The island of Kos, in the Aegean Sea, is the third largest and second most populous island in the Greek Dodecanese Islands. Located just over 2 hours from Rhodes by ferry, Kos also has an International Airport so it’s easy to see why so many many people choose Kos holidays as their summer escape.
Once you arrive, you’ll be impressed by how Kos maintains its small beach town vibe without lacking in any of the comforts you want on a vacation.
On top of this, it boasts some of the region’s most beautiful white sandy beaches alongside a myriad of archaeological sites just ripe for exploration. Between the fantastic weather, laid back feel, incredible beaches, and some of the best Greek food you could ask for, Kos is a paradise just waiting to be explored.
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When to visit Kos
The best time to visit Kos is April through October when sunshine is frequent and rainfall will be the lowest of the year.
Temperatures hit an average high of 28°C in July, so be prepared for hot weather if you visit at the peak of high season! The surrounding water gets very warm in the summer, making it perfect for swimming.
Best beach and swimming weather: June to September
Best sightseeing weather: March to June and September/October
Where is Kos, Greece?
Kos is one of the Dodecanese Islands, located on the far east of Greece in the beautiful waters of the Aegean Sea.
It’s surrounded by many other Greek islands and is located just off the southwestern tip of Turkey.
The location gives it a true Mediterranean climate (wet and cool winters but dry, hot summers).
Kos is particularly well-known for its long, sandy beaches and ancient Greek and Roman ruin sites and artefacts.
Mentions of Kos and its people date as far back as Homer’s Iliad. There is also a 14th-century castle fortress at its harbour showing that this has been a hotspot throughout history.
How to get to Kos
Despite its far reaches from the Greek mainland, Kos is surprisingly accessible.
Flying to Kos
If you aren’t anywhere near the islands there’s no need to worry because Kos has an airport – the Kos Island International Airport – which receives flights from not only all over Greece but many different destinations.
Flying in from Athens takes just an hour’s flight time. The airport is buzzing in the summer when primarily British and German airlines are flying in daily to serve the holiday-goers flying in from abroad.
The airport is just a half-hour drive from Kos City, and you can easily find a taxi. Alternatively, there is a public bus running frequently, and the stop is just outside the main entrance.
Ferry to Kos
If you are island-hopping, Kos has ferry routes running with four of the surrounding islands – Rhodes, Patmos, Leros, and Kalymnos.
Ferry rides are a little longer and even the closest island, Patmos, is a three-hour journey (a beautiful one, though).
There are ferries from Athens too, but this would really qualify as taking the scenic route since that trip will be around 11 hours. Be sure to book a cabin on the Blue Star and enjoy yourself a mini-cruise!
The nearby Turkish town of Bodrum also has a ferry route to Kos, if you’re approaching from the east.
Getting around Kos
Kos is a relatively flat island so cycling is a popular way to get around.
There is a good network of bicycle paths both in Kos Town and along the northern coast towards Tigaki and Marmari. You can also ride to Thermes beach, passing by Psalidi beach and Agias Fokas beach, the end of the route is especially scenic.
There are regular buses from Kos Town that service all other main island villages.
There are two bus stations in Kos Town: one by the port which is for urban and suburban buses and the second, inside the town, is for the other island buses including the one for the airport.
Schedules change every 30 days, so be sure to check timetables regularly. Tickets are purchased on board except the local buses leaving from the terminal at Akti Miaouli St. (by the port) – where it’s cheaper to buy tickets in the ticket booth.
By the port, there is also the tourist road train. It costs 5€ for a two-way 15-minute ride to the Asklepeion.
There are plenty of taxis on the island.
From the airport to Kos Town (or return) it should cost you around €35.
Car and Scooter rental
Scooters, ATVs and cars can be hired from many places on the island. A small car is a great idea to see some of the more authentic parts of the island including the more remote and interior villages.
We use and recommended RentalCars for car hire.
