Is Kos worth visiting? You asked; we answered. And it’s a big, fat Greek nαί! That’s ‘yes’, just in case you were wondering. This island soars nearly 900 meters out of the pearly blue Aegean Sea with cathedral-like limestone cliffs and cotton-tinged beaches aplenty. There are rollicking towns packed to the rafters with tavernas and ouzo-sloshing pubs. There are eye-watering beaches and haunting relics from the age of the ancients.
Yep: Kos is unquestionably one of the jewels of the southeastern Mediterranean. As many as 2.5 million visitors come to explore the secrets of the island each year. Some go for the package R&R of much-loved Kardamena in the south. Others prefer the chicer vibes of Kamari. Others still will choose to escape to the rustic mountain villages of the Dikeos range, or vacation with the revelers of hedonistic Kos Town.
This guide will run through just seven reasons why Kos most certainly is worth having on the travel radar for the coming year. It’ll delve into the rich history, detail the reason for the buzz about the beaches, and even take you to the after-dark party scene that pulses between May and September. Let’s go…
With the possible exception of Rhodes, Kos is the most historically rich of the whole Dodecanese chain. It’s been going on since the age of ancient Greece. You can see that at the uncovered archaeological dig site that is the Agora of Kos. It’s right in the middle of Kos Town, but still shows the remains of old marketplaces and townhouses and temples that date back more than two millennia.
In the streets behind lie the imposing steps of the Roman Odeon of Kos, built by the great empire out of Italy in the first century AD. Meanwhile, the muscular Neratzia citadel dominates the crags overhead. That’s a leftover from the time when the crusader Knights of St. John ruled the island; a time when Kos was on the very frontier of Christendom. It really is timeless stuff.
Is Kos worth visiting for the nightlife alone? Well…thousands of 18-30s travelers seem to think so. They come in droves every year, most with the Bar Street venues of Kos Town on the radar. Sessions start pretty early on in those parts, with happy hour deals beginning in the mid afternoon when the patrons return from the beaches. Closing isn’t until late (like 4am late) at night, with Mylos Beach Bar and West Bar often lasting the longest of all.
Kos Town isn’t you’re only option, either. The main resort area of Kardamena also boasts a pulsing after-dark scene. The main square of Pl. Eleftherias is the place to be. The terraces of uber-cool Jam Bar and cocktail-sloshing Stone Roses Bar spill onto the sidewalks there. We also love the Garden Cafe & Cocktail Bar for quieter, more romantic evenings a little away from the crowd.
The one you’ve all been waiting for, right? Is Kos worth visiting for its beaches? Let’s put it this way: Kos has some of the undisputed superlative beaches of the whole Dodecanese chain. That’s the same island chain as Rhodes and Rhodes is pretty darn gorgeous, so we’re saying something here. The thing we love the most is the sheer variety. Some beaches on Kos are packed with sunbeds and backed by tavernas. Others are pure seclusion and even swimwear is optional. Go au naturel if you like.
Our highlights are:
- Lagades Beach – A very long and sandy beach that tumbles into a submerged volcanic crater (the Gulf of Kefalos) on the south side of the island. We think it’s perfect for quiet, family days.
- Lambi Mylos Beach – There’s a pretty fantastic all-night beach bar that romps until the early hours here. That will start late, but it’s a hint at Lambi’s character: The beach is for watersports, day drinking, and good-time vibes with mates.
- Marmari Limnaria – One of Greece’s most epic windsurfing spots, Marmari Limnaria picks up the dominant northerly wind direction and is a watersports mecca.
- Agios Stefanos Beach – One of the most picturesque beaches on Kos, no doubt. Agios Stefanos Beach is pebbly and sandy and has lovely views of the church-topped island of Kastri.
It’s super easy to get to
Kos is unusual among the 7,000 Greek islands out there in that it has its very own international airport. That’s the Kos International Airport Hippocrates (KGS), which sits conveniently smack dab in the heart of the island. It’s a major hub for seasonal routes with European low-cost fliers like Ryanair and EasyJet. They connect Kos with big cities like London, Brussels, Manchester, and Berlin in just a couple of hours and run multiple times each day during the high-season months between May and September.
And there’s more good news – it’s a cinch to get from Kos International Airport to the major resorts and towns on the island. The farthest is actually Kos Town itself, but that’s only 25 minutes or so in a taxi transfer. Kardamena, the main resort area on the south coast, is a mere 10 minutes’ drive from the arrival terminal.
But planes aren’t the only way to get in. Kos is also a favorite terminus for cross-Aegean island-hopping trips. It is served by loads of ferry lines. There are daily summer services to Piraeus (that’s the main port in Athens) and Rhodes (the largest of the Dodecanese chain). You can even come in from the Turkish coast, thanks to direct boat links from Bodrum and Datça.
The potential to escape
While the resorts of Lambi and Kardamena are the ones that usually hit the headlines, they actually represent just a fraction of what’s on offer on the island of Kos. There’s plenty of potential to stray away from the beaten track in this far-flung corner of the eastern Dodecanese. What awaits there? How does rugged mountain terrain, eerie caves, and long-lost beachfronts buffeted by the winds sound?
Hikers will want to be certain to pack the boots and the water bottles for expeditions into the Dikeos mountains. They scar the central backbone of Kos, starting just west of Kos Town. There’s a fantastic path that starts in the charming village of Zia. It zigzags up the slopes until you reach a lookout plinth more than 840 meters above sea level. The views are stunning there, sweeping east to the Turkish coast and south to Rhodes.
You could also take some time to visit the Atsigana Baths. They’re a half-crumbled ruin from the Roman era that sits in the wildflower meadows near Haihoutes village. In addition, you’ve got Cape Routhianos, where deep coast grottoes carve into the cliffs and the sea smashes against the rocks below.
Kos Town is the beating heart of life here. It occupies an enviable location below the Dikeos mountains on the far north-eastern edge of the island. The ferry boats that come from Athens and Rhodes all arrive here, so there’s a constant stream of people passing through. But Kos Town is a destination in its own right…
Immersive streets weave and wind their way through the center, much of which was laid down in the medieval ages and the Ottoman period. Suddenly, you can happen upon even older things – like the aforementioned Agora of Kos or the stunning Roman Odeon. Hidden somewhere in the center is a leafy square that hosts the Plane tree of Hippocrates, a spot famed as the place where the so-called Father of Medicine taught his pupils.
On top of that, you can enjoy city beaches like Lambi and Paradiso, both of which are a quick stroll or a cycle from the ferry piers. And there’s nightlife, pumping until the early hours down Bar Street. To put it simply: Kos Town is an all-in-one spot if you want it to be.
We have to say, there are some darn fantastic hotels on the island of Kos. That should hardly come as a surprise, considering just how popular this island is with international visitors (did we mention that more than 2 million people per year jet in?). Generally speaking, Kos excels at midrange to upscale boutique lodgings that bring a touch of luxury but also that warm Greek hospitality.
Tempted? Be sure to check out…
- OKU Kos – There’s an air of the Balinese beach bar about this absolutely stunning resort. The pool is the piece de resistance, as it spreads between thatched cabanas to offer a view over the sand dunes and the mountains. Ah – it’s lush!
- Kos Aktis Art Hotel – A seriously nice option for holidays to Kos Town, this elegant resort makes the most of its location right on the coast by offering sea-view rooms with glass balconies. The sunrises are stunning.
- Michelangelo Resort & Spa – Out in the remote nature reserves south of Kos Town, the Michelangelo Resort & Spa spreads over the cliffs above a serene sea. It’s hard to tell where the infinity pool ends and the Aegean begins. Uber-luxury.
So, is Kos worth visiting?
Is Kos worth visiting? No doubt. We’ve touched on just seven of the reasons this island is such a scorcher. From the brilliant beaches to the tempting backcountry peaks, the enthralling history to the bumping parties, you’re sure to find something to love!