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When you disembark at the picture-perfect, crescent-shaped harbor on your Hydra cruise, the first thing you’ll notice is the serenity and intense quiet. Cars, motorcycles, and even bicycles are not permitted on the island, making it an ideal setting for quiet relaxation and peaceful respite during a European cruise. Make no mistake—quiet is by no means boring. The island’s romantic and rustic beauty regularly attracts celebrities, artists, and writers. Twice each year, the Hydra Nautical Club hosts regattas that bring sailboats and yachts to the harbor and add an extra touch of glamour to the island. Each summer, the DESTE Foundation hosts a series of contemporary art exhibitions, including a special exhibition by an artist or team.
On a cruise to Hydra, you can’t help but be captivated by its natural beauty, like its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters quietly lapping at the shores, and the Peloponnese Mountains as a constant backdrop. As you walk Hydra Town, you’ll be charmed by streets lined with bougainvillea, the neoclassical architecture of old manor houses and mansions, and churches both humble and ornate.
Housed in a lovely stone mansion, this museum with a nautical theme will enthrall history and maritime buffs alike. You’ll see archives that document the maritime history of the island along with an impressive collection of replica ships. Clothing, portraits, and swords are on display, as is a decorated silver urn that displays the embalmed heart of the island’s hero, Admiral Miaoulis.
It’s a challenging climb to get to the top of Mount Eros, almost 2,000 feet above the town, but the views of the island and the sea are well worth the trek. The paved path that leads first to the Monastery of the Prophet Elijah makes the initial ascent easier.
Hydra’s main cathedral, a Byzantine-style church located in the center of the harbor complex, is said to have been built by a nun in 1643. In 1774, it was destroyed in an earthquake. Venetian architects rebuilt the church and renamed it the Monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Admire the two marble bell towers and its incredible interior filled with exquisite 18th-century frescoes, gold and silver icons, and elaborate Orthodox decoration.
Visit the family-owned pharmacy that’s been in operation since 1890. Housed in an elegant neoclassical building, and located in one of the town’s main alleyways, the interior is a preserved masterpiece. Browse antique apothecary jars, medical equipment, and rare pharmacy books housed in old-fashioned cabinets, and shop for local beauty products.
Whether you walk east or west on the island, Hydra’s shoreline offers easily accessible and inviting beaches where you can swim in crystal-clear waters and sunbathe on sandy or pebbled beaches. Water taxis from the harbor are available to take you to more secluded beach spots. Some have amenities like sunbeds, umbrellas, and freshwater showers.
Enjoy traversing the island on horseback, hugging the coastline, and riding through town or up into the island’s steep terrain. Book horseback riding excursions for a thrilling and thorough exploration of the island.
Step back in time as you stroll the town, taking in the history and unique architecture of mansions and manors. The Lazaros Kountouriotis Manor is open to the public and offers a glimpse into 17th-century family life with opulently appointed rooms, paintings, and furniture.
The DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art on Hydra, housed in a former slaughterhouse, showcases artists in exhibitions throughout the summer months. The word deste means “look” in Greek. The foundation has sponsored exhibitions of contemporary artists, including American artist Kara Walker.
On a Hydra cruise stop, you’ll find tavernas and restaurants offering traditional Greek dishes such as saganaki (fried cheese) and fresh salads made with local fruits and vegetables. Mediterranean cuisine is offered in many settings, tucked away in quiet side alleys and spectacularly set at seaside. Savor seafood like calamari, octopus, mussels, shrimp, and local fish pulled right from the sea and cooked to perfection at Kodylenia Taverna. Enjoy mezedes (traditional snacks) with a glass of ouzo as you watch a spectacular Hydra sunset at Sunset Restaurant. Make a sweet stop at Karamela Patisserie for ice cream, amygdalota (a pear-shaped almond cookie), and other traditional cookies and pastries.
Hydra, one of the Saronic Islands of Greece, sits in an ideal location between the Myrtoan Sea and the Argolic Gulf. It was known as Hydrea, a reference to the island’s multiple natural water springs. Hydra first became a draw for artists and writers, including Henry Miller, in the 1930s. Through the 1960s, the island was host to international writers including Leonard Cohen, Axel Jensen, and George Johnston.
Hydra cruise ships will anchor in the horseshoe-shaped harbor called Hydra Port. From there, it’s easy to explore the island and its single town, Hydra Town, on foot or by boat. Shops, tavernas, bars, and restaurants are all within walking distance.
Motorized vehicles and bicycles are not permitted on Hydra. You can take water taxis to get to some beaches and ride horses or donkeys to see the sights. Getting around to most sites, including the beaches, restaurants, and shopping, is an easy walk.
On a cruise to Hydra, you’ll find distinctive shops offering unique fashions, fine gold, and gem-studded jewelry and fun costume pieces. Shops are located within walking distance to the harbor.
The euro (€) is the recognized official currency on Hydra. Many places accept credit cards. You’ll find banks located on the harbor, which are typically open on weekdays. Each has ATMs for cash withdrawals from international banks. Tipping in restaurants is not part of the culture on Hydra, though it is appreciated. Leaving a few coins on the table before departing is a local custom. Tips, which are expected for tour guides, range from €2 to €5 per person.