to book online beforehand. All ferries will drop you off in Hydra Town. If you aren’t near Athens yo can also catch a ferry from mainland Greece at the ports of Ermioni and Porto Cheli during the high season.
Getting Around Hydra
As mentioned there are no motorized vehicles or types of transportation on Hydra. This means no cars, no mopeds, no quads. Getting around the main harbor is easy on foot. If you really want to explore the island you’ll have to hire a donkey or boat taxi from Hydra town.
The Best Things to do in Hydra
Admire The Captains’ Mansions of Hydra
Many sea captains lived on the island of Hydra and their handsome salaries allowed them to build lavish mansions, many of which were donated to various organizations that continue to maintain them.
As you enter the harbor area, to the left you’ll find the Tsamadou Mansion. A section of The Athens School of Fine Arts is housed in The Tombazis Mansion and the former mansion of Lazaros and George Kountouriotis is part of the National Museum of History.
Several other mansions, including Voulgaris, Miaoulis and Boudouris, are home to collections of antique furnishings. If someone is around a property, ask if you can have a peek. You never know, they may offer a tour!
Attend the Miaoulia Festival
The Miaoulia Festival is one of the biggest events on Hydra and unofficially marks the start of summer. It’s one of the best things to do in Hydra. This vibrant festival takes place in June and features historical re-enactments, traditional dance shows, musical performances, naval fireworks, lectures, sporting events, parades, art exhibits and tributes to notable community members.
There are various areas on the island to enjoy the festival but it’s mostly around the main village. If you’re unable to attend the entire festival, check the schedule and plan your itinerary so you’re able to see as many unique events as possible. The festival is free!
Kick Back at Hydronetta Beach Cafe
You could say that Hydronetta Beach Cafe is extraordinary. It’s certainly unlike any ordinary cafe! For one, how many cafes have you been to where you can walk down a few steps and be swimming in the Mediterranean Sea?
For a caffeine jolt before you head out on the day’s adventure, try The Freddo Cappuccino. Afternoons in Hydra get very hot and Hydronetta is a great place to relax in the breeze while sipping a famous peach Daiquiri.
At sunset, sit outside with a cocktail, beer or glass of wine as the sun slips beneath the waves and live jazz music fills the air.
The food is good too! Think delicious salads and local delicacies such as octopus, locally-caught fish and parfaits. For a relaxing day, spend an entire day at Hydronetta sipping coffee, drinking cocktails, swimming, meeting locals and listening to live music.
- Location: Mandrakiou-Molou, Idra, Hydra Town 18040
- Cost: Prices vary depending on what you order but the price range is anywhere from €4 for a drink and €35 for a delicacy.
Catch a Show at Hydrama Theatre & Arts Centre
One of the best ways to experience Greek culture is through theater and The Hydrama Theatre showcases modern theatrical and dance performances in a stunning venue on a plot of land overlooking the sea.
The theatre is located below the Mycenaean Settlement in Vlychos, and during July and August, performances are free.
Go for a Dip in the Mediterranean Sea
If there’s one thing you must do while in Hydra, it’s swim in the Mediterranean Sea. There’s no shortage of beautiful beaches with stunning scenery.
In nearby Spilia and Hydronetta, there are swimming platforms that you can dive or jump off. Avlaki Beach is only 100 meters from the island’s main town. Just south of town, you’ll find Kamini, Vlychos and Plakes Beaches. Bisti, Agios Nikolaos and Limnionizia Beaches are further down the coast.
For some added adventure, take a water taxi to Bisti Beach and enjoy some of the best snorkeling around. North of the main town, you’ll find Mandraki Bay which is Hydra’s only sandy beach. Pretty much all along the coast you can find fantastic places to swim!
Invest in some water shoes because most of the beaches are rocky. Many of the shops around town sell them.
Take a Walk Along the Coast to Lovely Kamini
Heading west from Hydra Harbour is a coastal path leading to the fishing village of Kamini. The walk takes about 15 minutes and along the way, you’ll see stunning vistas, a historic windmill and a statue of a boy on a dolphin. The village is immediately recognizable by the colorful boats in the harbor. As you explore Kamini, you’ll find a small beach near an old fortification and several eateries and shops.
The path is to the west of Hydra Harbour and Kamini is a 15-minute walk along the coast. If you keep walking along the coast past Kamini to reach the beaches of Vlychos and Plakes.
Embark on a Horseback Riding Journey
An interesting fact about Hydra is the island doesn’t have any cars. You’re likely aware of the water taxis, but you may be wondering how people get around on land? Well, they have several solutions to this dilemma, one of them being the use of donkeys, horses, and mules.
At Harriet’s Hydra Horses, Harriet Jarman offers ten different tours that last from 30 minutes to eight hours. Some of the popular trips include Agios Fotini Monastery and Town and St. Konstantinos.
Tours range from €25 to €175 depending on the length and type of tour you choose. For something different from your typical horseback riding adventure, opt for the tour that allows you to go swimming with your horse.
Hang out with Some Friendly Cats
There’s a reason Hydra is often referred to as The Island of Cats. There’s a large number of cats roaming around, particularly near the harbor where they can get an easy feed of fish. While many are feral, they’re quite friendly and most will allow you to give them a pet. A great way to hang out with the island’s cats is to take a walk around the main town near where the boats come in.
Residents and a charity group called Hydra Ark look after the cats and you can even volunteer to help out during your stay.
