Kos is a favourite holiday destination for families. Its highlights include beautiful beaches, enchanting ruins and quick ferry crossings to Rhodes or Bodrum (Turkey).
In antiquity, Kos may have had some claim to being a healing retreat. The famous Classical Age physician, Hippocrates, reputedly taught his students on the island, and visitors can still see the remains of temples dedicated to healing deities. Kos is also home to what some claim is Europe's oldest tree, plus several archaeological remains of Persian, Turkish, Roman and Byzantine conquerors.
Otherwise, visitors can expect busy bars, pleasant towns and crowded beaches outside the capital.
Displaying mainly Hellenistic and Roman treasures found in and around Kos Town and dating from as far back as the 3rd century BC, the Archaeological Museum allows visitors a glimpse into the former glory enjoyed by this quaint port town. The museum is in Eleutherias Square and is housed in a two-storey neoclassical building which is itself a monument, dating back to 1935 and the Italian occupation. The museum's collection includes artefacts and archaeological findings from Kos and surrounds and even Rhodes and there are pieces on display from sites like ancient Asklepeion, the Altar of Dionysus, the Odeon and the Roman Residence. From original mosaics of Hippocrates, who taught here, to statues of Asklepieion, Artemis and Hygeia found north of Decumanus Maximus, a trip to the Archaeological Museum provides a good foundation of knowledge for visitors who plan to explore the surrounding sites. Many remarkable and valuable sculptures, mosaics and coins, among other things, are on display and the museum is well arranged and labelled.
Regrettably, this wonderful museum has been closed recently for renovation and it is unclear when it is due to reopen. To avoid disappointment, check beforehand whether visitors are being admitted.
This island, sometimes called the 'Jerusalem of the Aegean', is an official pilgrimage site for members of the Catholic religion, because it is home to the sacred cavern where the exiled St John the Evangelist was inspired to write the Biblical Book of Revelations. Cruise ships and ferries keep the small port very active, disgorging visitors who wish to visit the holy cave and witness the cracks in the wall, said to have appeared when St John heard the voice of the Lord. The small Monastery of the Apocalypse is very close to the cave and both are worth exploring. The small and lovely Chapel of St Anne encloses the cave and was built in the 11th century. Crowning the island is the immense Monastery of St John, with its buttressed walls and, inside, frescoes, icons, tapestries and pendants made of precious stones. The monastery was completed in the 11th century and it is a richly decorated fortress with spectacular views, that would be fascinating to explore no matter what your religious beliefs. The historical centre of Patmos, including the monastery and the sacred cave, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can walk up to the monastery from Skala along the Byzantine path.
The Castle of the Knights of the Order of Saint John is situated at the entrance of Kos harbour and is an amazing place to visit. The sprawling ruins, some of which are extremely well-preserved, are located on what used to be an island and the bridge which once joined it to the mainland is still usable. Parts of the castle date back to the late 14th century but as it took over a hundred years to build there is evidence of more than one architectural style at the site. The castle has two defensive precincts: the interior has four circular corner towers and the larger exterior precinct has massive bastions in its four corners, battlements and gun ports. The two precincts are separated by a moat and joined by a drawbridge. There is a Hellenistic frieze over the main gate. A museum on the site, which is housed in a reconstructed building that was once the knights' warehouse, holds alters, sculptures and inscriptions from the site. The elevated sections of the castle afford visitors astounding views over the ocean. It is best to wear sensible walking shoes when visiting as exploring the castle thoroughly means traversing some steep steps and uneven ground.
Kos experiences hot, dry summers and mild winters, much like other Greek islands. Temperatures are hottest in July and August, when they range from 82ºF (28ºC) during the day to 72ºF (22ºC) at night. Conditions can get substantially hotter during heat waves. Rainfall is almost non-existent in summer, bar a few showers between October and March.
Summer is the most popular time to visit, though late spring and early autumn may be better options for travellers who dislike very warm conditions. Springtime visitors will find the island fresh and lush, and the seas warm enough for swimming. The ocean is pleasantly warm in autumn too. Visitors will find far smaller crowds during both shoulder seasons.
Shoppers should visit the island's towns and villages for the best deals. Psalidi, Zipari, Asfendiou, Zia and Lagoudi all offer charming, authentic and reasonably-priced traditional wares.
Visitors will find high-end fashion stores in the old part of Kos Town, as well as smaller shops selling local leather goods, jewellery and ceramics.
Eleftherias Square is a good place to buy locally made souvenirs, oil paintings and Byzantine icons. Local markets carry fresh goods and produce, such as local red cheese, or candied tomato sweets called glyko tomataki.
Kiosks are open 24 hours a day during summer and sell everything from food to cigarettes. Kardamena resort town also offers fantastic shopping opportunities.
Along with sun-drenched beaches, Kos offers visitors some wonderful sightseeing opportunities. History buffs will enjoy a day trip to Patmos, the dramatically beautiful island where John the Apostle wrote the Book of Revelations. The sacred healing temple of Asclepieion is another must-see. Located south of Kos Town, it's reputedly where the physician Hippocrates taught his students. Agia Irini's hot sulphur springs and Agios Fokos' hot sea water pools are also worth visiting for a therapeutic dip.
Visitors could also stroll around the old harbour area opposite Dolphins Square. The area is home to Knights Castle, which is one of Kos Town's most famous attractions. The ruins are exciting and extensive. Visitors may also enjoy the Hellenistic Temple's ruins in the old harbour locale. Ancient Greeks dedicated it to Hercules. The Archaeological Museum in the Plateia Eleftherias will captivate visitors' imaginations as well.
Otherwise, Kos has some of the best beaches in Greece, where the warm Aegean Sea is perfect for jet skiing, parasailing or relaxing in banana boats. Hikers will relish Dikaios Mountain.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination