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Visit Cos (Kos)

Kos Island, or Cos Island, is a captivating destination situated in the southeastern Aegean Sea, belonging to the Dodecanese island group of Greece. Known for its rich history, stunning beaches, and vibrant atmosphere, Kos has been attracting visitors from around the world for centuries.

Cos or Kos, an island very close to my heart! I fell in love with the island in 2016 when I worked there for 6 months as a travel guide. I visited the island briefly in 2007 with some friends and I had a not-so-nice image of it, that changed completely when going back 9 years later. 

In 2016 I went there to “start” the tourist season, I had a couple of days to get to know the island before my first “clients” arrived. I remember there were no direct flights yet from Luxembourg, so I flew to Rhodes and came with a ferry to Cos. 

Since I had to know the island before my “clients” arrived (I was the guide, so this knowledge was expected of me), I had to inform myself and also discover what the island had to offer. 

Fast forward to now, after I lived there for half a year, plus a couple of more trips over the last few years, I can say that I know the island well enough to give you some advice on where to go and what to do. 

by Tanya Keiko

So let’s start with a few general information about the island of Cos: 

  • A bit of history: With a history dating back to ancient times, Kos Island has been inhabited since the Neolithic era. It flourished during the Classical period as part of the Delian League and later became a significant center during the Hellenistic period under the rule of the Ptolemaic Kingdom. The island has seen influences from various civilizations, including the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans, each leaving their mark on its culture and architecture.

  • Beaches: Kos Island is renowned for its stunning beaches that cater to all tastes. From bustling shores with water sports and beach bars to secluded coves offering tranquility and relaxation, there's a beach for everyone. Lambi Beach, Tigaki Beach, and Paradise Beach are just a few examples of the island's sandy stretches where visitors can soak up the sun and enjoy the crystal-clear waters of the Aegean Sea.

  • Cuisine: Greek cuisine is celebrated worldwide for its fresh ingredients and delicious flavors, and Kos Island is no exception. Visitors can indulge in traditional Greek dishes like moussaka, souvlaki, and Greek salads, along with locally caught seafood and regional specialties. Tavernas and restaurants line the streets of Kos Town and other coastal villages, offering authentic dining experiences overlooking the sea.

  • Activities: Beyond its historical and natural attractions, Kos Island offers a range of activities to suit every traveler. Explore the island's picturesque villages by bike or on foot, embark on boat trips to neighboring islets, or partake in water sports such as windsurfing, snorkeling, and diving. The island's vibrant nightlife scene also ensures entertainment well into the evening, with bars, clubs, and beach parties.

What to visit (What I show a friend for the first time on the island):

Let’s take things from the East of the island to the West. 

Agios Fokas - The most Eastern point that you can go to is the Sulphur sources (mineral water springs), 10 minutes away by car from Cos town. For me, it’s something not worth to see. But there is a nice view over to Turkey. 

Cos town - obviously! Cos has a nice harbor, l little cafes all over town, and cute restaurants. It’s nice to stroll around, go out, meet people, party (if that’s your thing), or just hang out and go shopping. 

Asclepieion: Near/in Cos town is also the Asclepieion (an ancient healing center dedicated to the god of medicine, Asclepius), whose surviving ruins date back to the Hellenistic period, after the 4th century BC, and was built on the slopes of a hill with lush vegetation and impressive sea views.

Zia - the famous village in the mountains, known for the best sunsets and its view of Turkey and Kalymnos (therefore a ton of busses and too much traffic) I suggest you go there for lunch, stroll around the little streets and eat lunch at the “No stress” restaurant. 

Haihoutes - a small abandoned village near Zia - there is also a little restaurant where you can get very authentic Greek food, best to go for Dinner. Be aware that you are in the middle of nowhere and the way to drive to the village might not seem like you are allowed to drive there. 

Tigaki - if you were already for lunch in Zia, I suggest you spend your afternoon at one of the beach clubs in Tigaki. It’s a pretty relaxed village, and it has a ton of beach clubs (hence nice sandy beaches with a view of Turkey and Kalymnos)

Pyli - another old village “in the mountains”- Some of the sights are the ruins of the tomb of ancient Harmylos as well as the Byzantine castle of the village. Within its walls lies a well-preserved church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Mastichari - a small laidback village on the Northern side of the island, a fantastic place to calm down and relax while enjoying the beautiful beach. The village is also known for kitesurfing and you can take the ferry to go to Kalymnos.

Kardamena - a village in the South, only 10 minutes away from the airport. It has a small port where ferries make daily connections to the island of Nisyros. Many bars and restaurants, and a nice beach as well.

On the road to Kefalos, there are some famous beaches, for example, Paradise Beach. Those are quite memorable and worth a visit.

Kefalos - The town of Kefalos is split into two separate parts. The main part is perched on the top of a ridge and has remained quite traditional in many ways. And then there is Kamari, the lower seaside part of the town which has a small harbour. When you drive to Kefalos, you will immediately see the small island of Kastri, just across the bay of Kefalos. I recommend swimming there (if you can).

Agios Theologos - Last but not least - my favorite beach - Agios Theologos, you can reach the beach going further West through Kefalos. The surrounding area is relatively undeveloped, with a backdrop of rolling hills and lush greenery, adding to the natural charm of the beach.

Another few things to do (off the island):

Visit Bodrum (Turkey) - A picturesque seaside down that seamlessly blends ancient history with modern allure. Nestled along the azure waters of the Aegean Sea, Bodrum entices visitors with its whitewashed buildings, vibrant markets, and lively atmosphere.

You need your passport to go there, because it is Turkey, outside of the EU. Most people that are on holiday on Cos, just go there for a day trip. (ferries every day from Cos port) But I recommend staying there at least for one night, because it has a vibrant nightlife scene. Bodrum has just a very different vibe from Cos. It’s great to go out. Keep in mind although it’s only like 20 km away from Cos, the temperatures there during summer are on average a couple of degrees warmer than on the island. (because it’s a bay)

Visit Kalymnos - Perfect for a day trip if you stay on Cos Island. Take a ferry in Mastichari and then I usually rent a car for the day on Kalymnos. So you can make the whole tour of the island and return in the evening to Cos. Worldwide famous for its rock-climbing fields and is known as the "Sponge Divers island", Kalymnos is one of the Dodecanese islands situated right next to Kos, just eighteen nautical miles away. Sceneries of alluring beauty and mountainous wilderness highlight the authentic identity of this island.

Visit Nysiros - also a perfect day trip, ferries go from Kardamena and/or Kefalos.

Nisyros, a small volcanic island in the Aegean Sea, is a tranquil haven known for its unique landscape, charming villages, and authentic Greek atmosphere. Located near Kos and Tilos, Nisyros offers visitors a glimpse into the raw beauty of a volcanic landscape alongside traditional Greek island life.

The defining feature of Nisyros is its active volcano, which has shaped the island's rugged terrain and lends it a distinct character. Visitors can explore the volcano's crater, known as Stefanos, where they'll encounter steaming vents, sulfuric fumaroles, and colorful mineral deposits. The stark beauty of the lunar-like landscape against the backdrop of the azure sea is truly mesmerizing.

Conclusion: Kos Island, with its blend of history, natural beauty, and modern amenities, is a captivating destination that promises unforgettable experiences for visitors. Whether you're exploring ancient ruins, relaxing on pristine beaches, or savoring local delicacies, Kos offers a Mediterranean getaway like no other.

I hope I convinced you to go visit Cos Island with its many charms! Thanks for reading!

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