Hydra definitely has the reputation of a jet set island and anyone who is sailing the Aegean on their private yacht near Athens will surely stop there. That doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune though to enjoy this intoxicating, quaint island.
Yes, I did just call a piece of land intoxicating. I chose this adjective because when I mention the island of Hydra to people, the majority of the time, they inhale and say “Oh my God! I LOVE Hydra”. Ok, maybe only when I mention Hydra to females do I get this response.
Below you will find my advice on how to enjoy Hydra to the max without spending a lot of money.
Plan your arrival/departure times accordingly
Arrive early on one day and leave late on the following day. That gives you maximum time to enjoy the island without paying for lodging for 2 nights. This is especially important for you local residents looking to get away, but who are a bit strapped for cash.
Depending on the season, there are many options of boats going back and forth to Piraeus in Athens. I use www.viva.gr for ferry bookings.
Do you have a car? Drive to Metochi and take the short ferry that goes back and forth all day for 5 euros a ride.
Rich History and Architecture
Hydra/Ύδρα (pronounced Idra) literally has a rich history. Back in the day the Hydrites (I’m not making that up-the mayor called the citizens of Hydra that when Travel Bloggers Greece met him) were rolling in the dough. Maybe that set the precedent for the modern day luxurious shopping that can be found in the village.
The architecture of the island is very unique to Hydra. Traditional, tall stone manors built into the hillside of the horseshoe shaped harbor welcome you as you pull into the port of Hydra Town. The buildings are terraced on different levels, so it just adds to the fairytale charm of this Greek Island. Explore these layers!
Something for every taste
As with most of the ‘more visited’ Greek Islands, you can find variety. You can choose from upscale dining options or grab a gyro for a couple of euros. The same goes for lodging, you can stay at the Cotommatae and have your own private little pool or get a basic room at a family run place like, Ippokampus.
During this trip, my husband and I stayed at Ippokampus and it was very centrally located and convenient. The staff was friendly and we enjoyed breakfast in the traditional courtyard.
Bring your walking shoes
There are no cars on Hydra. Maybe I should have mentioned that earlier! Donkeys are used to haul goods and luggage of visitors that may be too much to struggle with on your own. Some hotels do have quite a few steps if they are located a few levels up on the terracing, so be sure to look into that before you book.
Everything is located close together in the port town and easily accessible by foot.
To get to different villages you can take water taxis or there are a few places within walking distance that are worth checking out. I always go with walking when I travel if it is possible.
On the first afternoon that we arrived after climbing around in Hydra town, we walked to the village of Kamini to grab a late lunch.
The walk to Kamini along the coast takes about 15 minutes and is just spectacular. If you are able to, you should definitely do this to enjoy the view of the sparkling Aegean sea between Hydra and mainland Greece (plus it will save you a few euros in water taxi fare).
Kodylenia’s in Kamini
We opted for lunch with a view at Kodylenia’s overlooking the little port of Kamini. When in Greece, follow the locals and really stretch out your lunch, take your time and enjoy the view.
I’m a fan of a big lunch and light dinner, so that is exactly what we did! Salad, zucchini balls, shrimp, mussels and veggies sauted in butter and garlic and grilled octopus. Ok, this meal doesn’t exactly scream, “we are on a budget”, but if you have one nice, filling meal a day and take it easy the rest of the time you won’t break the bank nor add those usual vacation inches to your waist.
Sunset in Hydra
After a late lunch, perhaps you can have a siesta and wait for the main attraction- sunset! If you aren’t the napping type, stroll around the port and window shop. The best spot for sunset on Hydra is out at the point of the port at the appropriately named establishment, Sunset Restaurant. Although this is a private establishment, you can roam freely and snap your selfies as long as you aren’t bothering the diners. There is enough space for everyone. There is also a cocktail lounge/ cliffside bar located below it, called Hydronetta.
Who needs dinner!?!
Seriously, I am happy with mezedes (appetizers) for dinner any day of the week, but my husband thinks that is unacceptable. Sometimes I can sneak the fact that he isn’t having a ‘proper meal’ of meat and potatoes past him if the stars are aligned correctly.
After sunset we went over to Prima on the opposite end of the port for some (light) food and wine.
See as much as possible
Hydra is a small island and the fact that there are no motor vehicles, means that many people just stay in the port. Which is cool- do your thing! As for me personally, I’ve learned that the more things you do, the longer your vacation experience seems to last and you go home feeling fulfilled.
On Day 2, after your hotel breakfast, do a lap around the port and check out the donkeys. Take selfies, spend time just enjoying this beautiful location in the middle of the Aegean Sea.
Walk to Mandraki Beach
Yesterday you went ‘left’ past Sunset Restaurant to Kamini, well today you are going to go ‘right’ in the other direction. The walk to Mandraki beach is about 2km from the Hydra port. Again, it is worth it! The pavement is smooth and there are a few ups and downs, but just take it slow.
Beach chairs and umbrellas are available at this beach, but you can just chill on the sand. We visited this beach in mid-May and it was very peaceful. Throughout the day, yachts were coming into the bay and dropping anchor and doing whatever it is that they do on private yachts when the anchor is dropped. Again we opted for a late lunch – at the only taverna there, Mandraki 1800. We had amazing fresh calamari and a simple salad.
The taverna was really cute and traditional, but the view out onto the beach was the breathtaking. One of those moments where you say, “Greece is amazing!”
Enjoy the harbor
Walk on back to the port and collect your belongings from the hotel and head toward to the port to wait for your boat. I seriously could watch that harbor for hours. There is so much activity and so many lovely boats coming in and out. Grab an ice cream cone or a coffee at The Cool Mule and take it all in before your journey back to Athens.
There you have it! Hydra on a budget. The island is so close to Athens, even if only for a day trip- you really need to see this place.
Make sure and add this to your ‘Greek Bucket List’ on Pinterest…
*Feature Photo by B Rentley Photography