After Rhodes, Kos is the second largest island in the Dodecanese and it is also one of the most touristic. Honestly, I chose it for the convenience of the direct flight from Milan and no one had told me about it with particular emphasis, but perhaps, precisely for this reason, I was pleasantly surprised. Unlike other islands of Greece (especially the Cyclades), Kos is not an island where you can go around randomly (especially if you are looking for a beautiful sea and beautiful beaches), but there are beautiful places! It is the most fertile island of the Dodecanese, but tourism has changed its physiognomy enough. There are no longer many mountain villages and most of the population lives in the seaside tourist towns (all recently built, except Kos Town). In some areas it has been a little ruined by mass tourism (especially on the north coast, which you can avoid as much as possible), but the island that gave birth to Hippocrates he has one millennial history which is still clearly visible especially a Kos Town, but also inland with theAsklepeion and castles of Pyli and Antimachia. Overall it is an island that I recommend, both for its beauty and for its beaches (to which I dedicated the article Kos: the most beautiful beaches), which due to its location, perfect for visiting Kalymnos, Nisyros, Leros and the other nearby islands.
What to see in Kos
The "capital of Kos" is a beautiful, lively and tidy city, where it is possible to see Roman, Hellenistic and Ottoman ruins, but also medieval, Art Déco and rationalist architecture (the latter linked to Italian domination during the years of fascism). Many buildings have been damaged by several earthquakes (in 1933 and the last, strong one, in 2017), but are being refurbished or are being renovated. Important information: the archaeological sites, the castle and the museums are closed on Tuesdays !! Among the things not to be missed in Kos Town there are certainly:
- Castle of the Knights of San Giovanni: a double fortress built in 1500, really impressive, overlooking the harbor. It served to control the passage between Kos and the coasts of Asia Minor (Bodrum is a bursting shot from here!). Today it is quite dilapidated but very charming. You enter from an elevated bridge near the Hippocratic Platano.
- Marina: as with all seaside towns, Kos Town also develops around the Marina, which is very pretty, with the castle walls on one side and a long line of bars and restaurants on the other.
- Platia Eleftherias: the main square of the old city, one of the few areas that survived the earthquake of 1933. It is overlooked by several rationalist buildings (such as the Casa del Fascio, which now houses a market), but also the Defterdar mosque and the Archaeological Museum.
- Roman Agora: ancient Kos was located just behind the port, and was one of the largest agora of the time. Built in 366 BC, it was heavily damaged by earthquakes and today looks like a heap of more or less organized ruins inserted in a public park full of plants. It is a nice walk and you can realize the size it must have had in antiquity.
- Sycamore of Hippocrates: legend has it that under this great plane tree Hippocrates held his medical lessons, but although it is one of the oldest trees in Europe (it is at least 600 years old), it is still too young to have seen Hippocrates. Next there is then the Hassan Pasha Mosque (now closed for damage).
- archaeological Museum: quite small but really well set up and with beautiful works. Recently reopened, the museum exhibits several Roman and Greek sculptures, a mosaic depicting Hippocrates and various objects found during excavations on the island (entrance fee 6 euros).
- Roman house: slightly secluded from the historic center, this beautiful Roman house (built in the Hellenistic period), consists of 36 rooms and several courtyards adorned with mosaics and statues (admission ticket 6 euros).
- Odeon: not far from the Roman House there is this small renovated Roman Odeon. Built on the remains of a Greek theater, it could accommodate up to 750 spectators.
- Bar Street: between the Marina and the Agora there are a couple of streets full of clubs packed with people drinking / dancing.
- Lambi Beach: the urban beach of Kos Town is located north of the port. It is a small pebble beach with several establishments and bars / restaurants. Among the nicest, even to go for an aperitif in the evening, at the end of the beach there is the Mylos Beach Bar.
