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Historical Sites

The long, illustrious history of the island, which has been continually inhabited since the Early Helladic period (appx. 2,300 BC), has provided vivid traces of the peoples and civilizations from East and West that came through Kos. Buildings, their architectural styles, reasons for construction and uses are usually what remain to indicate and shed light on historical periods.

Asclepeion of Kos

Asclepeion of Kos

The most famed archaeological site on the island of Kos from antiquity to today, the Asclepeion sits on the slopes of a low tree-covered hill that gazes out to the sea and the Turkish coast.

Kos Archaeological Museum

Archaeological Museum of Kos

The Archaeological Museum of Kos retains and exhibits the finds brought to light during various excavations around the island dating from the beginning of the last century.

Historical sites - Casa Romana

Casa Romana

The Roman House (Casa Romana), which most likely belonged to a prosperous islander, dates back to the Roman Imperial years, and is characterized not only by its large size (36 rooms) but also by its opulent decoration.

Roman odeon Of Kos

Roman Odeon of Kos

One of the most important historical sites on Kos, the Roman Odeon of Kos was probably built on the remains of an earlier building used for gatherings with a capacity of 750 seats.

Paleo Pyli Fortress, Kos

Paleo Pyli Fortress

The ruins of the acropolis of the abandoned Paleo Pyli (Old Pyli) settlement sit west of the Mount Dikeos range, standing proudly throughout the ages atop a rocky hill which affords expansive views .

Neratzia castle in Kos Town

Neratzia castle

Neratzia Castle, is one of the most characteristic examples of Knights Templar architecture in the Dodecanese Islands, while its remains show traces of inhabitation dating as far back as the Mycenaean period.

Plane tree of Hippocrates in Kos

Plane Tree of Hippocrates

Close to the ancient agora stands an deep-rooted plane tree, known as the "Plane Tree of Hippocrates", which tradition asserts is the actual tree under whose shade Hippocrates taught the science of ...

Traditional House of Antimachia, Kos

Traditional House of Antimachia

A house that is a veritable recreation of a traditional early 20 th century dwelling yet built in 1980, the Traditional House of Antimachia takes visitors back to a time.

Antimachia castle in Kos

Antimachia Castle

A castle-fortress enclosing an entire settlement, Antimachia Castle “controlled” passage between the islands of Kos and Nisyros, one of the period’s most frequented trade route channels.

Kos Historical sites - Kefalos castle

Kefalos Castle

On top of a hill on the southeastern end of Kefalos, where the island’s first capital city was located in antiquity, lie the Byzantine remains of Kefalos castle dating back to 1420.

Altar Dionysus - Kos Historical sites

Altar of Dionysus

The Hellenistic altar of Dionysus, constructed in the island’s glory days of the 2nd century BC, is located near the ancient agora. One of the most important historical and artistic elements of the altar was the frieze.

Ancient Agora Kos - harbor

Ancient Agora – Harbor

Outside the city’s fortification walls stands the ancient agora and harbor, safeguarded by its own protective wall that began from the city walls themselves and continued south enclosing the temples [...]

Tomb of Harmylos - Kos

The Tomb of Harmylos

A fine tomb complex of the 3rd century BC Hellenistic period, dedicated to the 12 Olympian Gods as well as to the hero of the Harmyleon, Harmylos. The tomb of Harmylos was excavated by Herzog and Schazmann.

kos ruins to visit

Western Archeological Zone

Opposite the ancient theater extends an exceptionally important archaeological area (zone), part of the city that was abandoned in the Middle Ages, during the time of the Knights of St. John.

White Stone Cave - Aspri Petra

White Stone Cave “Aspri Petra”

Between 100 -140 million years old and standing at an altitude of 257 meters on the slopes of Mount Zini in the island’s south-western region of Kefalos, the impressive White Stone Cave.

Folkrore Museum Kos

Historical & Folklore Museum of Kos

In Kos center, Grigoriou V' street, among important archaeological sites, such as Roman Odeum and Casa Romana, one can visit “Hani”, aka Historical and Folklore Museum.

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6 Amazing Historic Sites To Experience On Kos, Greece

kos ruins to visit

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  • Activities and Interests
  • Destinations
  • Greek Islands
  • History and Culture

Close to the shore of Turkey in the beautiful Aegean Sea, the Greek island of Kos has a fascinating history. To get there, you’ll fly into Kos International Airport, the only airport on the medium-size Greek island, or go by ferry if you’re traveling from another Greek island.

As with most Greek islands, there’s plenty to see on Kos, but whatever you choose to do there, your visit will include archaeological sites and well-preserved ruins. When you feel like pulling away from the fantastic beaches on Kos to get to know the island’s past, you’ll find a wealth of museums and ruins spanning centuries of Kos history.

Here are six of the island’s best historic sites to explore.

The Casa Romana in Kos, Greece.

1. Casa Romana

The Casa Romana , or Roman Villa, is an incredibly well-preserved house from the era of the Roman occupation of the island. It was discovered and excavated following the earthquake of 1933, when Italians once again occupied the island and began rebuilding the damaged areas. The owners of the house are not known, but they must have been pretty important. The house has 36 rooms, and the surviving mosaics and statues tell a story of prosperity and success. The mosaics form intricate pictures of tigers, panthers, and deer, and one of the statues bears the inscription “he who repels evil.” All of these are in incredible condition, considering how old they are. The house dates to the late second century and provides insight into what life was like for the island’s wealthy at the time.

Tickets cost 6 euros , so this is a very reasonably priced attraction. Note that the house is closed on certain days of the week.

The Western Archeological Zone in Kos, Greece.

2. Western Archaeological Zone

The Western Archaeological Zone is a fascinating site of discovery in western Kos Town. This area of town was abandoned in the Middle Ages, although it’s unclear why. The area is very well preserved and houses some incredible finds, only discovered following an earthquake in 1933. The remains of a gymnasium and swimming pool offer insight into how important competitive games have always been to the Greeks, while the public baths show how life here changed when the Romans held power on the island. The baths used a heating system of steam carried through pipes beneath the floors, demonstrating some of the advanced technology that could be found in Kos at that time. Stunning mosaics and pillars illustrate what the area would have looked like in its glory days.

This amazing site is just a 10-minute walk from the center of Kos Town, so it’s easy to get to without transport from the center of town.

The Roman Odeon in Kos, Greece.

Manolis Smalios / Shutterstock

3. Roman Odeon

Just a 5-minute walk from the Western Archaeological Zone is the Roman Odeon . This is where musical performances and poetry recitals were held, and it was the venue where the senate met. The Odeon was built in the second century and would have held around 750 people. It was damaged by an earthquake and rebuilt by the Romans, and then was rescued again by an Italian archaeologist who found a haul of statues hidden away in the ruins when it was excavated. This is an incredible historic site with a story of destruction and rebirth laid out in stone. It was originally roofed, but you’ll need your imagination to envisage that now.

