Kos: An ideal Greek island for a short, relaxing vacation – review

Kos: An ideal Greek island for a short, relaxing vacation - review

The smallest among the Dodecanese group located in the southeastern Aegean Sea, the enchanting island of Kos, Greece, beckons travelers with timeless allure.

Steeped in history, bathed in Mediterranean sunshine and graced by the gentle caress of the Aegean breeze, Kos is the perfect destination for those seeking a relaxing, wholesome vacation.

It may not be the most famous Greek island or, for that matter, the prettiest, but it offers a unique and appealing mix of natural beauty, history, culture and culinary delights, making it a hidden gem for travelers seeking a more laid-back Greek island experience. It is only a short, direct flight from Israel with Bluebird Airways.

FOREVER ENTWINED with the legacy of Hippocrates, the father of medicine who was born in Kos around 460 BC, the island pays homage to its most illustrious native son.

Among the several historical sites and ruins to explore, the most famous is the Asklepion, an ancient healing center where Hippocrates established the first hospital, practiced medicine, treated patients and conducted his research.

THE KOS town main square. (credit: NERIA BARR)

The island boasts numerous stunning, sandy beaches – perfect for sunbathing, swimming and water sports. The crystal-clear waters surrounding Kos are a paradise for snorkelers and divers, offering a chance to explore vibrant underwater ecosystems and marine life.

THE SYNAGOGUE in Kos, known as the Kahal Shalom Synagogue, is a historic and culturally significant site situated in the heart of Kos Town, near Eleftherias Square. Its central location makes it easily accessible to visitors.

Visiting this synagogue provides a unique opportunity to learn about the history of Kos’s Jewish community. It features distinctive architecture that combines elements of both Jewish and Ottoman design. It has a beautiful exterior with an arched entrance, while the interior is adorned with intricate woodwork and decorative details.

Constructed in the 18th century, during the time when the island was under Ottoman rule, it served as a place of worship and community gathering for the Jewish population before WWII. Today the synagogue is open to the public, and visitors are welcome to explore its interior, learn about its history, or hold a service.

SITUATED NOT far from the synagogue, in the central square of Kos Town – known as Platía Platanou (Platanou Square), a hub of activity surrounded by cafes, restaurants and historic buildings – the Tree of Hippocrates is believed to be one of the oldest and largest plane trees in Europe. According to local legend, it was under the shade of this tree that Hippocrates taught his students and practiced medicine. While there is debate among historians about the authenticity of this claim, the tree has become an iconic landmark on the island of Kos and a popular tourist attraction, serving as a focal point for visitors exploring the town.

Adjacent to the tree is a monument dedicated to Hippocrates. The monument features a statue of the physician and serves as a tribute to his enduring legacy in the field of medicine.

Visitors are welcome to sit beneath the tree, take photographs and soak in the atmosphere. It’s a great place to take a break while exploring Kos Town.

VISITING THE Asklepieion on Kos is a journey back in time to a place where the roots of modern medicine and holistic healing were deeply embedded. It’s a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts, those interested in ancient Greek culture, and anyone intrigued by the enduring legacy of Hippocrates and his contributions to the field of medicine. An impressive flight of stairs is situated in the middle of the Asklepieion, the most significant archaeological sight of Kos. An ancient shrine to the god of medicine, it was here that Hippocrates developed his teachings, setting the methodology of Western medicine for generations to come. Here, he and his students received patients, treating all equally, and setting the ground for medicine as we know it today.

The Asklepieion is located about four kilometers southwest of Kos Town. You can reach it by car, bicycle, or even on foot if you enjoy a hike with scenic views. Many visitors choose to rent a vehicle or join an organized tour to get there.

Opening hours may vary, depending on the season, and there is an entrance fee of eight euros per person.

Consider joining a guided tour of the Asklepieion. Knowledgeable guides can provide historical context, share interesting anecdotes and help you appreciate the significance of the site. Guided tours are especially beneficial if you want a deeper understanding of the history and architecture. I can recommend Kostas (kostourguide.com), a knowledgeable, multi-lingual guide who even speaks a few sentences in Hebrew. He made our day there.

THE FLAT terrain of the island makes cycling an easy and popular means of transport for both locals and tourists. It’s also the perfect way to admire the historic buildings until you reach a café, restaurant or bar of your choice so you can sit down for a relaxing drink and some food – before you start riding again. Kos offers a network of cycling paths and roads that take you through picturesque landscapes, along the coastline, and to various attractions. Some popular routes and destinations for cyclists include Kos Town, the capital city of Kos, and its historic sites. Ride along the waterfront promenade or through the narrow streets of the Old Town.

You can easily rent bicycles in most hotels or tourist areas on the island. There are various types available, including mountain bikes, road bikes, and even electric bikes (e-bikes) if you want some assistance with pedaling. Local operators offer guided cycling tours that can take you to some of the best spots in Kos.