L’Asklepieion is the most important archaeological site on the island (and one of the most important in Greece) and is located 4 km east of Kos Town. Built immediately after the death of Hippocrates in the 3th century BC to venerate Aesculapius (son of Apollo and god of Medicine), it served as both a sanctuary and a health center. The methods naturally adopted were those of Hippocrates and the temple was well known at the time. The site is located on 8 terraces and on the last one there was the temple dedicated to Aesculapius, which was the largest and most important one. From the terraces there is a beautiful view of the Turkish coast and the island of Kalymnos (entrance fee XNUMX euros).
Taking the road that runs along the sea from Kos Town to the south, in the end you will arrive at the most famous thermal springs of the island, Therma Beach. You will have to leave the car where there is this bar and then walk down a dirt road for about ten minutes until you reach a rocky cove. In the first section there is a small beach equipped with a bar, then a small pool separated from the sea by rocks, where the thermal water (very hot!) Flows. It is a very popular place, and my advice is to go there in the evening or at night (especially if there is a full moon) to be able to better appreciate the warm water and the beach without too many people.
Paleo Pyli Castle
Above the small village of Pyli, there are the medieval ruins of this castle and the old Byzantine city (which was the capital of Kos), my favorite place on the island. You will have to leave your car in this parking lot and then proceed on foot. With 15 'of climbing between the pines and the ruins of the city you reach the castle. At a certain point on the way up, if you turn right instead of turning left for the castle, you will see a sign that reads "tavern". Going up from there, in 5 'you will reach a magical place, la Taverna Oria by Jorgos. From here you will have a sublime view of the remains of the castle and the rest of the island; to the sunset it's goosebumps !! Normally the tavern closes at 20pm, but on some days there is live music and the evening goes on to the bitter end. If you manage to go back .. do it and you will not regret it! You will find yourself drinking, eating and dancing with other Greeks and / or travelers and it will surely be an evening to remember.
Il Zia village is located on top of a mountain, not far from Pyli, and has become the most famous place in Kos to see the sunset. It has very little authentic now, but the view is truly remarkable! If you can book a table for dinner at the Tavern Oromedon, you eat well and you will have the most beautiful view of all. Another very nice place to go, but it's more of a bar (don't book) is the Watermill, a very colorful place (it's the classic instagrammable bar). For the sunset try to go well in advance so as not to catch the tourist buses (yes, you got it right).
Agios Stefanos and Kastri
In the bay of Kefalos, on the southwestern tip of Kos, there are many of the most beautiful and sheltered beaches on the island (even the busiest I would add!). The most beautiful and particular is certainly that of Agios Stefanos, with the remains of the homonymous basilica of the fifth century. located right on the sea. Then there is in front the islet of Kastri (reachable by swimming or by pedal boat) where the little one is little church of Agios Nikolaos, protector of sailors. The only flaw of this bay are some eco-monsters (fortunately not too tall) that they built close to the beach.
Outside the center of Antimachia, a small town close to Kos airport that still has some mills and some traditional houses, there is a Venetian castle of the fourteenth century, built by the Knights of St. John. The castle today is quite dilapidated, but it still deserves a tour for its view overlooking the whole of Kos from above. The castle is always open and you don't pay for it so you can come to see the sunset, which is a blast from here.
Kefalos and Aghios Theologos
The western end of Kos is occupied by the Kefalos peninsula, the wildest area of the island where there are two beaches that I loved very much: Limnionas (a very sheltered sandy cove) e Agios Theologos (windy and stony, but really beautiful). There would also be a third one that apparently deserves a lot, Cavo Paradiso, but the dirt road to reach it is particularly bad and long and it takes about 45 '. There Taverna Agios Theologos (above the beach of the same name) is another top spot to watch the sunset over the sea.