The Odeon is still in use and hosts various performances and events throughout the year. It’s free to visit, but there is very little information about its history on-site.

The Castle of Antimachia in Kos, Greece.

Lev Levin / Shutterstock

4. Castle Of Antimachia

To the south of Kos Town, in the center of the island, is the Castle of Antimachia . As you approach the castle, an impressive ring of stone will greet you on the hill. As you get closer, you’ll find that this is an abandoned and remote ruin. In 1302, when Kos became a protectorate of Venice, this castle was built to defend the island from invasion by pirates. There are two lovely old churches here as well as ruined houses where those living here were once kept safe. It’s a quiet and off-the-beaten-track spot, and a peaceful place to wander away from the crowds.

Be careful when walking the dusty paths and the ramparts of the castle, since the stones have crumbled in places, and the paths are uneven underfoot. It’s a couple of miles from the main road, so you’ll need your own transport or to take a taxi. Be aware that there are no amenities at this site.

The Asklepion in Kos, Greece.

Esin Deniz / Shutterstock

5. Asklepion

The Asklepion is a sacred hospital from ancient Greek times that dates to around 400 B.C. This incredible museum is situated close to the village of Platani and is set in beautiful surroundings with spectacular views. The hospital is a fascinating example of early Greek medicine and is where patients underwent hypnosis and water therapy as well as other treatments practiced by priests at the time. The hospital is a rare and unique chance to see an ancient Greek sanatorium and is one of only four like it left in the whole of Greece. Named after the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius, this important building tells us much about early medicine and how it was practiced.

The site is huge, and you could easily spend an hour wandering around the temple area, the waiting rooms, and the triage areas. There’s a lot of information to help you find your way. I thought it was a bit expensive at 8 euros — especially since there is a look-but-don’t-touch policy for much of the ruins. There’s a bus stop close by, and you buy your tickets at a booth before making the 10-minute uphill walk to the site, so be ready for a stroll!

The ruins of Agios Stefanos on Kos, Greece.

George Papapostolou / Shutterstock

6. Agios Stefanos

The ruins of Agios Stefanos were once two early Christian basilicas named after Saint Stephen. The site is about a 15-minute walk from Kefalos and close to the Kamari Marina. This popular area is home to the most photographed beach on Kos — a clue as to how beautiful the landscape is. These well-preserved ruins include pillars and intricate mosaics and are a great example of early Christian life on the island. Located right next to the beach, it’s a beautiful spot to relax in and have a swim while appreciating the history of the island.

The ruins of Agios Stefanos are also something of a hidden gem. There are no signs up or information plaques telling you what this is, so if you didn’t know, you might overlook it. Most people come here for the beach and the water sports, and although the area does get busy, the ruins themselves are less frequented than the beach and the harbor, so you can have them to yourself if you’re lucky.

What To Know Before You Go

Many of these historic sites are in and around Kos Town, but it’s also very easy to travel to the other sites around the island. It only takes about an hour to drive the length of Kos, and the buses are easy and fun to use, though they only run about once an hour. There are plenty of taxis available, too, so wherever you are staying on the island, you can easily visit all of these sites.

Visit Kos outside of the high season — especially avoiding the Hippocratia Festival, Kos’s main national holiday — if you want space and quiet to enjoy the historic sites in peace. Many of the historic sites are ruins and have little or no information available on-site, so be sure to do your research before you get there.

Image of Samantha Priestley

Travel writer, author, and playwright, Samantha loves historic buildings, quirky hotels, woodland walks and literary trails, specializing in food and drink, luxury travel, retreats, spas, and anything arts based. Samantha is based in Yorkshire, the UK, where she lives with her artist partner. Learn more on her website .

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Home » Travel Guides » Greece » 15 Best Things to Do in Kos (Greece)

15 Best Things to Do in Kos (Greece)

Only four kilometres off the coast of Turkey, Kos is the third-largest island in the Dodecanese. As a key administrative centre from Classical Greece to Roman times, the island is littered with ancient ruins.

Many are right on the edge of Kos Town, where the Agora has hundreds of years of history and a rebuilt Roman house is furnished with ancient frescoes and mosaics. The ancient physician, Hippocrates spent some of his career on Kos at the Asklepion, which is also the most remarkable site of all.

Something else to adore about Kos is its catalogue of beaches, that can be bursting with facilities or uninhabited and in the middle of nowhere. The best picks tend to be in the west, where Agios Stefanos near Kefalos faces a charming islet and the more exposed Cavo Paradiso is washed by rolling waves.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Kos :

1. Asklepion

Asklepion, Kos

The place where Hippocrates was trained in the 5th century BC was discovered not far from Kos Town in 1902. Raised above the Kos plain, the Asklepion is the Sanctuary of Asclepius, the god of medicine.

People suffering maladies would travel from far and wide to seek treatment at the permission of the sanctuary’s priests.

A modern visitor can download an app to see 3D reconstructions of the sanctuary as they wander through it.

Accessed by a grand stairway, the site is on four enormous terraces, the lowest of which has the foundations of the patients’ rooms with busts still visible in the niches.

The spas, medical school and abaton (priests’ sanctuary) are on the level above, while at the uppermost terrace stood the “Great Altar”, once commanded by a monumental statue of Asclepius that was later replaced with a church.

2. Ancient Agora

Ancient Agora, Kos

The commercial and social soul of Ancient Kos, the Agora is near the port, a few steps down from Nerantzia Castle.

One of the largest Agoras in Greece, it was first laid out in the 4th century BC and its houses and sanctuaries had to be rebuilt repeatedly after a series of earthquakes.

As limestone is used in the oldest constructions and marble in the new ones, it was possible to identify the ages of the muddle of ruins here, and information boards have been set up every few steps to make things clearer.

You can check out a section of the old city wall, a colonnade, sanctuaries to Hercules and Aphrodite, the foundations of private homes and pieces of port infrastructure like warehouses.

3. Casa Romana

Casa Romana, Kos

Discovered in the 1930s, this 36-room villa in the south of Kos Town has been completely restored to shed light on affluent domestic life on Kos almost 2,000 years ago.

Constructed around two peristyles with splendid columns and a smaller atrium, the house dates to the 2nd century AD and sits on the foundations of an earlier residence from the Hellenistic Period.

The reconstruction makes clear what is real and what is new, and there are statues of nymphs and Athena, amphorae, coins, mosaics and faint frescoes to see, all well-labelled with interpretive signs.

