General Information on Kos

Kos is the third largest island of the Dodecanese group and lies between the islands of Nisyros and Kalymnos, close to the coasts of Asia Minor. Kos is the greenest and most fertile island of the group and the second most popular and tourist island after Rhodes. At first sight, the island may seem a bit disappointing with its many bars and huge hotels complexes lining the coast. However, visitors soon find that Kos is a very beautiful and attractive island with beautiful mountainous villages, an excellent tourist infrastructure, a great climate and amazing beaches.

History of Kos

According to Greek Mythology, the island of Kos is linked with probably the most famous of all Ancient Greek heroes, the invincible demigod Hercules. Returning from Troy, a terrible storm, sent by Hera, threw his ship ashore on what today is known as Cape Gourniatis of Kos.

The island of Kos was originally colonized by the Carians. The Dorians invaded it in the 11th century B.C. and joined the Delian League, driving away the Persians twice. During the Persian wars, the island was ruled by tyrants, but it seems to have mostly been under an oligarchic government. In 366 B.C., democracy was instituted. During the Hellenistic period, the island thrived economically and culturally. Its alliance with Egypt was valued, and was used it as an outpost of the Egyptian navy to monitor the Aegean. In 335 B.C., Kos became part of the Macedonian Empire. After the death of Alexander the Great, his successors, the Ptolemies, took control of Kos and the rest of the Dodecanese. When Kos passed to the Roman Empire, it followed the lead of its neighbor, Rhodes, and displayed a friendly attitude towards the Romans; in 53 A.D. it was declared independent.

In 1204 A.D., the Venetians occupied the island of Kos. The Knights of Saint John took control in 1315 A.D. In 1522, the Turks took the island and ruled over it until 1912, when the Italians invaded Kos and drove them away. The disastrous earthquake of 1934 almost destroyed the island. The Germans replaced the Italians in 1943. The occupation was a very dark period for the inhabitants of Kos, who endured great suffering and deprivations. The occupation ended in 1945 when Kos came under British rule. Finally, in 1948, the island was united to the newly established Greek State.

Towns & Villages in Kos

Kos Town: The settlement was founded in 366 B.C., on the same area where the capital of the island stands today. All around town you may find signs of the past, reminders of civilizations that passed its harbor; numerous buildings, imitating the Italian architecture of the North African colonies. Wide streets lined with trees create a relaxing and fine atmosphere and the imposing Castle of the Knights of Saint John may travel visitors back in time. The historic centre of the capital is preserved by the Municipality of Kos and there are plans to be completely pedestrianized. Various taverns, restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs transform the town into a hot spot at night.

Kefalos village: This village is located 43km away from the capital. It is built on two levels and boasts the most beautiful and definitely the most popular beach of Kos. Despite its popularity, the village has kept a lot of its authenticity with its whitewashed houses and its narrow alleys. The old windmill which stands upon a hill overlooking the village, the small islet of Agios Stefanos which stands east of the little port and the ruins of the Basilica of Agios Stefanos are worth a visit.

Zia: This small mountainous village is situated near the village of Asfendiou on the slopes of Mountain Dikaion. The settlement is smothered in lush greenery and springs. The oldest water mill of the island is located here. Zia is a very atmospheric village with many small tasteful shops and an amazing sunset.

Mastichari: The village of Mastichari is situated 22km west of Kos town and 3km northwest of Antimachia. The area has some of the most beautiful beaches on the island. The settlement is fairly traditional with a lively small port where fishermen unload their fish, and ferries leave for the neighboring island of Kalymnos. The village is known for its annual Wine Festival where visitors can taste home-made wine and local delicacies.

Pyli: The municipality of Asfendiou includes the villages of Amaniou, Agios Georgios, Agios Nikolaos and Pyli. The small mountainous village of Pyli is one of the most beautiful in the area. It is surrounded by green fields and has traditional houses, most of them renovated. Ruins of the tomb of an ancient hero, Harmylos, can be found here, as well as a Byzantine castle hiding a lovely church dedicated to Virgin Mary in its walls.

Kardamena: This seaside village is situated 30km from Kos town and 5km from Hippocrates International Airport. Except for the archaeological interest of the area, the settlement is a developed tourist resort spread along the beach offering modern infrastructure, as well as accommodations and tourist facilities. There are daily trips to/from Nissyros and Kos Town from its small port.

Antimachia: This village lies on a plateau in the middle of the island, near the airport. The atmospherically and picturesque areas, the traditional houses, the windmills and the Venetian Castle are main poles of attraction.

Beaches in Kos

Therma: This beach is located 8km from the centre of the capital, to the southeast towards, Agios Fokas. The name of the beach means “hot” and it a true description of its waters. The underground thermal spring creates bubbles, like a natural whirlpool. The beach has dark small pebbles and shallow waters and it is very popular because of its distinctiveness.

Tigaki: It is one of the most beautiful and most popular beaches of the island and it is located 11km north of Kos town. It is a long beach with white sand and crystal-clear, shallow waters which extend over 10km. Various hotels, rooms to let, travel agencies, shops, bars, cafes and taverns are scattered around the surrounding area.

Kardamena beach: The beach of Kardamena is located on the west coast of the island in front of the village with the same name. The beach has white sand, crystal clear, emerald waters and various facilities, as Kardamena is the second largest tourist resort of the island.

Kefalos beach: The beach at the village of Kefalos is probably the most famous beach of the island and there is a reason for that. The beach has white soft sand and the coldest waters on the island. The most interesting thing, though, is the amazing small island of Castri, the trademark of Kos.

