Kos: the best of all holiday worlds
Photo: Claudia Schulte
A rich combination of sandy beaches and some impressive sightseeing gives Kos a broad holiday appeal and this is one of the most popular beach holiday destinations in the Greek Islands.
Kos Town is a heady mix of ancient and modern where dance clubs jostle with impressive ancient monuments whilst the rest of Kos boasts a varied landscape of mountains and plains.
Kos has been a popular beach holiday island for many years and package holiday hotels line much of the east coast around Kos Town.
There is a sprinkling of pleasant beach resorts along the flat north coast but the main holiday area of Kos lies to the south-west at the party clubbing resort of Kardamena and along the sands around Kamari Bay.
A string of deep sandy beaches between both resorts attracts big holiday crowds throughout the summer.
Despite the thousands of holidaymakers that pour into the island each year Kos still has lots of open space and even the large scale hotel complexes are comfortably spread out, especially along the fast developing north coast.
For an all-inclusive hotel holiday with a good beach there is little to compare with Kos in all the Greek islands.
Kos is also good for organised boat excursions where local volcanic islets and the mainland coast of Turkey providemost popular targets. Inland excursions are fully booked too, especially to Greek Nights in the mountain villages.
Kos Town is still picturesque and pleasant town, despite some drab modern buildings and the huge crowds that throng the streets. Neatly arrayed roads and wide tree-lined avenues converge on attractive, shady squares where cafe tables are set out in the sun.
Ancient ruins lie scattered across Kos town and are considered among some of the best archaeological sites in the Mediterranean
Holiday beach hotels line the east coast of Kos from Lambi to Agios Fokas. This is all-inclusive hotel territory and if it's sun and sand and a swimming pool you want this area of Kos is pretty hard to beat.
While the north coast may be pretty flat and featureless, it is also home to a growing number of beach hotel resorts, notably at Tingaki and Marmaris where the sea tends to be warmer and there is often a fresh sea breeze.
The south coast of Kos is the most popular area for beach holidays thanks to almost endless stretches of sand while the mountain backdrop provides much more scenic interest than the feature-free north.
The airport at Kos is close to the island's party capital of Kardamena, a resort of disco clubs and karaoke bars. A succession of deep sandy beaches stretch around Kamari Bay to the popular hill resort of Kefalos.
Imposing battlements dominate the harbour at Kos Town and the grassy inner compound is littered with broken pillars and statues. Built by the Knights Templar in the 14th century and expanded in the 16th it is entered over a bridge spanning a splendid avenue of palms. A circular tower has 15th century carvings and to the north is the old knights' building restored by the Italians.
This site in Kos Town boasts the oldest archaeological remains on Kos. Ruins include a Roman nymphaeum, with some impressive mosaic floors, and the remains of several houses. The best is the House of Europa where a floor mosaic depicts a Europa being carried off by a bull. It also features colonnades, courtyards, ancient baths and a temple to Dionysos. The highlight is the Casa Romana — a 3rd century restored Roman villa with three courtyards, pools, and mosaics. Nearby is the Roman Odeon, a beautifully restored theatre.
To the south of Kos Town is the island's most famous and interesting ancient site, the Asklepion sanatorium founded in 444BC not long after the death of the father of medicine Hippocrates. It served as both a temple to the Asklepios, the god of healing, and as a medical centre. A magnificent setting on hillside terraces adds to the beauty. It was extensively excavated and the re-erected Corinthian columns date the 2nd century while a Doric temple tops the highest terrace.
Pserimos is a tiny island about half way between Kos and Kalymnos and a popular destination for day trippers thanks to a fine stretch of golden sand in a sheltered bay. The island is so small that nowhere is more than an hour's walk in any direction. Day trippers make up almost all the visitors and other boats pull in are on daily cruises from Kalymnos.
Nisyros is an active volcano and day trip visitors can enjoy volcanic fumeroles, steam vents, boiling mud and the bad egg smell of sulphur. The island also has a very pretty village with very narrow streets. The walk up to the crater is very steep and unfenced drops means visitors must take care.
Kos offers plenty of holiday accommodation but most of the smaller family-run hotels are confined to the back streets of Kos Town. Elsewhere it is mostly all-inclusive hotels that are block-booked by package tour companies.
Kos Town has a large number of small family-run hotels offering excellent value to compete with the big hotel chains. An even cheaper alternative is camping at Psalidi where facilities include a swimming pool, taverna and mini-market. Psalidi also a good alternative to Kos Town for smaller hotels as is the small ferry port of Mastichari on the north coast.
In the south, Kardamena is packed with hotels and apartments but the high demand tends to push up prices. Kamari Bay to the west is cheaper and there are many small apartments to rent especially in the hillside Kefalos.
Kos summer season starts in May with temperatures a pleasant 21°C and 25°C by June. The summer months are hot and dry and rainfall virtually nil. In July and August expect highs well over 30°C.
November and December have the highest rainfall although there are still plenty of sunshine days. By April the rainfall drops off sharply and many choose to visit Kos in May or October when it is still warm, sunny, nights are cool and temperatures range 16°C to 20°C.
Kos island airport is in the west of the island some 26km from Kos Town. Holiday charters take arrivals to more than two million annually and there ar cheap flights from London and Liverpool. Expect long queues on days scheduled for charter flight departures. Olympic Airways operates scheduled domestic flights to Athens and Rhodes. KTEL runs buses from Kos airport to Kos Town and Kardema and taxis operate from the airport. There is parking for about 200 cars.
Kos Town lies on main Dodecanese ferry route which runs from Rhodes — Kos — Kalymnos — Leros — Lipsi — Patmos with several ferries each day. There are sailings to islands in the Cyclades throughout the summer. The north coast port of Mastichari operates routes to Kalymnos. The harbour at Kos Town is packed with ferry agents and travel offices with offers of scheduled services, boat trips and day excursions with daily trips to Bodrum in Turkey very popular along with excursions to nearby islets at Pserimos, Plati, Nisyros and Giali.
Roads are reasonably good between the resorts. Kos Town buses (DEAS) run routes around the town while KTEL buses take you everywhere else Bus services to the main resorts are cheap and frequent.
There are a couple of tourist trains operated by KTEL. A green one does a round trip of Kos Town and a blue train takes tourists to the nearby ruins at Asklepieion — expensive and slow but it is the only public transport to the Asklepieion.
Taxis are plentiful and found mostly around the Kos Town harbour area, and at the airport. Taxis fares are fixed but agree the price before setting off. Much of north Kos is flat and ideal for cycling with dedicated cycle lanes on many roads. There are thousands of cycles for hire on Kos and bike hire is available in many places at reasonable rates.
As cycling on Kos has grown in popularity any number of bike rental outfits have sprung up to cater for the demand and its not unusual to see whole families out on a holiday jaunt to the beach .Cycling is a great way to discover the island of kos.
With it's pleasant climate and sandy beaches Kos is always a popular choice with British holidaymakers. Most resorts are right next to the beach and feature exquisite Mediterranean scenery.
Kos Town was once considered one of the most beautiful coastal centres of the ancient world and fortunately, the ruins of many ancient buildings are open to the public today.
Pserimos is a tiny islet found between the larger islands of Kos and Kalymnos and popular with day trippers . It is just a few kilometres from Kos and close to the coast of Turkey.