4. Palio Pili

Palio Pili, Kos

If you have a car make sure to spend a day travelling across the island’s interior, where you’ll happen upon delightful little villages, mountains and historical sites like the abandoned village of Palio Pili on Mont Kieo.

It seems impossible today, but from the 11th century to the 19th century this was the capital of the island.

Palio Pili was abandoned from 1830 during a cholera epidemic and its houses are in various states of ruin.

On the mountaintop are the crumbling walls of a Byzantine castle founded in the 9th century and later Bolstered by the Knights of St John as a last refuge from pirate attacks.

The panorama here is magnificent, and you can pick out the Turkish coast, the islands of Pserimos and Kalymnos and almost the entirety of Kos.

5. Agios Stefanos Beach

Agios Stefanos, Kos

A few things come together to make Agios Stefanos Beach a scene of real beauty.

The beach itself is likeable, with a mixture of white sand and pebbles.

But what makes it so special is that it sits on a channel of twinkling turquoise water, facing Kastri, a picturesque islet crested by a tall rock.

You can hire a pedal boat to cross the channel, explore the islet and see the church of Agios Nicolaos.

On the low promontory on the eastern fringe of Agios Stephanos beach are the ruins of two early-Christian basilicas, built in the 4th and 5th centuries AD. The buildings were eventually toppled by earthquakes and excavated in 1932. It’s easy to make out the basic shape of the buildings, while columns and a set of mosaics have been left where they were found.

6. Roman Odeon

Roman Odeon, Kos

On the southern outskirts of Kos Town stands the ancient city’s restored Odeon.

Built in the 2nd century AD this was a music conservatory and doubled as a meeting place for the senate.

At that time the Odeon had a roof and was able to seat 750 people on 14 rows of stone benches.

The first nine were made of marble and reserved for the city’s elite, while the granite back five were for normal citizens.

Since the structure was excavated in 1929, those front nine rows have been restored.

Mosaics have been found on the passageways leading to the scene, while the statues that once adorned the inner galleries are now in the Kos Archaeological Museum.

Check what’s on the calendar when you come to Kos, as the Odeon is still used as a music venue in summer.

7. Tigaki beach

Tigaki beach, Kos

This beach in the north of the island, a breeze from Kos Town, faces the south coast of Pserimos across the straits.

It’s not hard to see why families love Tigaki Beach; the shore is well-served by accommodation, there are tavernas at regular intervals, and best of all; the sea is as calm as can be on normal summer days.

The beach is long, sandy and broad, and is also low-shelving, leaving a large expanse of clear, warm water to swim in.

Hang around until dusk when you can look west to see the sun go down behind the island of Kalymnos.

8. Western Archaeological Zone

Western Archaeological Zone, Kos

Opposite the Odeon is a sprawling archaeological site at the intersection of the ancient city’s primary north-south (Cardo) and east-west (Decumanus) streets.

You can inspect the 3rd-century surface of the Cardo, still etched with grooves from ancient wagons.

There are also two early-Christian basilicas, a stadium from the 2nd century BC and a gymnasium from the same period with 17 white marble columns.

By the portico to the gymnasium are the Western Baths from the 3rd Century, with one of the largest mosaics on the island.

Another fabulous mosaic is waiting in the remnants of the “House of Europe”, laid in the same century.

9. Neratzia Castle

Neratzia Castle, Kos

The Knights of St John built this fortification in the 15th century to guard the entrance to the harbour at a time when Kos was in the sights of the Ottoman Empire.

The castle has two layers of walls, the innermost being older and dating to the mid-15th century, while the outer wall is from the turn of the 16th century.

After Kos was captured by the Ottomans in the 1500s the castle was a garrison and the seat of the island’s commander.

The space inside the walls is mostly empty, with broken columns strewn across the ruined courtyards.

But you may be intrigued by the abundance of spolia (recycled ancient building material). This can be found throughout the castle, but is most visible on the main gate, where there’s a Hellenistic frieze of garlands and masks, under the newer coat of arms of Grand Master Emery d’Amboise.

10. Cavo Paradiso

Cavo Paradiso, Kos

For a beach in a wilder environment make your way south from Kefalos towards Capo Crichelo at the far south of the island.

There isn’t the smallest sign of human habitation on the rugged, arid slopes framing Cavo Paradiso.

At the deserted southern end stands a tall, craggy headland, and this part of the beach is for people who really value privacy.

You’ll find a bit more life towards the north at an isolated beach bar renting out parasols, sun loungers and windbreaks.

The breezes and surf are a little livelier at Cavo Paradiso so swimming can be tricky, but there’s a big shallow area to paddle in.

11. Plaka Forest

Plaka Forest, Kos

When the sun’s beating down you can seek some shade at this pine forest just west of the airport.

Plaka Forest has a popular recreation area, with picnic tables where you can meet the many peacocks and tame cats that live here with the help of a volunteer keeper.

The peacocks are the stars of the show, especially when you see one of the colourful males showing off his tail, but there’s also a little pond, edged by rhododendron bushes with resident turtles.

12. Paradise Beach

Paradise Beach, Kos

This arcing sandy bay is one of a sequence of beautiful beaches east of Kefalos.

The name “Paradise” comes from the blend of pale sand and shallow, clear water.

The sea here is calm enough that an inflatable play area for kids is set up in the bay during the high season.

You can also rent sun loungers and parasols, and go water-skiing and banana boating thanks to the watersports centre.

At Paradise Beach there’s also the strange phenomenon of bubbles rising from the seabed, caused by the volcano on the island of Nisiros a few kilometres south of Kos.

13. Therma Hot Springs

Therma Hot Springs, Kos

In a natural reserve that covers much of the east of Kos is another beach with hot springs bubbling up through the rock.

The shore is dark gravel and not too enticing, but it’s the springs that people come for.

These salubrious waters were discovered in 1934 and have been partly walled from the sea by rocks to create a small oval-shaped pool.

The water is claimed to help rheumatism, arthritis and other complaints, and is rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium and sulphur, which you can smell without it being too pungent.

14. Agios Theologos Beach

Agios Theologos Beach

Close to Cavo Paradiso, Agios Theologos is another beach for people who prefer their coast to be remote and weather-beaten.

It can be an adventure getting down here on the southwest coast, driving on the dirt track from Kefalos.

And while the surf is quite powerful at Agios Theologos, the waves break quite a long way offshore, leaving a broad shallow space to wade in.

Agios Theologos is private, so you’ll have to rent a sun lounger and parasol, but these are inexpensive.

The beach itself has large pebbles and sand, backed by low, scrubby cliffs with a restaurant on top.

Come in the evening for one of the best sunsets on the island and be sure to amble down to the blue and white Agios Theologos church amid the pines.

15. Aquatica Water Park

Aquatica Water Park, Kos

Built on to the slope next to the sea south of the airport, this water park is a fun family day out.