Paradise beach: This beach is located 43km from Kos town, near the village of Kefalos. It is a sandy, organized beach, wide and long. It is situated in an open cove and thus, depending on the weather, waves can be high.

Marmari beach: Marmari is the first seaside village you’ll come across leaving the town of Kos. The sandy beach is located right in front of the settlement and it is very well organized.

Lambi: This beach is located in Kos town, right next to the harbor. It is an organized and very crowded beach with white sand and clear shallow waters.

Mastichari beach: The beach of the village Mastichari has white sand and emerald waters and reminds visitors of an exotic place. The beach is organized, and the small port of the village offers day trips to the nearby island of Kalymnos.

Top Things to Do in Kos

1. Asklepeio: This is the most significant archaeological site on Kos, as it is the workplace of Hippocrates. Hippocrates was born around 460B.C. in Kos. Known as the father of medicine, he was regarded as the greatest physician of his time. He based his medical practice on observations and on the study of the human body. He believed that illness had a physical and rational explanation, rejecting the popular idea of his time that gods and evil spirits were responsible. Hippocrates traveled throughout Greece practicing his medicine. He founded a medical school on Kos and began teaching. He soon developed an Oath of Medical Ethics for physicians to follow. This Oath is taken by physicians today, before starting their medical practice. Hippocrates died in 377B.C.

Asklepeion, which is located 4km west of Kos town, served as a sanatorium in ancient times. It was dedicated to Aesculapius, son of Apollo, protector of health and medicine. The building consists of four connecting levels. The first is characterized by ruins of Roman constructions of the 1st century A.D. The second, where the medical school may have been housed, is known for its arches and statues. The spas here were watered from the spring of King Halkon. The third level is where the Temple of Aesculapius lay. The fourth level was constructed in the 2nd century B.C. and includes a large temple of Doric style along with the chambers of the patients.

2. The Castle of the Knights in Kos town: This fortress is situated in the entrance of Kos harbor on what used to be an island in antiquity, connected to the inland through a bridge that can be seen today. Along with the castles of Rhodes City and Bodrum, it was the most stalwart defense of the Knights against the Ottoman. The castle consists of two defensive precincts. The interior had four circular towers in the corners. The two precincts were separated by a large moat and communicated via a drawbridge. The castle was built with local stone as well as parts of ancient buildings (columns, architraves etc.) from the ruins of the ancient city.

3. The Church of St. John the Baptist: This church is located inside the cemetery of Kos Town. The church was originally an early Christian baptistery of the 5th-6th century, which belonged to a basilica. It is perhaps the only early Christian baptistery that has remained almost intact until today and is now used as a cemetery church. It houses frescoes dating back to the 12th and 13th century, depicting scenes of the life of St. John the Precursor. Additionally, the church’s masonry presents some interesting elements, such as the use of Hellenistic frieze with garlands on the lower part of the sanctuary apse, architraves, bases etc. on various parts of the walls.

4. Hippocrates Plane Tree: In front of the Castle of the Knights, at the centre of the capital stands the famous plane tree of Hippocrates. It is a huge tree, with a perimeter of 12 meters, which is considered the largest in Europe. The inhabitants claim that it was planted by Hippocrates who used to teach under its shade. According to tradition, Apostle Paul also taught here. On this site, cultural festivals are held every summer.

5. The Archaeological Museum of Kos: The archaeological museum is situated on Eleftherios Square, in the heart of Kos town. The museum houses various exhibits dating mainly to the archaic, Hellenistic and Roman times. Numerous interesting mosaics, ceramics, statues and other finds are exhibited as well as a statue that is believed to represent Hippocrates.

How to Reach Kos

Air: Kos is connected to Athens and Thessaloniki by plane. During summertime, many charter flights land here, connecting the island to many European cities.

Ferry – Domestic: Kos is well connected to all the islands in the Dodecanese and Piraeus. In summer there is a weekly ferry service to Samos and Thessaloniki.

Ferry – International: During summertime, there are ferry connections between Kos Town and Bodrum in Turkey (1 hour).

Getting Around in Kos

To/From the Airport: The airport is poorly serviced by public transport, though buses to and from Kardamena and Kefalos stop at the roundabout nearby. However, there are some airline buses leaving their offices two hours before each flight.

Bus: The bus station is at Kleopatras 7. There are about 10 daily buses to Tingaki, three to Zia, five to Pyli, five to Mastihari, six to Kardamena and six to Kefalos via Paradise, Agios Stefanos and Kamari beaches. Also there are frequent local buses to the Asklipion, Lambi and Agios Fokas from the bus stop on Akti Koundourioti in Kos town.

Tourist Train: The Tourist Train starts from the Municipality Building in Kos town and makes a guided tour of Kos which takes about 20 minutes.

You can also Rent a Car in Kos using Greece.com's Kos Car Rental Engine.

Weather in Kos

The island of Kos has a typical Mediterranean climate with a lot of sunny days throughout the year. Temperatures are quite high for many months per year.

Top 10 Destinations in Kos

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All Destinations in Kos

Airport: Kos
Ancient cities: Alassarna :: Astypalea :: Kardamena :: Kos
Cape: Krikelos
City quarters: Ambavris :: Lambi :: Messaria :: Paradissi
Island: Pserimos
Port: Kamari
Rocky island: Kastri
Small port: Limnionas
Small towns: Kefalos :: Pyli
Villages: Asfendiou :: Lagoudi :: Mastichari :: Platani :: Tigaki :: Zipari

Map of Kos

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