Treat Yourself to Something Special at Techne Restaurant
Laid back, but sophisticated. Modern, but vintage. Techne is a world of contrasts but if you’re looking for an amazing meal, this is the place to be. Its location is enough to draw you in. A historic building on Avlaki Beach with a lovely courtyard with tables under palm trees.
Traditional Greek and Mediterranean recipes with a modern spin made with only the freshest ingredients available are on the menu. Aegean sea bass, beef rib and a range of starters, salads and pasta dishes is just a sampling of what’s available.
Menu items cost between €7 and €32 and it’s worth it to try at least one of the delicious signature cocktails including the popular Aegean Breeze.
Visit the Prophet Elias Monastery
To visit the Prophet Elias Monastery, you’ll need to do a bit of work. Just think of the 12-mile trek up Mount Eros as your steps for the day and besides, the stunning views will take your mind off the climb as long as you start early in the morning to beat the midday heat. At 1,640 feet above sea level, you’ll find the beautiful monastery and its cobblestone surroundings, gardens and art.
The Agia Efpraxia Nunnery is also located on Mount Eros. Just follow the signs!
See the Island from a Boat
Another way to see the island is from a boat and Alma Libre Daily Cruises sails from the Hydra Port daily. You can embark on a private six-hour cruise of the waters surrounding the island in a traditional Greek boat.
During this cruise, you’ll visit Zourva Lighthouse, Dokos Island and many beaches including Mandraki and Bisti Beaches. Snacks and beverages, including beer and wine, are included. Tours are €133 per adult and leave from Hydra’s main port.
Find Leonard Cohen’s House
Yes, it’s true. The late, great Leonard Cohen once lived on the island of Hydra. Climb several flights of stairs and wander through some back alleys to find Leonard Cohen Street and the three-story whitewashed home.
If you want to find it quickly, it’s best to ask someone for directions as it can be hard to find.
Visit the Historical Archives Museum
A great way to learn about Hydra’s history is to visit the Historical Archives Museum. This is where you’ll find many donated items of cultural and historical significance including artworks, documents and artifacts. The cost is €5 per person.
Take a Day Trip to Dokos Island
If you want to get away from Hydra for the day without traveling too far, the small island of Dokos, which is only 2.5 miles away, is a great choice. Accessible only by water taxi, once there, you’ll have access to beaches and the remains of old settlements dating back to the 13th century BC. The water taxi from Hydra Harbour to Dokos costs €90, so it’s best to grab a group and go together to share the costs.
Once there consider a hike to the highest part of the island and enjoy the spectacular views.
Be Among the First to See the Morning’s Catch
Fishing is a huge part of life on the island of Hydra. Despite this, there are no fish markets on the island. Instead, the fishermen pull their boats up to the wharf and display their catch for anyone who wishes to buy something fresh from the sea at the Hydra Harbor. If you want a chance to check out the scene, head here early in the morning.
Explore the Back Streets of Hydra Town
Hydra Town is laid out in such a way that makes it fun to explore. With so many little alleys, back roads and steps leading to little nooks on hills, you never know what you’ll find along the way. The best part is you won’t have to worry about traffic because there are no cars. Just quaint pedestrian streets with colorful houses and little cafes and shops tucked away in random places.
Don’t set an itinerary, just walk, get lost. It’s only a small place and besides, you find the most interesting things when you get lost!
Hire a Donkey as a Tour Guide
The other method of transportation around Hydra is by donkey. Give your tired feet a rest and rent a donkey to take you around the town. You’ll tour some of the back roads before coming back to your starting point.
You can see the donkeys at the steps at Alpha Bank in Hydra Town. A 15-minute ride costs €15.
Hike to the Greek Flag
On the left side of town, there’s a Greek flag on top of a hill and many visitors like to challenge themselves to hike up this steep hill to reach this flag. It’s one of the best things to do in Hydra. On the way up, you’ll find several viewing platforms where you can rest and admire the scenery. If you reach the top, you’ll enjoy even more stunning views of the harbor and town.
To start find the steep white steps on the left side of the harbor. Take a right at the first t-junction and the next set of stairs you see and keep climbing! Make sure to wear proper walking or hiking shoes.
Pay Homage to Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen was much admired on Hydra Island and the local community paid tribute to him with a special bench made of wood and stone. It overlooks the ocean to the left side of the main harbor.
Explore the Pretty Village of Vlichos
Another picturesque fishing village worth visiting near Hydra Town is Vlichos. Take a walk along the trail to reach it and get an authentic Greek experience away from the crowds of the main harbor. Enjoy a lovely beach and beautiful scenery during your visit.
This is just a 15-minute walk along the path from Hydra Town. Celebrities and well-known artists love to hang out in the tiny villages of Hydra and Vlichos is a popular one so keep an eye out!
Where to Stay on Hydra
We stayed at Hydra Icons, just a short walk away from Hydra Port, and absolutely loved it. Not only was the property beautiful and modern, but it has the most amazing private terrace (see above). It was our favorite spot to enjoy the sunset on Hydra!
When is the Best Time to Visit Hydra?
The best time to visit Hydra is between June and September. I particularly love visiting Greece in June and September and the temperatures are lower and the crowds aren’t at their peak. Most of the photos in this article were taken in July.
READ MORE GREECE TRAVEL TIPS
I hope you enjoyed this guide on what to do on Hydra! Hopefully, you found it useful. Here are a few relevant articles for more travel around Greece!
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Greek Travel Planning Resources
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