In a small-ish area there’s a good range of rides, like single and multi-laned open slides with views of the Dodecanese and Turkish mainland, a water vortex, a river for tubing and three covered flumes of various speeds.

The littlest members of the clan have their own pool and playground while there are lots of reclining chairs for parents to laze in the sun.

15 Best Things to Do in Kos (Greece):

  • Ancient Agora
  • Casa Romana
  • Agios Stefanos Beach
  • Roman Odeon
  • Tigaki beach
  • Western Archaeological Zone
  • Neratzia Castle
  • Cavo Paradiso
  • Plaka Forest
  • Paradise Beach
  • Therma Hot Springs
  • Agios Theologos Beach
  • Aquatica Water Park
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This Gorgeous Greek Island Has Ancient Ruins, Beautiful Sandy Beaches, and a Charming Old Town

Here's what you need to know to plan a trip to the Greek island of Kos.

kos ruins to visit

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There are some 227 inhabited Greek islands to explore, stretching across the Mediterranean Sea for more than 4,600 miles. That means there are a lot of destinations to consider , but if you need a little help narrowing your search of Greek islands to visit right now, we suggest taking a closer look at Kos. 

Kos, located at the very edge of the Dodecanese Islands, is well known for its sprawling sandy beaches and historical sites, and it has plenty of white-washed buildings with bright blue trim to delight every tourist in Greece. It’s an island that should be high on the must-see list of those traveling with family or friends and for solo travelers looking to dive deep into Greece’s past. Here’s what you need to know about planning a trip to Kos, Greece. 

What to Know Before You Go to Kos

Kos has long been a favored destination for travelers looking for a Greek island getaway. That's largely thanks to its position as one of the southernmost Greek islands, affording it warmer temperatures throughout most of the year. It's filled with historic sites and was the birthplace of Hippocrates, making it a popular destination for medical conventions. 

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The Best Time to Visit Kos

Like most Greek islands, Kos is at its best in summer. That’s when temperatures reach their peak, the azure waters are warm, and the beach parties go all night long. In Kos, visitors can expect average temperatures of 83 degrees from mid-June to mid-September, according to WeatherSpark . However, the island is still a delight in the shoulder seasons too. In April and May, temperatures typically reach the low 70s, while late September through October stays in the low 80s to mid-70s. Even in the winter, average temperatures hover in the low 60s, so no matter when travelers decide to visit, it’s always a comfortable stay—especially with the right items .

MNStudio/Getty Images

Things to Do on Kos

Visit the asklepieion..

The ruins of the Asklepieion date back thousands of years to the fourth century B.C.E. According to the Kos tourism website , it is considered to be the "most significant archeological monument" on the island. The site where Hippocrates founded his school and taught medicine is open to the public every day except Tuesdays, and entry ranges from 4 to 8 euros, depending on the season. 

See the Tree of Hippocrates.

Want to stand in Hippocrates' shadow (again)? Head to the Plane Tree of Hippocrates located at the Castle of Neratzia. According to Discovering Kos , Hippocrates regularly taught classes in this spot under the shade of a massive tree. The tree that stands here today is allegedly 500 years old, making it one of the oldest in Europe.

Test the thermal springs at Agios Fokas Beach.

If the hot sun isn't enough for you, you can always go for a soak in the thermal springs at Agios Fokas Beach. The springs' temperatures typically hover between 107 to 122 degrees, according to Greeka , but don't worry too much about getting burned, as the spring water mixes with the seawater, creating a delightfully warm experience. 

Explore Kos Old Town.

Take a little time away from the historical sites and the beaches to visit Kos Old Town. It's a place where you'll find plenty to eat and drink at countless cafes and places to pick up a trinket or two to remember your travels. The best part? There are no cars allowed in the Old Town, making it a stellar place for a stroll. 

Courtesy of Lango Design Hotel & Spa

Blue Lagoon Village

Travelers looking for an all-inclusive getaway should check into Blue Lagoon Village . This hotel, one of the best all inclusive resorts in Greece , has more than 400 rooms to choose from, including family suites with ocean views. The hotel sits directly on a gorgeous stretch of private sand but also comes with several glittering pools to dive into when you’re not feeling an ocean swim. 

Albergo Gelsomino Hotel

The Albergo Gelsomino Hotel is one of the oldest accommodations in Kos. The hotel, built in 1928, comes with just eight rooms. Each suite has crisp white bedding, a writing desk, and blackout curtains for deep, restful sleep. Pull back those curtains first thing in the morning to take in the ocean views outside. 

Lango Design Hotel & Spa

For an adults-only stay, book a room at the Lango Design Hotel & Spa . The five-star accommodation sits just feet from the beach, and anyone looking for the ultimate sanctuary can book the superior suite, which comes with a private pool. For further relaxation, guests can make their way to the hotel’s full-service spa with treatments by Germaine de Capuccini. 

How to Get There

There are several ways to get to Kos. The quickest is booking a flight from Athens , which takes just under an hour; Sky Express, Aegean Air, and Olympic all offer flight options. Those looking to take a slow but scenic route can also hop on a ferry from Athens, but be warned: the journey takes about 11 hours. 

Related Articles

Kos Sights & Attractions

Kos sightseeing: What you should see in Kos

Kos lies in the center of the Dodecanese complex and is one of the most popular Greek islands. Sandy beaches and rich history are the two major attractions of Kos, along with vivid nightlife. There are many interesting sites on the island, including the impressive Sanctuary of Asclepius (Asklepieion), the Ancient Agora, the Venetian Castle in Kos Town and the Fortress in Antimachia. A picturesque village to visit in Kos is Zia, while nice beaches are Thermes, Paradise, Mastichari and Agios Stefanos. Popular activities in Kos are windsurfing and diving. Visitors also have the chance to take a boat trip from Kos Town to the tourist resort of Bodrum in Turkey.

You can see below the best Sites in Kos . You can filter them by category and location. Do you want to learn about available activities? Check the best Things to do in Kos .

Let us plan the trip of your dreams! Book online with us your ferry tickets , car rentals , hotels and more, easily!

Asklepieion

Asklepieion is the most significant archaeological site on the island. In antiquity, it worked as a healing center and it got its name from Asklepios, son of Apollo and protector of health and medicine.

Ancient Gymnasium

The Hellenistic Gymnasium is part of a complex of the Hellenistic and Roman periods that also includes the Acropoli, the Hippodrome, the Nymphaeum a very elaborated structure dating from the 3rd century BC, as well as the ruins of the temples of Aphrodite and Hercules

Ottoman Mosques

The rich history of Kos, and all Dodecanese islands in general has vividly left its mark on the architecture of the islands. That is the case with the mosques of Kos Town, strong reminders of the Ottoman rule on the island, that lasted for about four centuries.

