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Kos: The island of Hippocrates

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Kos: The island of Hippocrates

Cosmopolitan, exotic and the third largest island of the Dodecanese, Kos is a mix of different cultures and historical eras. Minoans, Mycenaeans, Dorians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Knights Hospitallers, Ottomans, Italians forged the multicultural identity of this land. Known since antiquity as the "floating garden" for its rich nature and orchards, the homeland of Hippocrates reached the peak of its economic and spiritual glory during the Hellenistic period.

The cultural heritage of all these centuries radiates today in open-air, walk-through archaeological sites and in the medieval castles, the Ottoman mosques, and the modern architecture of the Italian occupation. Here, surrounded by History and embraced by lush nature, more than a million visitors each year discover an inexhaustible kaleidoscope of images and experiences. A multifaceted island, a paradise for cycling, with modern infrastructure, strong gastronomic culture, vivid nightlife, and beaches of tropical beauty.

Routes & Attractions

Designed by the Italians after the devastating earthquake of 1933, the modern city of Kos is an impressive combination of large squares, wide tree-lined streets, parks, and austere buildings of the Italian occupation. Just 4 kilometers from the center, on the verdant slope of a low hill, dominates the famous Asklepion (4th century BC), the third largest sanatorium of the Hellenistic world and Hippocrates' famous school of medicine. The island's most popular attraction stands dominant to this day.

Next stop is the imposing Castle of Nerantzia (14th century), built by the Knights Hospitaller, overlooking the port of Kos and Phoinikon Street or Palm Tree Avenue. Walk along the ramparts before crossing the stone arched bridge that connects the fortress with the iconic Eleftherias Square, the heart of the city. Surrounded by famous sights, such as the giant Plane tree of Hippocrates and Loggia Mosque (18th century), this is a favorite meeting point for locals and visitors. You should visit the stunning Archaeological Museum to admire great sculptures of the Hellenistic period and excellent Roman mosaics.

The historic town center spreads around Eleftherias Square. Wander the beaming ruins of the Ancient Agora, the stone Altar of Dionysus and the Western Archaeological Site (4th – 2nd BC), a monumental complex that consists of the Ancient Stadium, the Ancient Gymnasium, Thermes, ruins of villas with impressive mosaic floors. Discover the splendor of Roman Kos in the restored Roman Odeon (2nd century) and the majestic Roman House (Casa Romana), an impressive Pompeii villa (2nd - 3rd century). Stroll through the cobbled streets of the Old Town of Kos, a picturesque medieval town full of craft shops, restaurants, and cafés.

Outside the city, you will discover the unique beauty of Kos hinterland.  Antimachia with the eminent Folklore Museum and the historic Castle of Antimachia (14th century) built by the Knights of St. John for control over the Straits of Kos and Nisyros. The idyllic Plaka Forest, a pine-covered artificial valley with dozens of colorful friendly peacocks. The ruined village of Palio Pyli, known as "Mystras of the Dodecanese". The Byzantine castle-town (10th-11th century) on the green slopes of Mount Dikeo, a masterpiece of cobbled walkways, preserved fountains, ruins of houses and churches, and a magical view of Kalymnos and Pserimos. The beautiful Zia with its cobbled uphill paths, the crystal springs and the most beautiful sunset of the island, a purple spectacle over the horizon and the sea with Kalymnos, Pserimos and the Turkish coast on the backdrop.

Beaches & Activities

Gifted with 112 km of smooth coastline, Kos offers its visitors wide sandy beaches. There are endless options available. Cosmopolitan Agios Stefanos, next to two basilicas of the early Christian era (4th -5th century), overlooking the islet of Kastri with the picturesque chapel of Agios Nikolaos. You can explore the area by canoe or pedal boat.

The famous Paradise beach, for water sports enthusiasts in a dreamy scenery of palm trees and golden sand. Tigaki with its vast sandy shore and friendly atmosphere, a favorite destination for surfing on waves. Exotic Mastichari with idyllic sunsets and perfect windsurfing conditions.

The idyllic Kardamena with dunes and cozy beach bars.  Therma with hot springs that connect underground with the sea forming a natural spa surrounded by the volcanic beauty of black pebbles. Marmari for horseback riding on the white sandy shore with the sunset backdrop.

Known as a "bicycle island", Kos has a well-designed network of flat bikeways and bicycle tracks (15 km) crossing the town. For mountain biking, follow the forest paths in the Forest of Tsoukalaria, which is also ideal for hiking. Trekking enthusiasts can explore Mount Dikaios, the highest mountain on the island, through special routes. Water sports are a must at the beaches of Kos. You can try everything from wind - surfing and sup to flyboarding, parasailing and diving. You can also enjoy some birdwatching in Alykes in Tigaki and the wetland of Psalidi. Learn about the secrets of "Koios Enos " with guided tours to the vineyards and wineries of the island.

Tastes of the island

The strong culinary identity of Kos is based on the fine raw materials produced over time by the fertile land of the island. Try the PDO Possia cheese (krasotyri), a white cheese with a buttery texture that matures in red wine. Enjoy spoon sweet tomatoes (from the local linati variety) stuffed with almonds. Taste katimeria (twisted pancakes with myzithra cheese, sugar and cinnamon), pitaridia (lasagna boiled in meat broth), pasa makarouna (local pastitsio with minced meat and dry myzithra cheese) and bulgur with pork. Also, giaprakia (stuffed vine leaves) and stuffed zucchini flowers.

Kos is famous for its honey (produced in Antimachia), olive oil and of course its excellent wines, well-known since the Homeric years (Koios Enos), which have taken wine tourism on the island on a very high level. Syrupy sweets are a must in Kos. Taste the local baklava or maeria (honey dessert) and do not say no to a lambropita (open round cheese pie with fresh unsalted mizithra cheese). Don’t forget to sip on some frozen kanelada, the traditional soft drink of Kos made from cinnamon syrup and clove.

Traditions & Events

The biggest celebration in Kos is "Hippocratia", the emblematic cultural summer umbrella festival (June-August) dedicated to Hippocrates, offering a great variety of happenings and events: concerts, ancient drama, dance, visual arts, literary evenings, film festivals, scientific conferences, gastronomic events, and sports competitions. The most important event is the representation of the recitation of the oath of Hippocrates in Asklepion.

Festivals or “panigiria” have their own special place in the cultural life of Kos. Don’t miss the horse races in Pyli, the Trata (trawl) Festival in Kefalos in September, where a huge seafood barbecue is set up, with dancing and singing. The famous Honey Festival in Antimachia (in August), with a treat of loukoumades (donuts with honey) and other honeyed sweets, a honey market and a feast with local music and dance groups. Wine lovers meet at the seaside Mastichari for the August Wine Festival. In Kardamena, the Birthday of the Virgin Mary (September 8) is celebrated with the ritual of the "choros tis koupas” (dance of the cup), pitaridia with braised goat meat and plenty of wine.

Don’t miss...

Visit the village of Haichoutes, a realm of stone and silence on the slope of Mount Dikeos. Enjoy the scenery sipping on Greek coffee in the namesake and only cafe of the settlement.

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