Kos Island turned out to be the highlight of our vacation with its genuine island atmosphere, its amazing beaches, and the diverse history that permeated every corner of the island.
Kos Island was a pleasant surprise for our family. We had read descriptions and looked at pictures of the island before we got there, but nothing prepared us for the character of the island and the diversity of its landscape and history.
Kos town, in which we had wisely booked a room, is a joy to walk around. From there we roamed the island by day and strolled the streets of Kos city by the moonlight. While getting to the western part of the island to reach some of the best beaches of the Aegean was a long drive, it worked out well because this way we spent our whole day exploring the least developed part of the island before we headed back to Kos town late in the afternoon for our evening dinner and walk around town.
The town of Kos is touristy but it has developed in a very tasteful manner and showcases its best attributes in every corner. Besides the Northern end of town where package tourism has left its unattractive mark in the form of rampant development of bars and tourist shops, the rest of Kos town offers a friendly face to its many visitors.
The town of Kos is sprinkled with the marks of history in every corner. Ancient Greek and Roman ruins are spread throughout town, while Byzantine and Ottoman monuments dominate the most popular cobblestone streets of the town near the harbor.
The harbor itself is a visual delight at night framed by the impressive castle and the city lights. At night, when the absence of the direct summer sun allows for a leisurely stroll by the water, the glimmering lights reflected in the harbor’s waters would make this one of the most pleasant harbors in Greece. Regretably the many tour boat operators aggressively pursuing all passers by to book for their next day cruise around the island detracts from the harbor's beauty.
Kos offers a great variety of restaurants, cafes, and bars at the promenade and around Kazouli Square by night and by day you can visit one of the countless historical attractions of the city. A most visited site must be the ancient plane tree under which Hipocrates taught his pupils, and the nearby Neratzia Fortress that was built by the Knights of St. John to defend the island from the encroaching Ottomans. Today it is open for visitors who come to walk around its interior that is sprinkled with marble artifacts from the Hellenistic and Roman era.
From all the attractions of Kos, the most important ancient site is the Asklepieion. an impressive archaeological site loaded with history. The Asklepieion is located about twenty minutes outside of Kos and is easily visited on a long bike ride (albeit the road is narrow and can be dangerous riding) from Kos town. In ancient times the Asklepieion was a sanctuary dedicated to the god of healing, Asklepios, and was the place where the Hippocratic philosophy of medicine was practiced. Hippocratic philosophy became the foundation of western medicine.
One of the largerest islands of the Dodecanese, Kos has much for the visitor besides Kos town and its offerings. Kos is a beautiful Greek island with a lush, green interior, and a coastline that offers some of the best beaches of the Aegean. It is a large enough island to allow visitors to be completely untouched by the package destinations of the northern coast. Relaxing at the vast beaches near Ag. Stephanos it’s easy to feel as if you are in a tiny, sparsely-populated paradise.
With names like “Magic”, “Sunny”, and “Paradise”, Kos’ beaches are a on their own. Even if Kos lacked the interesting history, or the considerable tourist infrastructure, which we enjoyed enormously, would stand alone as a magned for people the world over.
Adding to the variety of the island is a host of small villages tacked away among pine trees on Mt. Dikeos, a peaceful forest in Plaka and the rugged landscape of Cape Kefalos, where one can enjoy a spectacular sunset at Ag. Theologos accompanied by good Greek food and a glass of Retsina a the local (and only) restaurant.
Kos was the first of a group of islands we visited that included Rhodes in the summer of 2006. Kos became the highlight of our vacation that summer, and if we have one regret is that we did not stay a few days longer.