Our selection of Best Hotels

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Basilicas of Saint Stephen

A complex of Paleo-Christian basilicas is located near the beach of Kamari, southern Kos. The basilicas date from the 5th and the 6th century AD.

Kastri Islet

Kastri is a tiny island right opposite the beach of Agios Stefanos. Remains of fortification and a small church are located on this islet, which is reached by boat. Some people even swim there.

Ancient Agora

Ancient Agora includes the remains of the ancient town of Kos. It is located close to the harbor. The ancient town had ample streets, sanctuaries, a stadium, gymnasium, and other settlements.

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Nerantzia Castle

Nerantzia Castle, or else the Castle of the Knights, is located at the entrance of the port, Kos Town. It was built in the 14th century by the Knights of Saint John, on the site of a former Byzantine fortress.

Hippocrates Plane Tree

The myth says that under this plane tree in Kos Town, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, would teach his students the secrets of healing. Of course, this is a descendant of the original tree.

Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum of Kos stands in the heart of Kos Town. It includes findings from the Ancient Agora, the Asklepieion and other sites on the island.

Hippocrates Cultural Center

Located in Mastihari, the Hippocrates Garden Cultural Centre is dedicated to the father of medicine. It is an exact replica of a 5th century BC ancient Greek settlement and organizes many seminars of ancient Greek philosophy.

Casa Romana

This house is a beautiful Roman mansion and its architectural style resembles of the houses in Pompeii. Some remarkable frescoes and nice atriums can be seen inside.

Antimachia Traditional House

This is a traditional house in Antimachia village that represents the architecture of the area, the internal and external decoration.

Ancient Temple of Dionysus

The ruins of Dionysos Temple are located south of the Kos harbor, passing the ancient Agora, on Vasileos Pavlou Street. It is close to the Roman House

Antimachia Venetian Castle

The Venetian Castle of Antimachia is located on a hill above the village, offering a gorgeous view of the sea. It was constructed in the 14th century and its walls survive in a good state today. Inside the castle, there are two churches.

Roman Odeon

The Roman Odeon was constructed in the 2nd century BC and it has been very well preserved. It used to host crowds of people that gathered to watch fights between prisoners as it happened in the Colosseum of Ancient Rome.

Traditional Windmill

The windmill of Antimacheia was renovated in order to offer visitors a more beautiful view, apart from keeping the tradition alive. It is located at a small square in the center of the village.

Byzantine Castle of Pyli

About 4 km from Pyli, there is the abandoned village of Paleo Pyli (Old Pyli) with a ruined castle on top. This castle was built in the Byzantine times and was later restored by the Venetians to ensure the defense of the area.

Agios Ioannis Monastery

The Monastery of Agios Ioannis, 7 km south of Kefalos, offers a gorgeous view of the sea. Right next to the monastery, there is a huge plane tree.

White Stone Cave

This is an important excavation site connected to the Prehistoric times. The findings dated the cave in the period from the Neolithic Age to the beginning of the Bronze Era.

Thermal Springs

In the location of Agios Fokas, there is a sea-pool with hot springs, known as the thermes. The place is well known as one of the most outstanding places on Kos.

Folklore Museum

This museum has an interesting and unique collection depicting the agricultural life of people on the island from the 18th century till today.

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Kos Island Greece

Asclepieion

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A combined ticket for the Asclepieion, Archaeological Museum and Casa Romana is available and costs €15 .

EU citizens Ages from 6 to 25, access for free , people over 65, access with a 50% discount

Non EU citizens Ages from 6 to 25, 50% discount

Proof of identification needed.

Renowned since antiquity

It constitutes one of the most famous Asklepieion of antiquity, one of Greece’s longest-surviving archeological sites and the most significant archeological monument on Kos island. ​In ancient times, it was a place of worship of the god Asclepius as well as a place of healing and teaching of medicine. Here is where Hippocrates , one of the most important figures of medicine in antiquity and father of modern medicine, founded his school and taught medicine.

Asclepieion

The Asklepieion of Kos, whose surviving ruins date back to the Hellenistic period, after the 4th century BC, was built  on the slopes of a hill with lush vegetation and impressive sea views. It was constructed on three "andera" - terraces. On the second terrace, there are remains of a large altar, the oldest structure from the Asklepieion from the mid. of the 4th century BC, which was decorated with sculptures by Praxiteles' sons. To the west of the altar, there is an older temple of Asclepius (3rd century BC) of Ionic order, next to the temple the priests' quarters, while to the east of the altar there is a small temple dedicated to Apollo (2nd century AD) with seven restored Corinthian columns.

The centre of the third terrace is dominated by the large Doric temple of Asclepius (1st half of 2nd century BC) , in the vestibule of which a church dedicated to "Our lady of the Grove" was built, during the mid-Byzantine period. The excavations uncovered remarkable findings such as statues, surgical instruments and inscriptions.

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The discovery of Asklepieion was made in 1902 by the German archeologist Rudolf Herzog and the local historian Iakovos Zarraftis, who calculated and indicated the correct location of the sanctuary. Excavations were continued by Luciano Laurenzi (1930) and Luigi Morricone (1937-38), as were restoration and rehabilitation works. Several objects coming from the excavations were smuggled to Rome and Istanbul.

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Kos Island Greece

Kos Town: Ancient Ruins

Last updated on December 18, 2023 .

Outside of the ancient Agora and the Western Excavation Area ,  Kos Town has a few more ancient Greek and Roman ruins to visit. No, they aren’t as spectacular as many other ancient ruins in Greece , but they’re worth seeking out if you find yourself on the island. Admission to all of the ancient ruins in Kos Town is free.

Roman Baths

First, I visited the remains of the old baths. They’re located just a block in from the harbor and date back to the 3rd century BC.

Next, north of the Western Excavation Area, is the stadium. It doesn’t leave much to the imagination. There really isn’t much to see other than a few stones scattered among trees.

Roman Odeon

South of the Western Excavation Area is a restored Roman odeon in very good condition. It was built in the 2nd century, could hold 750 people, and was used for choirs and musical competitions. It was restored in 1934. This is one of the more impressive ancient sites in Kos . Admission is free (as of October 2023) and it’s open from 8:30am to 3:30pm daily except Tuesdays.

The odeon was completely covered with a roof and had corridors underneath the seating area. It’s possible to walk in the corridors where interpretive panels give more information about the structure. Just behind the odeon is a beautiful mosaic almost completely intact.

Casa Romana

Next, I walked by the Casa Romana . It’s the restored house of a wealthy Roman. It has an area of over 2,300 square meters. Built in the 3rd century, it’s a good example of the architecture of the period and contains interesting mosaics. Admission is €6 (as of October 2023) and it’s open daily except Tuesdays. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovation at the time of my visit.

