A prize to past conquerors, a boon to travellers who want more than a beach holiday
On the edge of the Dodecanese, Kos is a feast of emotion, experience and excitement. To borrow from the famous American motivators, Canfield and Hansen, it truly is ’chicken soup for the soul’, as well as the body and the eye. Tall palm trees, endless sandy beaches, alternating landscapes and numerous archaeological sites and attractions left by ancient Greeks, Romans, mediaeval knights, Venetians and Ottomans make Kos – or Cos as it is also spelt – more than just a pretty face. Hippocrates, antiquity’s most noted physician (he of the oath), was born here, on one of the most visited islands of Dodecanese. Whichever you choose of the aliases Kos has gone by – Meropi, Nymphaia or Karys – this fascinating island in the Aegean will be a prominent entry in your holiday diary from now on.
What to do on Kos
Hippocrates’ Asclepeion, a holistic healing centre Just 4km northwest of the town of Kos, on a verdant hill with a spectacular view, you’ll discover one of Greece’s most important archaeological sites, the Asclepeion. A holistic healing centre, it contained infirmaries, temples, hot springs, hostels, a school for physicians and much more. In the 3rd and 2nd century B.C., the Asclepeion of Kos became the third most important institution of its kind in the ancient world, following guidelines set down by native son Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. It’s worth making time in your holiday itinerary to visit it.
A young city with a rich history Following a major earthquake in 1933, the town of Kos was redesigned by the reigning Italians with large squares, sidewalks and wide tree-lined streets, flanked by modern buildings with shops, cafes and restaurants. That said, history buffs will love this place.
What other modern town can claim so many attractions like the Nerantzia Castle of the Knights of Saint John, late 14th-century walls hastily erected to keep out Sultan Bayezit I, an ancient Greek agora, a mediaeval district, an old harbour, and Roman ruins in the west? Don’t forget to pay your respects to Hippocrates’ huge plane tree - 12m in circumference – which, legend says, was planted by the doctor himself.
Beaches that go on forever Got your tape measure? Almost every beach on Kos is a kilometre long. You’ll probably develop a particular soft spot for Kardamena beach, with its glorious scenery and deep blue water but don’t miss Mastihari, Tigkaki, Marmari, Chrysi Akti, Kefalos and Paradise. Antimacheia castle and the power of a few In June 1457, this castle was besieged by 16,000 Ottomans. Just 15 knights and 200 locals were left to defend it, but they held out for 23 days and the Ottomans eventually withdrew. Built by the Knights of Saint John in the 14th century, it is now a peaceful but impressive ruin.
Hidden gems of Kos
A verdant hideaway for peacocks Kos is an island full of surprises. Planted by Italians in the 1940s, the woods at Plaka, near Antimacheia, have become a sanctuary for peacocks and other birds. Carry some seeds to offer and they’ll be eating out of your hand.
Thermal springs at the edge of the Aegean Unique among the Dodecanese islands, Kos has three different kinds of mineral water springs; hot, warm and cool. You’ll find them at Agios Fokas, Piso Thermes, Kokkinonero and Volkanous. Kokkinonero means Redwater, while the last on the list needs no translation.
The Archaeological Museum of Kos You’ll find the museum in Eleftheria Square in town. A larger-than-life head of the goddess Hera greets you in the vestibule while impressive statues and mosaics await within.