Kos: Island of history, culture and fun

Nestling in the warm waters of the Carpathian Sea the island of Kos is a jewel among jewels offering a climate and rich history few other holiday destinations can match.

The third largest island of the Dodecanese archipelago, after Rhodes and Karpathos, Kos lies between the islands of Nisyros and Kalymnos, close to the coasts of Asia Minor.

The island itself has an area of just 290 sq km and a population of just 20,000. However, its diminutive size belies its historic stature.

The island was first inhabited in prehistoric times, but it was around 1400 BC that civilization of any real description arrived when the Minoans sailed over from Crete and set foot on the azure shores.

Such a prized location did not go unnoticed for long and the Minoans were followed by the Achaeans and, a few centuries later, the Dorians.

It was the Dorians who founded the ancient city of Kos. Over the following centuries the Persians, Athenians, Spartans, Macedonians, Byzantines, Romans, Venetians, Turks, Italians, Germans and even the British have laid claim to the island.

With such a rich (and exhausting) list of cultural influences it is perhaps not surprising that Kos offers so much in the way of historical sites.

The most significant of these sites is the Asklepeio. Situated 4km west of the town of Kos, the Asklepeio was built in a green area full of cypress trees and served as a sanatorium dedicated to Aesculapius, son of Apollo, protector of health and medicine in Greek mythology.

Many significant people taught and worked here, one of them being the father of Medicine, Hippokrates.

Another of the island’s spectacular sites is the great fortress that stands at the entrance to the harbour. The Castle of Neratzia dates to 1315 when the Knights of St John of Rhodes became masters of the island.

After the Knights of St John, the Turks took over Kos and their architectural influence can also be seen in many of the island’s buildings.

A great way to find out more about the historical wonders of Kos is to visit the Archaeological Museum, located at Eleftherias square, exhibiting a wide collection of archaeological treasures, such as the mosaic of Hippocrates, and the Hellenistic sculptures of Aphrodite and Eros.

Of course most holidays aren’t just about education and Kos is also a place both to relax and have fun.

With a mild climate all year round together with vast sandy beaches is isn’t a surprise that Kos is so popular with sun seekers and beach bums.

Straying off the shore, hiking is also a popular pass time for tourists. In fact the island, together with its neighbours, came third in a recent poll on the best places to hike in Europe.

Night life is also world class on the island and has options to suit almost every taste. From beach bars clubs Kos is a city bursting with life and energy long in the the small hours.

For those on a more sedate or romantically inclined break will enjoy the cosy restaurants serving fantastic Greek specialties (such as the legendary seafood) and the quite beach front bars, perfect for a night cap after a stroll on the sand.

With so much to offer it is perhaps not surprising that Kos is such a popular destination. However, the island offers plenty of accommodation for every budget and cheap flights operate year round meaning there is no excuse not to visit this fantastic destination.

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