Few islands can match Kos when it comes to the ancient stuff. And that’s saying something in a land where metro excavations take 3 times longer than usual due to the layers of history beneath. After all, this Dodecanesian destination is where the ancient god of medicine, Asklepios, was revered, and where the first hospital was created some 3,000 years ago by none other than Hippocrates himself, a born and bred Kosian (is that what they’re called?).
HIPPOCRATES & THE GOD OF MEDICINE
And without doubt, this should be your first stop on the island of Kos. The magnificent Asklepion, or what stands of it, (a fair bit as it turns out) has to be one of the most striking monuments in Greece, not least because of the importance of medicine and what it stands for in the greater context. Walking amidst the ruins one can download an app that enables a 3D reconstruction of the entire temple as it was. Don’t miss out on Hippocrate’s plane tree, where he’s said to have taught his pupils. Even though its only 500 years old, its previous incarnation was around for nearly 2 millennia.
KNIGHTS OF SAINT JOHN
Kos has its fair share of ‘earlier’ stuff, too, if you can call 14th century architecture new. The medieval fortress of Antimachia was built by the Venetians sometime in the middle ages and fortified further by the Knights of the Order of St. John. Similarly, the castle of Neratzia is what stands from the Knights Templar attempts to thwart ottoman pirates. Fringed by palm trees and a canopy of wild greens, it conjures up images of glories past and absolutely immerses the visitor into its realm.
Walk down the road from Neratzia Castle and check out the Ancient Agora used by the Greeks to trade and talk in everyday life. It dates back to the 4th century BC and is in fact one of the best preserved agoras in Greece, with parts of the city wall and several colonnades and temples dedicated to Hercules and Aphrodite still intact.
There’s also the small matter of the Roman Odeon. Built in the 2nd century AD, this 750 seater has been renovated and is in use for concerts and festivals during the summer. And it gets better, folks.
A big ol chunk of land next to the Odeon is actually a vast archaeological site complete with ancient paved roads, remnants of houses, a gym, stadium and an assortment of porticos, mosaics and structures.
And right in the middle of the island lies Palio Pili. This is where the capital of the island used to be for 8 centuries after it was abandoned following an earthquake that leveled a bunch of houses, and it stands as they left it. Most certainly spooky but with a dash of sweet fondness.
Just south of Kos town, you’ll find a 2nd Century AD Roman villa that was unearthed during the 1930’s to reveal an impressive treasure trove of artefacts and well, just real old stuff. This villa was run down and in poor shape, but extensive renovation has been carried out to bring it back to its old glory. You can see which bits were added after to get as sense of what survived.
A testament to the obscene amount of antiquities in Greece is the beach of Agios Stefanos. While the beach itself is just fine (which pretty much means awesome) the eastern edge of the beach is what the fuss is all about. That’s where a set of colonnades mark the spot of a couple of 4th Century AD Christian basilicas in ruins.
Now, as far as beaches go, Kos doesn’t disappoint. Tigaki beach is a must see, especially for a family day out, with calm waters and a string of sea side taverns dotting its shoreline. Similarly, if kids are in tow, make a beeline for Paradise beach. It comes equipped with water sports and all sorts of stuff for the young uns. If you´re after something more tranquil, head for Cavo Paradiso beach on the southern edge of Kos. This beach is well isolated and offers ample privacy, despite the ubiquitous presence of parasols and loungers. Don’t be fooled by them, this place is chilled. Equally beguiling is Agios Theologos beach. With a powerful surf and a rugged coastline this place is as remote as it is riveting. You won’t find a great deal of amenities, but then again that’s the nature of its appeal.
That said, we do find the ease of a controlled environment to have its advantages. Take the Aquatica Water Park for instance. If you´re traveling with family its perfect. If you´re with friends it is hands down awesome.
In addition, Kos is blessed with thermal hot springs. And guess what? They’re inside the sea, at Agios Fokas. A small pool has been created to contain the bubbly stuff inside the water at the beach, which makes for a pretty sweet set up. It is said to cure skin ailments, so there’s that.
Kos also boasts some neat fauna. Head up to Plaka forest and get in touch with nature and its errr… resident peacocks.
Or you can opt for the thrill of a 4×4 jeep safari excursion through the thick canopy of Kos and its dense flora, all the way up to Mt. Dikaios. If you’re really into adventure, then definitely also check out the scuba diving opportunities, of which there are many.
And lastly, for all you wine aficionados (and exasperated parents), there is the lush sweet promise of inebriation on the island’s wineries. Rest assured that this ‘research’ will be taking place in order to properly calibrate the quality of the grapes and is not by any stretch an excuse to forget the screaming, tablet wielding monsters by your side. Absolutely not.
Kos is a destination that is quintessentially Greek. In it, you can see and experience a vast array of things and still want more. There’s something for everyone, literally. And it’s not too expensive either. Frankly, we’re surprised this island isn’t making more waves.