Further reading : Driving in Greece
Where to stay on Kos
The majority of the hotels on Kos are in the island’s main city, also called Kos. The rest are largely concentrated along the northern coast. Tourism is the island’s biggest industry, alongside farming and exports of Greek goods like figs, almonds, olives, and tomatoes, so there are a surprisingly large number of hotel options in the main city.
Albergo Gelsomino Hotel is a beautifully restored building-turned-hotel sitting right at the water’s edge on the eastern shores of Kos, with the beach only steps away. A section of the beach is private for hotel guests only, complete with comfortable chairs and beach umbrellas.
White Pearls Luxury Suites is an Adults-Only resort located along the northern coastline just a few minutes outside of Kos, right by Lampi beach. This is a luxurious getaway for anyone looking to pamper themselves while on vacation. This is made easy thanks to things like the Aegean sea-view outdoor pool, private terraces, private gardens, and a private stretch of beach.
Blue Lagoon City Hotel offers luxury at a low price so great for travellers on a budget. Open year round even during the tourism off-season, the Blue Lagoon is a few minutes from the beach but compensates by having an indoor and outdoor pool, gym facility, and spa with sauna.
Elsewhere on Kos
Cirillo Family Hotel is a small, family-run hotel in the former fishing village of Mastichari. It is set in a private area surrounded by gardens, just a few minutes walk from the beach. Rooms and suites are comfortable, decorated in an Aegean style, and with sea, garden, or mountain views.
Origin Hotel Apartments is located in the popular southern coastal town of Kardamena. Suites are comfortable, modern, but without the frills, offering great accommodation at a low rate. The hotel is located close to the beach and also close to the airport. There is an outdoor pool as well.
OKU Kos will make you feel like you’ve stepped into paradise. This is an adult-only hotel with a private beach and outdoor pool, as well as a well-known boutique restaurant. The overall decor is luxury with a laid-back, island feel – the ample straw parasols, stonework, palm trees, and private villas give it a Bali or Tulum vibe.
A fantastic place to stay with a difference is Sails on Kos, an Ecoluxe Tented Village right near the beach. These two-room, air-conditioned tents have their own bathrooms and the complex is very family-friendly with an on-site swimming pool and playground.
Kos restaurants and bars
Most of Kos’ restaurants and pub scene is concentrated in the main city of Kos, close to the shoreline.
Good food tastes better with a view like the one you’ll get here, so try these places for a true Kos experience. You’ll even find many locals frequenting these spots, showing how good the cuisine is.
If you’re looking for somewhere to mingle, check out Alibaba Beach Bar, a popular spot right on the beach serving bar-style food with a fresh, Grecian twist. Slightly further north away from the crowded city is the Delon Pub, great for pizza and drinks.
A little further outside the city is Lofaki Bar Restaurant, high on a hilltop overlooking Kos and the Aegean Sea, serving Greek fare and Western dishes, and with amazing sunset views.
Down south in Kardamena the food is just as good – be sure to check out the Avli Restaurant for an extensive traditional menu served on clay plates, the Stone Roses Bar for great cocktails and live music, and Tasty Corner for quick, delicious Greek food in a casual welcoming setting.
There is an entire Bar Street in Kos (town) in between the port and the ruins. It becomes very busy by midnight and is lively until daybreak. Music here is fairly mainstream and it attracts a young crowd.
For a more local experience check out Alysos Bar which is frequented by the local men playing backgammon and sipping on Ouzo.
Kos Things to Do
Kos is a small island, but many of its towns and villages (particularly the more remote, less-travelled ones) have been well preserved and make for wonderful day trips.
These towns boast world-renowned beaches, archaeological landmarks, and natural wonders.
This is the island’s capital and the main town on the island.
It has the highest concentration of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and hotels, and mainly serves European travellers, with tourism being the biggest industry.
Some of its major points of interest include:
- The Roman Odeon of Kos: a second-century open-air amphitheatre. The seating and infrastructure have been carefully restored and much of it replaced with marble.
