Hydra island is one of the most picturesque retreats in the Saronic Gulf. This beautiful island is located east of the Peloponnese, less than two hours’ ferry ride from Athens. Cars are not allowed on it, which makes it much quieter and more peaceful than other Greek isles close to the capital. Although it’s not fringed with sandy beaches, Hydra has a lot up its craggy sleeve: challenging hikes in the rugged mountains; refreshing dips in the turquoise sea, and some of the clearest water of anywhere in the Hellas.

Hydra island
A sunset on Hydra | © Crabsmovesideways

Why Hydra island?

After spending a month on the Peloponnesian mainland close to the island of Poros, we decided to spend the last couple of days of our time in Greece somewhere else. We chose Hydra island because of its proximity to Athens and the stories we’d heard about its natural beauty. We only spent three nights there but we feel that it gave us enough time to properly explore much of the place – especially as we arrived in early November, when hardly any crowds were clogging up the small streets of the Hydra port.

Getting to Hydra

One of the main reasons so many people add Hydra to their Greek travel list is how easy it is to get to. You can simply hop on am hour-long speed ferry from Pireaus port in Athens and be there for breakfast. It’s also possible to catch shorter ferries from the mainland over on the Peloponnese. One downside of all that is the large crowds, which we’ve heard can get a little unbearable between the warmest months of June and August.

Walking around Hydra Old Town

We went to Hydra island early November, so for most people it wasn’t exactly beach weather but it was still warm enough to wear a T-shirt during the day. On the first day we explored the beautiful Old Town of Hydra and hopped between some of the local tavernas. Not all restaurants and guesthouses were open due to low season, but it meant that the town was more tranquil than it was in the middle of the summer. Our advice: don’t take a map with you. Simply getting lost between the whitewashed mansions and hillside neighbourhoods, spying out the best restaurants and cafes, encountering donkeys as you go, is one of the great pleasures of this place. And anyway, you can always ask one of the uber-friendly locals for directions back to the port if they’re needed.

 

Hydra island
On top of Mount Eros, Hydra | © Crabsmovesideways

Hiking on Hydra

We’d been told time and time again that Hydra island is amazing for hiking, so we decided to check it out ourselves on our second day. November offers perfect walking conditions on non-rainy days (of which there are plenty). If you’re based – and most people are – in the Hydra port area itself, then you’ll have plenty of trailheads right on the doorstep of your hotel. We were lucky to be staying in the excellent Nereids Guesthouse on the north side of the Old Town, which was hidden just beneath the hills that connect to the main hiking route up Mount Eros – the highest peak on the island. Hitting that was a no branier.

 

On the way to the summit there is a beautiful monastery – Prophet Ilias. Many people end their walk there – it is where the paved path ends. Past the monastery the hike gets a bit more challenging. We found it hard to find the right path at first but once it revealed itself, we followed pinkish signs all the way to the top. The views from the summit were magnificent. You can almost see the whole island. The visibility was great and we could spy out lots of smaller islands dotting the Aegean Sea in the distance.

Enjoying the beaches

On our final day on Hydra island, the sun was shining, so we could finally see how crystal-clear the sea was. It was still a bit chilly but warm enough to enjoy lazing in the sun. We decided to follow the coast roads and discover what sort of beaches and coves were about. Most beaches on Hydra are pebble which is why the surrounding waters are super clear and the colour of the sea is always that quintessentially Greek turquoise-blue. We took a beautiful route and settled on Plakes Beach. We had a last swim in the Med and managed to top up our tan. There were only about five other people enjoying the late autumn sun.

Tavernas on Hydra island

Okay, so Hydra isn’t likely to be the place you discover that hidden gem of a Greek restaurant; you know, the one with the unforgettable tzatziki and vine leaves. It’s probably a tad too touristy for that, and we didn’t get the full coverage of places on account of arriving in the autumn. Still, there are one or two spots that really deserve a mention. The first is Kodylenias Resto. Blessed with perhaps the best location of any eatery on the whole island, it sits perched on a ridge above a small marina some 20 minutes or so from Hydra’s main port. If you’re lucky enough to bag one of the seats close to the windows, you can just gaze out across the gulf towards the Peloponnese and munch on fried potatoes, Greek dip, salads and other homemade mezze. Many a gasp-inducing sunset was watched from there with a beer in tow. Then there’s Paradosiakofar and away our favourite spot to eat in the Old Town area. Grilled haloumi and plenty of olive-oil doused veggies were the perfect way to end a day of hiking up Mount Eros. The setting is also lovely, with a couple of crooked tables and chairs wedged between two cobbled lanes and some cascading creeper vines.


Of course, there are loads more things to say about gorgeous Hydra island. We’ll be looking to add to this guide – we already want to return! But you’ve anything to add in the meantime, be sure to have your say in the comments below. (There are some affiliate links in this article – but we ONLY recommend things we totally believe in, so a click there is just a big help for us!)