THE ISLAND has a thriving wine industry, and you can visit local wineries to sample some Kos’s finest. One of the largest family-run wineries in Kos, Hatziemmanouil (pronounced Haj Immanuel) Vineyards produces a variety of high-quality wines, both red and white, that showcase the unique terroir of the island.

Hatziemmanouil Vineyards gives tours and wine tastings, offering an opportunity to learn about the winemaking process, explore the vineyards and sample the wines produced on-site. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local wine culture and appreciate the craftsmanship behind the wines. https://hatziemmanouil.gr/

MELISSA HONEY Farm is situated in the countryside, where bees have access to a diverse range of plants and flowers, contributing to the unique flavors of the honey produced there. The farm offers guided tours that educate visitors about the process of beekeeping, offering insights into the life of bees, the importance of pollinators in agriculture, and the methods used in honey production.

Visitors have the opportunity to taste various types of honey produced on the farm. Honey from different seasons and floral sources, such as wild oregano (Kos boasts dozens of different oreganos growing wild on the island), spring flowers, and my favorite heather, each with a distinct flavor and aroma. Visitors are invited to sample and purchase these different items.

In addition to honey, the farm offers other bee-related products such as beeswax-based cosmetics and propolis-based items that are available in the farm’s gift shop. https://www.melissa-kos.com/about

ZIA, A charming mountain village situated at the foot of Mount Dikeos, is known for its picturesque setting, traditional Greek architecture, stunning sunsets and vibrant local culture. Situated on the western side of Kos, approximately 15 kilometers from Kos Town, Zia is renowned for its breathtaking sunsets. The village’s elevated position offers one of the best vantage points on the island to watch the sun dip below the horizon, creating a dramatic and colorful display in the evening sky. Strolling through the village – with its white-washed houses, narrow cobblestone streets and charming courtyards – is a delightful way to experience the local atmosphere, enjoy the tavernas and cafes, look for gifts in the crafts and souvenir shops and enjoy the local atmosphere. It is also a vantage point for those wishing to hike in the mountain trails.

FOR FAMILIES and those seeking some water-based fun, there’s the Lido water park, perfect for a day of splashing and sliding. Parents can sit by the pool or at the bar and enjoy a relaxing morning; it’s clean and not at all crowded, unlike water parks elsewhere. www.lidowaterpark.com

BOAT TOURS are available from Kos to nearby islands and coastal areas, providing an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the Aegean Sea. Other options include day tours to adjacent Bodrum, Turkey, and a tour on one of the pirate ships leaving from the port at Kos town.

Restaurants and hotels on the Greek island of Kos

THERE ARE many tavernas and cafes everywhere you look, and the food is generally good. Enjoy plenty of vegetarian dips and salads, great local cheeses and fresh vegetables and, of course, fish and seafood.

We ate at the following restaurants:

  • Arap, Platani Square, Kos – a lovely tavern in the middle of Kos Town, serving delicious and authentic Greek cuisine. Like all local restaurants, dinner begins with an incredible variety of salads and dips – leaving hardly any room for the main dish.
  • H20 Restaurant, Vasileos Georgiou 7, Kos, www.h2o-kos.gr/en/ for information. An upscale seafront wine bar and restaurant, this restaurant serves contemporary dishes.
  • Periklis Meze Restaurant – Address: Mastichari village. A lovely, easy-going tavern where you can sample all the local delights and fresh fish while imagining Zorba the Greek raising a glass of ouzo with his friends. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/periklismezerestaurant/
  • Avli restaurant – Zia village, Kos. Located at Zia picturesque village. Sit on the rooftop veranda and sip ouzo while watching the ravishing sunset. Facebook: https://avli-restaurant.business.site/

KOS OFFERS a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets, from luxury resorts to cozy guesthouses and family-run hotels. Our group stayed in three different hotels:

  • Hotel Astir Odysseus – Situated five kilometers from the famous Tigaki Beach, this is an all-inclusive, 5-star family resort and spa. Located on the beach, it offers excellent food, five swimming pools, a spa with an indoor pool, as well as a climbing wall, a gym, bicycle rentals and tennis courts and kids’ playgrounds. (fotos www.astirodysseuskos.gr.)
  • Gaia Palace Hotel – Located at Mastihari Village, not far from the airport, this is an all-inclusive hotel offering fantastic pools, large rooms and villas. https://www.gaia-hotels.com.
  • Pelagos Suites Hotel & SPA is spread over 45,000 sq. meters. The beachfront hotel is located on Lambu Beach, only 2.5 kilometers from Kos town and offers elegant rooms and suites, pools and a rich breakfast. https://we.tl/t-j9YBvnfwRE

The writer was a guest of Bluebird Airways https://www.facebook.com/Official.Bluebird.Airways, KOS Tourism authority  https://instagram.com/visitkosgreece?igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA, Ck strategic https://instagram.com/ckstrategies_?igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==, Israel Aviareps  https://instagram.com/aviareps_group?igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==

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