Altar of Dionysus

Near the Casa Romana is the Altar of Dionysus . It was built in the 2nd century BC. Only the foundation remains. Many of the original pieces were used in the construction of the Castle of Neratzia on the harbor.

Tree of Hippocrates

Finally, one interesting site near the Agora is the Tree of Hippocrates .  Hippocrates , the Father of Medicine, was said to have taught his students under the shade of the tree. The fountain of the mosque next to the tree has a sign in Ottoman script that says “Water of Hippocrates”. The current tree is only 500 years old but is thought to be a descendant of the original tree from the time of Hippocrates. Trees planted at medical schools in other parts of the world have been seeded from this very tree.

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Don't Dream, Just Travel

Kos: Your Guide To The Greek Island

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Kos: An Archaeologist’s Dream

Our visit to Kos was entirely spontaneous for a long weekend away. We didn’t find a lot of information about the island, beyond some history involving Hippocrates. Surprisingly, Kos had a lot to offer! In our opinion, it also has some of the best beaches of the Greek islands.

An island with a tiny Greek church on it sits off the shore of a sandy beach

Where To Stay

Several cities are listed as the hot spots for tourists to Kos, including Kos Town, Kefalos, Tigaki, and some of the big family resorts scattered inland. We chose Kos Town for our four day trip.

Kos Town is small, but has a lot to offer. For history buffs, one can spend hours wandering around ruins scattered around the town. Most access to these ruins is free. The one exception is the Roman Villa, but it’s worth the 6 Euro entry fee.

We stayed at Triton Hotel in Kos Town. It was perfectly located next to lots of restaurants and close to the main road if you want to hop in your car and explore. They also had an excellent buffet breakfast and a nice pool with clean, air conditioned rooms.

North Or South?

There are several small hotels scattered along the rocky beach. If you stay further northwest you will have easy access to the sandy Lambi Beach , covered in rental umbrellas and with several restaurants within a few meters. Staying further south puts you closer to the calmer and cheaper area of Paradiso Beach , where umbrellas are 3 Euros per person (one free drink included).

A Greek restaurant courtyard lined by palm trees

Kos Town has a wonderful pathway along the shore that is great for bikes, walking, and early morning or evening runs. You can get to the water at almost any point, and it is easy to rent bikes to get around town more quickly.

We briefly checked out Tigaki , as we heard it was sleepier and more romantic than Kos Town. It was much smaller with bigger, quieter beaches, but there wasn’t as much to see. We were happy with our initial decision to stay in Kos Town.

Tall cliffs overlook a beach at sunset

What To Eat

Most places we visited had excellent food and drink choices. We stuck mostly to traditional Greek restaurants, which we can of course highly recommend when one visits Greece!

Top on our list was the Hirodion . Although it isn’t next to the beach like the other trendier restaurants, it had the local Greek family vibe, while being owned by and run by a family. We felt extremely welcome, as well as enjoying some of the best moussaka and ouzo of our trip. The Stadium Restaurant was also quite good, with an excellent selection of Greek food, wine, and desserts, all for good prices.

Another hip and trendy restaurant, the Crepa Crepa , had some excellent traditional Greek pancakes, as well as some creative lemonades. Every place we ate at had delicious food.

Two plates of Greek food on a white table

Don’t Drink The Water

It is not advised to drink the water from the tap anywhere in Greece. Thankfully, cheap water is available in most convenience stores. You may, however, shower and brush your teeth without concern.

Where To Go

Kos Town has plenty of ruins in every corner. You will often find piles of ancient carved stone with no information on street corners – forgotten ruins from thousands of years ago. A recent earthquake in 2017 has changed the features of many of these ruins, however. It may be that the photos you see in your Google searches don’t quite match up to reality.

Hippocrates Tree

The Hippocrates Tree is famously known as the tree where Hippocrates taught his students the art of medicine. The roots of the tree are around 2,500 years old, while the branches are quite a bit younger. Due to the earthquake, the tree has suffered some damage and is now supported by metal rods and isn’t a very beautiful site.

The Loggia Mosque

The Hippocrates Tree is right next to the Loggia Mosque – what was formerly quite a beautiful mosque. Due to damage from the earthquake, the tower is under scaffolding and it looked like there was perhaps no funding to actually repair the building. It was a sad disappointment.

View of the Kos mosque from the outside

The Gymnasium is a quite impressive expanse of ruins that you can access for free. There are several beautiful mosaics that are protected from the weather, and ancient roads which are still more or less intact. Some of the columns that were previously standing before the 2017 earthquake have now toppled. It was well worth a visit, however!

Karis stands at the base of ancient Greek columns

Altar of Dionysus

This area came up on us as a bit of a surprise. The ruins are mostly integrated into a sort of park. One can stroll freely around, sit on an ancient pillar, and have a beer or a chat with friends. It was a bit baffling that it wasn’t more strongly preserved, but fascinating to see.

Roman Villa

Outside of the restored Roman villa are many chunks of pillars, old carved stones, and other items that it appears authorities are still sorting. The real vision is inside the building, which is a restored version of what they believe the villa that was excavated might have looked like. There are many walls, pillars, and courtyards that are still standing, as well as a functioning pond. It was a fascinating glimpse into how the wealthy on Kos lived nearly 3,000 years ago, and remarkably well preserved. It was the only place in Kos Town where we had to pay an entry fee, but if ancient Roman and Greek ruins are of interest to you, then 6 Euros is well worth the entry.

Inner ancient Greek courtyard

The Asklepion is located outside of Kos Town and can be accessed by bus, car, or bike (if you want to brave the hot Mediterranean sun). This was the most impressive ancient structure we saw on the island.

Besides the Roman Villa, the Asklepion also requires an entrance fee of 8 Euros. As a thank you for visiting, we also received a couple of free pins that said, “I visited Greece in 2020.” We recommend visiting either right when they open, or an hour or two before closing so you beat the heat of the day. This is one of the only Greek ruins I have visited that is surrounded by a forest, however, so there is always a chance to sit in the shade somewhere.

The Asklepion’s size is mind boggling. It would have been an absolutely incredible sight to see in ancient times. The fact that it is also over 3,000 years old was hard to believe. Photos really can’t justify how majestic this place had once been.

Ancient Greek temple with Andreas standing on the steps

As many other ancient sites suffered after the 2017 earthquake, the Asklepion also had some damage. The sheer size of the place is worth the visit, though. We also learned more about the worship of Asklepion, who, despite being a Greek mythology fanatic, I had never heard of.