- The Casa Romana: an ancient Roman-style villa that has been restored. Its style is similar to remnants found in Pompeii, dating it somewhere around the second century. The house still has many mosaics and frescoes on display.
- The Plane Tree of Hippocrates: a huge, ancient tree in the centre of the city where Hippocrates, the father of medicine, supposedly taught his students. While the tree is only around 500 years old, making this impossible, it is still a fiercely impressive sight due to its size, and is largely considered one of the largest, if not the largest, Plane tree in Europe.
- The Temple of Hercules: this temple ruin is located near the Plane tree of Hippocrates. It dates from the second century, and all that remains is the foundation base, the platform, and some of the lower wall stones.
- The Asklepion Kos: one of Greece’s many Asclepions (healing temples). This particular ruin was the site of Hippocrates’ medical practice.
Kardamena is a small beach resort town, popular with young travellers.
It’s located on the southern coast of Kos. While its year-round population is small, this number triples during the summer months as tourists USUALLY arrive.
The town offers all the same amenities as Kos – pubs, incredible beaches, and nightlife – but with a small-town feel. You’ll also avoid the much larger crowds that flock to Kos during high season.
The archaeological site of Alasarna is nearby, the remains of what was a much larger settlement underneath current-day Kardamena.
This is the island’s most western town, located on the southwestern peninsula.
There are a number of pubs and restaurants as well as boating companies for tourists.
Besides essentials, shops are limited. Kefalos highlights include the ruins of a medieval castle, the Agios Ioannis Monastery, the ruins of the St. Stefanos Basilica, and the White Stone Cave, a prehistoric cave in the rock facade of a mountain.
The Best Beaches on Kos
Many of the Greek islands are known for their rich, crystal blue waters and white sandy beaches and Kos is no exception. At pretty much any point along its coastline, you’re steps away from a world-renowned beach.
It’s no wonder that tourists from all over Europe flock here in the warmer months.
Here are some of the best beaches you’ll find on the island:
- Golden Beach/Chryssi Akti (Kefalos) – located on the South Coast this is a long wide beach that has various smaller, organised beaches along it, such as Paradise Beach and Magic Beach.
- Agios Stefanos Beach (Kefalos) – right near Golden Beach is this beautiful stretch of sand where you will also find an Ancient Christian Basilica and just offshore is the tiny island of Kastri with its much photographed little church.
- Kardamena Beach – this is the liveliest beach on Kos and is were you will find a lot of bars, restaurants and tavernas.
- Tigaki Beach – just over 10kms from Kos town to the west you will find this long beach with its wonderful powder sand. Well organised with lots of sunbeds and bars along the length of it.
- Marmari Beach – just past Tigaki you will find Marmari beach which again has soft sand, shady trees and even a wheel-chair friendly Boardwalk.
- Cavo Paradiso Beach – located on the far western side of the island this beach is hard to get to and not organised which means there are few visitors. Surrounded by towering cliffs Cavo Paradiso has a seasonal beach bar that opens in summer and is a great place to spend the day.
- Helona Beach – also know as Cap Helona, this beach can also be tricky to find and is nestled between Golden Beach and Kardamena. There are more pebbles here than sand and it is home to a number of large all-inclusive resorts.
Other things to do on Kos, Greece
Kos is often referred to as the ‘Cycling Island’ as it has many flat tracks and in fact a 13 kilometre cycling track that covers many of the major places of interest.
Kos is one of the top yachting destinations in Europe and the harbour is typically filled with Superyachts in summer. The marina is located in the old town and is very well equipped with fuel/petrol, toilets and showers, bilge & sewage pump out, waste disposal and more.
This is a great spot to charter a boat and explore the Dodecanese Islands and the Turkish Coast.
Day Trips from Kos
There is a 3-island day trip with lunch which is very popular as well. It explores some lovely beaches, caves and coves and everyone gets to swim and snorkel in the stunning waters.