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This island of the Dodecanese group has been taken over almost completely by tourism, catering especially for family holidays. Aside from the drawcard of beautiful beaches, Kos has an abundance of interesting ruins to explore, and is easily reached from Rhodes or Bodrum (Turkey) by ferry. Kos was prominent in antiquity because of its healing temple of Asclepius, founded after the death of the famed physician Hippocrates, who allegedly taught students on the island.
Kos also features the remains of temples for other healing deities, including Isis and Sarapis, and appears to have historically been an island healing retreat. The island boasts a tree that is reputedly the oldest in Europe and Hippocrates is said to have held lecture sessions in its shade. It also has several archaeological remains of Persian, Turkish, Roman and Byzantine conquerors that all added their bit during a long history. Kos has busy bars and an entertaining nightlife, and there are some pleasant towns and beaches outside the capital, but those looking for empty beaches should head for quieter islands.
The Kos climate ensures hot, dry summers and mild winters. Temperatures in July and August range from 82ºF (28ºC) during the day to 72ºF (22ºC) at night. Rainfall is almost non-existent in summer but showers can be expected between October and March.
Most visitors' first experience of Kos is its small and antiquated airport situated on the south coast, a few miles west of Kardamena. The island is 25 miles (40km) long and only around five miles (8 km) across and is fairly easy to get around. Most people use the local buses, which link the main resorts and Kos Town, leaving every couple of hours. Taxis are also available and cars can be hired for those wanting to explore the quieter northern beaches. Ferries to Crete, Rhodes and Turkey are on offer, leaving from Kos Town.
Kos has more than just a good clubbing and nice beaches, catering to family tourism and giving children on holiday in Kos plenty of reason to be happy.
The warm Aegean Sea is perfect for water sports: waterskiing, jet skiing, and parasailing are ideal for adventurous adults while pedalos and banana boats are popular with older children. Kos is known as having some of the best sandy, golden beaches in Greece, including Kefalos, Kardamena, and Lambi, so pack the bucket and spade and let the little ones build sandcastles, but don't forget the hats and sunscreen! For more adventurous children, hiking on the mountain of Dikaios is a must, while the more relaxed option of biking around the towns is a safe and scenic way to see Kos's local life.
Greek is the national language, but English is widely spoken.
The Euro (EUR) is the official currency, divided into 100 cents. Banks and bureaux de change are widely available and travellers cheques and major credit cards are widely accepted. ATMs are widespread and are generally the cheapest and most convenient method of obtaining euros.
Kos is not well-known for its nightlife, but still has enough of a vibe to appeal to party people and travellers wanting a variety of clubs, bars and tavernas without the chaotic crowds of some of the other islands. Sundowners in Kefalos is a good start before heading out for the night at one of the many popular hangouts such as Popeye's Bar or Sydney Bar, which are both excellent choices for a couple of pints and a bit of live music.
Kardamena is slightly more upbeat with plenty of clubs and discos pumping into the wee hours and catering to all music tastes. Not to be missed are Starlight, and Zoom, while Cheeky Monkeys remains one of the most popular spots.
Kos Town boasts the famous 'bar mile', a stretch of bars and clubs, which in itself has become an attraction to younger travellers visiting Kos, while areas like Lambi offer fantastic and unique clubs and bars like Heaven and the Tropical Island Club. For romantic views over the sea to Turkey, have a quiet cocktail in Psalidi.
When it comes to shopping in Kos, ditch the hotel gift shops that sell all the regular tourist tat and souvenirs and head for the small pedestrian streets in the island's towns and villages for the best deals, such as in Psalidi, Zipari, Asfendiou, Zia and Lagoudi, which all offer tourist shops selling traditional wares. The old part of Kos Town offers high-end fashion stores, such as La Coste and Tommy Hillfiger, as well as smaller shops selling local goods like leather, jewellery and ceramics.
Eleftherias Square is a good place for locally made souvenirs, oil paintings and Byzantine icons, while the local markets are usually the best places to pick up fresh goods and hand-made produce, such as the local red cheese, tyri tis possasmatured in red wine, or candied tomato sweets, glyko tomataki. Kiosks selling everything from food and snacks to cigarettes and postcards abound on Crete and many of these are open 24 hours a day. Kardamena also offers fantastic shopping opportunities, including the market on Bodrum, across the water in Turkey, on Tuesdays.
When most people think of Kos, they envision sun drenched beaches and thousands of young tourists on package holidays - but there is more to Kos than meets the eye, with some wonderful sightseeing opportunities on offer.
History buffs will enjoy a day trip to Patmos, the island where the exiled St John the Evangelist wrote the Biblical Book of Revelations. Asclepieion, south of Kos Town, was the sacred healing temple where the physician Hippocrates is said to have taught students. The hot sulphur springs at Agia Irini or the hot sea water pools at Agios Fokos are also worth a visit to take a therapeutic dip.
Take a stroll around the old harbour area opposite Dolphins square to view the sculptures by Alexandros Alwyn, and the huge Tree of Hippocrates, which is located in front of the entrance to Knights Castle, one of Kos Town's most famous attractions. The ruins of a Hellenistic Temple dedicated to Hercules and the Roman Odeon are also located here, and the Archaeological Museum in the Plateia Eleftherias will captivate visitor's imaginations.