Asklepion The Demigod

Asklepion was the first Greek demigod who was a doctor. His name means “to cut open,” because when he was born his mother had to be cut open (one of the first mentioned cesareans) in order for him to live. His skill was said to have been so great that he could even raise people from the dead.

How An Asklepion Functioned

An Asklepion was a place that was established for people to be healed. Visitors would be put into a deep (usually hallucinogenic) sleep. It was assumed that Asklepion himself would visit the patient in their dreams and give them their cure. Upon awakening, the patient would tell a priest his dream. The priest would then interpret and help in instructing the patient on their cure, which usually involved visiting a bath or gymnasium.

Ancient Greek temple ruins on top of a hill overlooking Kos island

How To Get To The Asklepion

A word to those who might be driving to the Asklepion: if you are using Google Maps, you will be led to the back gate entrance, which is not where you can actually enter. Once you are close, follow the signs to the Asklepion. They are much more accurate than Google Maps! In finding this out, we did, however, discover a random archeological dig nearby that was unmarked but looked like it could have some significance.

Also, if you are hoping for snacks or something to drink, there is a little (slightly overpriced) shop at the entrance for refreshments.

The Best Beaches

As swimmers and triathletes, we are always checking out the beaches in Greece. We are looking not only for shade, but also for the best water for swimming.

Basilica Agrio Stefano

This beach was, in our opinion, the most beautiful, sandy beach we visited. There were plenty of umbrellas to sit under (10 Euro fee per umbrella), a little kiosk that sold excellent iced coffees and soft serve ice cream, crystal clear, shallow water, a beautiful island to swim around, and ancient Greek ruins overlooking the bay. The only things missing were showers and toilets!

Ancient Greek ruins stand over a white sand beach by a turquoise ocean

The temple ruins really made this beach extra Greek. Kids and adults were sunning themselves and playing around them freely. The island, Kastri, had a little Greek church with a bell that you can swim over to and ring. We were also able to swim around the island (roughly 1,200m from the beach to swim around the island and then back to the beach). The waters around the island were unbelievably clear. There were lots of interesting fish to look at, and colored stones to collect on the island. I did get stung by a tiny jellyfish on the way back to the beach once, but other than a little welt that was our only water incident.

It is a really perfect beach for families, because the water is so shallow and clear. There is also a restaurant on the road nearby ( Kompologaki Restaurant ) with great traditional Greek food if you want to hang out at the beach for the day and have a meal at some point. If you don’t like the vibe there, there are a few other restaurants nearby to check out as well.

A large red, orange and white snail sits on a rock in the sun next to several smaller snails

Paradiso Beach

This beach is walking or biking distance from Kos Town. It is quite cheap to rent umbrellas, and the rocky shore means that the water is clear. It was set back a bit from the road so was more peaceful than going to the beach in town. Don’t confuse Paradiso Beach with Paradise Beach, which is closer to the Agrio Stefano Beach!

If you want a truly unique experience, you can take the bus or rent a car and head to Therma, where hot springs mix with the ocean waters. If you decide to take a bus, we were surprised at how punctual they were – even leaving early at times! Don’t be late, or you will be waiting a while. The bus timetable was quite clear at the ticket station in Kos Town.

How To Get There

If you drive to Therma, it is possible to drive right down to the beach, although our research said that it was a grueling 20 minute walk down to the springs. Even if you park by the road, it definitely is not a 20 minute walk unless you are extremely slow. We made it down in around 5 minutes without rushing after parking by the road. There were places to park much closer to the beach, however. Just make sure your car will make it back up the gravel road.

People sit in a natural thermal pool on a rocky beach in Greece

The hot springs are actually extremely hot, and there are stones arranged around their source so you know where they are. It is said that the minerals in the water help to heal ailments. There were plenty of people lounging in the shallow pool. We tried to do a hot soak, then a cold swim in the ocean. The cold swim afterward didn’t really work since the warmer water really mixes in with the ocean outside of the pool.

When To Visit Therma

It would be best to go around sunset, because the sun hits the beach until quite late in the evening, even though Therma is on the east side of the island. We were there around 5-6pm and the sun was still shining on the hot springs. The beach isn’t the best or prettiest with all the rocks, but there is a small section with a kiosk and umbrellas to rent if you’d prefer more comfort. There is also a small massage station near the springs in case you want more of a rustic spa experience.

How To Get Around

As mentioned above, the buses are pretty reliable and go to all of the popular places and towns in the island. If you would rather be more relaxed, we do suggest renting a car . If you aren’t comfortable with manual you may need to make a special request as we didn’t see any automatic cars during our visit. Also popular are the mopeds and stripped down roadsters , but we preferred having air conditioning!

Bikes are extremely easy to rent and were everywhere. There are many bike friendly paths throughout the island, and we saw many serious road bikers and mountain bikers everywhere on the island. As triathletes, this was really a great island for us to train!

If you want to visit other islands, a good site to check out for the ferry schedule is FerryScanner .

If you want to just stay in one town for your visit, such as Kos Town, you can easily get around by foot. It is not a big city and they are used to pedestrians.

Summer flowers wind up a wall and spill over the ground in front of it

Kos During Covid

We must note that we visited Kos during late August 2020, while Covid was still a great concern. Most restaurants and staff were wonderful about adhering to health guidelines. Hand sanitizer was readily available, as well as strict rules about wearing masks indoors.

We were told that they only had 60% of the tourists that they usually have. Many restaurants were hurting. One beautiful restaurant we ate at had absolutely delicious traditional Greek food and wonderful service. Unfortunately, the whole Friday night we were there, we were the only people eating at the restaurant besides one other family. Many hotels were closed, and none we saw were working at full capacity. Everyone was extremely grateful we were there, despite what was going on. We were happy to do our part in helping the tourism industry.

An empty Greek restaurant

Kos: The Family Island

Kos wouldn’t be our first island to visit when we go back to Greece as we feel we have many more to explore. It is an excellent choice for families. The beaches are calm, with clear water, there are many ancient ruins to explore, and as usual, the Greek people are so friendly and welcoming you will want to ultimately come back! It will probably be our first choice to visit with kids. We look forward to coming back to enjoy the laid-back, fun beaches and beautiful waters.

Kos Pinterest Image To Save For Reference

I would love to wander all around the ruins. And then the food, of course, I would enjoy that!

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You can get all of that in Kos! It really was a great surprise for us. Hope you can visit one day!

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Oh my goodness, beautiful. We have added Kos Island to our Greece itinerary when we begin our sailing tour. Such beautiful pictures and help description detailing all the important information when planning a trip.

I’m so glad it was helpful for you. Can’t wait to hear how your trip goes and if you enjoy Kos as much as we did!

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I’ve always wanted to travel to Greece, it looks stunning! I can’t wait for Covid to go away forever and for everything to get back to normal. I seriously want to travel. Your pictures are awesome!

