Greek Guide

Kos Day Trips Greece Kos

Kos Tourist Attractions Day Trips Greece Greek Travel Guide Dodecanes Islands

Most visitors to Kos make a beeline for the island's wonderful beaches by day but if you can tear yourself away from the sun, sea and sand scenario for at least a day or two you'll find a fascinating array of ancient sites and places of interest to visit.

Start by exploring Kos Town, in the north east corner of the island where the ferries dock, visiting yachts are moored and excursion boats line up to transport holidaymakers to various beaches around the coastline and to neighbouring islands. It's an elegant town awash with street cafes, towering palms, pine trees and jasmine scented gardens.

Dominated by the huge 15th century Castle of the Knights, the town is an odd blend of ancient and modern. Swish boutiques, classy jewellery shops and a plethora of late night music bars co exist with ancient ruins exposed after the earthquake which rocked the island in 1933. The quake revealed the remains of a Roman agora (market place) with a third century BC temple and a 5th century AD Christian basilica. At the northern edge of this open site you can see the Hippocrates Plane Tree in the pretty cobblestone square of Plateia Platanou. The Father of Modern Medicine allegedly planted the tree 2,400 years ago and lectured his pupils beneath it but the best Greek tales pay scant regard to the facts. The tree is certainly one of the oldest in Europe but is no more than 600 years old.

One of the most interesting historic sites is the Casa Romana an opulent 3rd century AD Roman villa which once had 26 rooms and three pools surrounded by shady courtyards. You can still make out lions, leopards, dolphins and other sea creatures in the mosaic floors.

The town's archaeological museum in the main square, Plateia Eleftherias, gives a fascinating insight into the island's past with an array of finds from Hellenistic and Roman times. One of the star exhibits is a 4th century BC marble statue of Hippocrates.

A visit to the religious sanctuary and healing centre built after the death of Hippocrates is top of most visitors' agenda. The Asklipion site, four kilometres west of Kos Town, is one of the most important classical sites in the whole of Greece. The ruins consist of a 3rd century BC propylaea (the elaborate porch built at the entrance of ancient sanctuaries), Roman baths dating back to the 1 st century AD, the 4th century BC Altar of Apollo and the 2nd century BC Temple of Asclepios (the god of healing). People came from far and wide to visit the healing centre and to study at the medical school until the 6th century AD.

For a flavour of life as it used to be lived on Kos before the advent of mass tourism, explore the so called Asfendiou villages scattered along the wooded, northern slopes of Mount Dikaios. The picturesque hamlets of Agios Georgios and Agios Dimitrios have managed to maintain much of their traditional character whilst nearby Zia, the island's highest village, tends to get over run by coach parties arriving to witness its wonderful sunsets. Lagoudi, to the west of Zia, remains mercifully unspoilt and from here you can visit the medieval village of Pyli overlooked by the Palaio Pyli castle which contains a Byzantine church with 14th century frescoes.