Kos: where to sleep
If you are interested in visiting the whole island and above all, enjoying the most beautiful and sheltered beaches, I recommend that you sleep in Kardamena, a town located in the middle of the south coast, 10 kilometers from the airport. This coast of the island is the most sheltered (even when the Meltemi is strong) and, being in the center of the island, you can reach every corner of Kos in less than 1 hour. The town is modern, nothing special, but the structures are low and the beach is beautiful. From here you can also visit the island of Nisyros which is right in front of it. If, on the other hand, you prefer to stay in a more beautiful town and plan to move to other islands of the Dodecanese, you should sleep in Kos Town. The hydrofoils depart from here and the city is undoubtedly the most beautiful and lively on the island.
- Pillbox Seafront Studios & Apartment (Kardamena): I slept in this structure that overlooks the sea and I had a great time. The studios / apartments are brand new, nice and fully equipped. The structure also has sun beds and umbrellas for the exclusive use of customers and the sea in front of it is beautiful.
- Nissia Kamares (Kardamena): structure very similar to the previous one, which is however located in an internal road. On the other hand, it has a swimming pool.
- Hotel Gelsomino (Kos Town): Wes Anderson style for this beautiful 5-star hotel a stone's throw from the castle and the agora, overlooking the beach.
- Hotel Olympia (Kos Town): modern and central hotel with excellent value for money and a good and abundant breakfast included.
How to reach Kos
- By plane: Kos is very convenient because from Spain there are direct flights (seasonal, from May to September) from different cities both with Easysjet that with Ryanair. Out of season, however, you will have to make a stopover in Athens and then fly with Aegean or Olympic. From the airport then there are buses to reach the most touristic places (here you will find the timetables), or taxis (a taxi for Kos Town for example costs about 30-40 euros).
- By ferry: Kos is connected with many of the other islands of the Dodecanese and the Cyclades, but also with Athens by ferries and hydrofoils (from Athens / Piraeus it takes about 6-7h).
How to get around Kos: better to rent a car or quad
Unless you intend to move from the place where you sleep, you will necessarily need to have a means of transport to visit Kos (car or quad, given the distances). There are buses (and here you will find all the routes with updated timetables), but they do not arrive everywhere and have few timetables. If you want to explore the island and also reach the beautiful beaches of the east coast, you will need to rent a vehicle. My advice is always to book the car before leaving online in advance (I usually use the place di RentalCars) because you save money. To avoid scams, however, remember to always check the votes and reviews that users give to the various car rental companies. You can find them on the Rentalcars website, but you can also double check on Trustpilot. Some companies offer bargain prices but the service is bad. In Kos I used Gree Motion and I was happy with it; I spent 190 euros for 5 days (to which I added another 100 euros to get the KASCO, full coverage).
Where to eat in Kos
- Anemos Restaurant ( Kardamena) (next to the hotel): fresh fish restaurant, excellent and cheap
- Avli Restaurant (Kardamena): good and typical
- Agios Theologos (beach of the same name): beautiful location, perfect for sunset
- Tavern Oromedon (Zia): restaurant with the most beautiful terrace to watch the sunset, very nice and good
- Watermill (Aunt): Perfect sunset bar, super instagrammable
- Taverna Oria (Paleo Pyli): My favorite place, the best to see the sunset over the ruins of the Paleo Pyli castle.
- Taverna Ampavris (Kos Town): typical tavern
- Zorbas (Kos Town): tourist restaurant, but nice and good
- Never on sunday (Kos Town): super rustic, a family home, great
- Ali Restaurant (Kos Town): meze restaurant, with excellent Greek and Turkish cuisine
You may also be interested in these other articles on Greece:
- Kos: the most beautiful beaches
- Mykonos (Greece): what to see and where to sleep
- Mykonos: the 10 most beautiful beaches
- What to see in Amorgos, the gem of the Cyclades
- What to see in Hydra, the car-free island of the Peloponnese
- A weekend in Athens: all the places not to be missed
- The 8 least touristy and most beautiful Greek islands
- Santorini: what to see in the most romantic island of the Cyclades