There’s more to Kos than bronzed beaches and lively nightclubs. Explore an ancient Roman city, cycle its family-friendly trails and soak in geothermal hot springs – these are just a handful of reasons why you should visit this Dodecanese island.
Famous for its white-sand beaches, hot thermal pools, ancient ruins and the gleaming waters of the Aegean Sea, there’s plenty to discover on this Greek island. In fact, explore Kos and you’ll discover facts about the Dodecanese islands’ storied past – from its rulership under the Romans, Ottomans and Italians – as well as scenic spots that keep travellers visiting time and again.
Jump right into a history lesson with ancient Greek mythology. Asclepius, son of Apollo and god of medicine and healing, is said to have taught medicine here on Kos. Walk the ruins of the Asklepion, an ancient medical school named in his honour. Large parts of the structure still remain, including thermal baths, stone archways and standing columns belonging to the temple of Apollo. Later, head towards the Neratzia Castle, and you’ll find the Tree of Hippocrates, where the Greek physician, known as the father of medicine, is said to have taught his pupils.
An earthquake in 1933 uncovered extensive Roman city ruins, dating to the 3rd century BCE, with treasures including a well-preserved Roman city street, a Nymphaeum, a cluster of Doric columns, a theatre, bath houses and the elaborate mosaics of a 2nd-century private villa. Walk among towering columns, still standing after millennia, and look upon intricate mosaics depicting everything from great battles to wine. There’s little by way of informational signs on site, so read up before you go. We recommend an early morning visit, before the heat of the afternoon and the crowds that come with it.
Fancy a boogie? Want to wind down over a few drinks? Then head to Kos town’s de-facto nightlife district, where when the sun goes down, the neon lights flicker on. The main action is found around two streets – Diakon and Nafklirou – home to most of the town’s bars and clubs. Don’t like the vibe in one? Simply pop next door to try another. Order a plum sour at Sitar cocktail bar, or for something more high-tempo, head to the ever-popular Camel bar, the largest and perhaps liveliest bar in town.
Walk the ramparts and sun-baked stone battlements that face the water, guarding the entrance to Kos Harbour. Neratzia Castle was named for the Seville orange trees that were planted across the island. It was constructed by the Knights of St John between 1314 and 1522 to protect the island from attacks from the sea. It remains largely intact; stroll through the courtyards filled with marble columns and statues.
It’s easy to get blasé about seeing ancient artifacts while on Kos – a mosaic floor here, a marble column there. But a visit to Agios Stefanos can’t fail to impress. Ruins of a grand basilica front the Aegean at this incredibly photogenic spot. The ruins of the temple, built between 469 and 554 CE, sit aside the waves, with views of Kastri island beyond. Many swim to this distinctive conical rocky outcrop with its blue roofed church. Set your alarms, and get your camera ready; the temple looks its best at sunrise, when the fiery red sky etches out the details of the remaining standing columns and walls.
Pass remote beaches and countryside villages, and scale the mountains for the best views of the island. There’s really no need to pack your lycras – though you can if you really want to. With relatively flat terrain for a Greek island, Kos offers cycling for all abilities, with dedicated cycle routes and bike lanes that snake their way across the island. There are also over 35 bicycle rental shops to choose from. Try the 13km (8mi) cycle route that starts at Faros Beach, finishing at the beach in Psalidi. Stop in Kos town for lunch. Alternatively, take the dirt roads for a more challenging ride into the mountains.
Sit back, relax and let the warm waters work their magic on tired muscles, as the waves of the Aegean Sea break gently over the rocks. There are not many places in the world where you can bathe in a natural pool of hot thermal waves, and then cool off in the deep blue sea right next to them. Walk to the far end of Agios Fokas Beach and look for the red, hand-painted Therma sign as you make your way across the pebbles. There’s usually a crowd looking to make the most of the 30C to 50C (86F to 122F) waters. Beat the rush with an early morning dip.
With warm summers and mild winters, the lure of the Mediterranean climate is obvious. Sun seekers should aim for the summer months, when temperatures in Kos are at their highest, and there are on average just three rainy days per month. It’s not unusual to see temperatures of up to 29C (84F) in August; in fact, it rarely drops below 21C (70F). Visit during the shoulder seasons of October and November, or March and April, for slightly cooler weather; you’ll be rewarded with fewer crowds.
There are plenty of things to see and do on Kos once you’ve been to the best restaurants on the island. You could also book a stay at a top hotel on Kos through Culture Trip. Alternatively, head to Athens and visit some of the best beaches in Greece before checking out some boutique hotels in the capital.
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