We have found Greece very safe with Covid measures if it helps you get over there any sooner. There is hand sanitizer everywhere, and all shops wear masks in most places. Plus, you can do almost everything outside so the risk of transmission is much lower. I hope you can visit soon!

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Thanks for taking us on an adventure. I’d love to travel again one day, and this place definitely adds up to my bucket list.

Glad you enjoyed! I hope you can visit Kos soon. We found it such a pleasant surprise.

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The Mediterranean Traveller

A Quick Guide to Kos Town

Kos Town is the capital of Kos island and one of the main hubs in the Dodecanese islands. It’s an important tourist destination but also has a large year-round local population, commercial zone, and thriving medical industry. Kos Town is an enjoyable place to visit and full of surprises.

Wondering if it’s the right place for you? Read on.

What is Kos Town Like?

Street leading to Kos harbour at sunset.

I didn’t really know what to expect from Kos Town as I had seen very few photos of it before I visited. I arrived on Kos by ferry on a very humid and hazy day – it felt balmy and tropical. One surprising thing about Kos is that it’s really green and lush thanks to its mountainous interior and volcanic soil.

Some Greek island capitals are functional and full of concrete, not really worth a detour. But Kos Town is definitely worth a visit. Although much of the town’s original architecture was destroyed in various earthquakes, there are plenty of interesting sights – including ancient ruins and a pocket old quarter.

Kos Town has a feel of easy living, enhanced by its pleasant central harbour which is lined with tall trees, and cycle paths which extend out along the coast in either direction. The heart of the town is modern with many low-rise apartment buildings.

Kos is popular with Germans and Scandinavians as well as Brits. There is a big tourist presence in Kos Town – lots of people choose to base themselves here – but there are enough year-round local residents that it’s not just a tourist ghetto.

That said, the biggest concentration of hotels and tourist amenities is concentrated around the harbour and in the streets to the north which have a tacky feel. The beach here is lined with lively beach clubs, sports bars, and shisha cafes. This part of town caters squarely to the low-budget crowd and some parts can feel a bit shabby. Some buildings were abandoned in the economuc crisis years which hit Kos hard.

What to See and Do in Kos Town?

Kos Town has been an important town since the days of the Ancient Greeks so there’s centuries of history here. Unfortunately not all of it has survived due to the area’s many earthquakes and invasions so it’s not as impressively preserved as Rhodes Old Town.

But there are still enough points of interest spanning the all invading empires (Ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, Crusader, Ottoman, and 20th century Italian) to occupy you for a day or two, as well as an abundance of shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants.

Here are some of the main attractions in Kos Town:

Neratzia Castle

Stone bridge outside Neratzia Castle.

Neratzia Castle was build by the crusaders to guard the entrance of the harbour in the 14th century and it’s one of the first things you’ll see if you arrive by ferry. It’s impressive from the outside, and inside the walls are the open plan remains of the inner castle.

Unfortunately Neratzia was damaged in the recent 2017 earthquake and the interior remains closed to the public.

A stone bridge connects the fortifications to the main town, and underneath this runs the iconic Palm Tree Avenue.

Tall palms by Kos harbour.

One of Kos’ key attractions is the palm-lined harbour – it’s been an important strategic asset for centuries.

These days the harbour is packed with tourist boats offering day trips and fishing, as well as offering a few spaces for yachts and megayachts (though there’s a bigger marina to the south).

Along the harbour you’ll find a few tour agencies for organising excursions, as well as plenty of cafes, bars, and restaurants. The streets immediately behind the harbour are home to the less salubrious end of the tourist scene – tacky souvenir shops, cheap drinks stores and bars, glaring nail bars and fish spas, and shops flogging fake designer clothes.

Plane Tree of Hippocrates

Plane tree of Hippocrates.

At the south end of the harbour, where it meets Neratzia Castle, you’ll find the Plane Tree of Hippocrates. Legend has it Hippocrates – the father of medicine – lectured his students underneath this tree.

Despite its striking size, this tree is only 500 years old so it’s not quite the real thing, but it’s a nice spot nonetheless. Just behind it you’ll find a charming cafe.

Nafklirou Street.

The narrow streets around here are good for exploring as they are wedged between the castle, the main city council building, and the Agora.

A shady cobbled street called Nafklirou runs alongside the perimeter of Agora into the heart of tourist town. This is a prime tout and tat gauntlet but it looks pretty and there are some good deals on afternoon drinks. At night it merges into Bar Street.

Centre of Town

kos ruins to visit

Keep walking up Nafliorou and you’ll reach Eleftherias Square. It means ‘Freedom Square’ and is the centre of local life in Kos Town. It’s where the main commercial streets  where merge with the tourist streets. There are lots of cheap fast food joints and banks around here, and you can branch off to walk up along the streets of the Old Town.

Notable landmarks on the square are the mosque (not operational), the market hall, the Archaeological Museum, and the Church of Agia Paraskevi. It’s also on the border of the Ancient Agora.

Colourful restaurant in Kos Old Town.

Kos Old Town is a small pedestrianised quarter with awnings and the higher-end tourist shops. Think linen shirts in white and blue, leather sandals, chess sets, and olive wood spoons.  

It’s not an extensive area – just two or three streets running north to south. The main impression is of some Byzantine buildings and medieval mosques woven in between more modern buildings. 

The zone finishes close to the bus stop where it opens up and around here you’ll find a handful of colourful bougainvillea-strewn tavernas. It’s lively in the evening.

Bougainvillea in Kos Old Town.

Ancient Agora

Ruins and palms in the Ancient Agora.

One of Kos Town’s biggest surprises is the extensive ruins at the Ancient Agora. The site is located very centrally, just to the south of Neratzia Castle, and is free to enter. The grounds are filled with overgrown vegetation and tall trees so it makes a pleasant place to wander in the heat of the day. There are information plaques at some of the entrances and around key points of interest.

But the Agora isn’t the only ancient site in Kos Town…

Roman Odeon

Roman Odeon.

You’ll find a small cluster of ancient sites in the area behind the main bus station:

  • Roman Odeon – A small 2nd century Roman amphitheatre called the Odeon
  • Casa Romana – a restored Roman villas with interesting mosaics (ticket required to enter, not open every day)
  • Altar of Dionysus – ruins of a 2nd century altar

And just outside Kos Town you’ll find the ancient site Asklepion which is one of the most popular attractions on the island. It’s not walkable – you can reach it with the city bus or the tourist train, or on one of the many excursions available. 

Southern Promenade

Kos Town Government Building.

Walk south out of the harbour and the road follows the coast for some time. There are some notable rationalist civic buildings which were built during the Italian occupation (1912-1943) after the devastating architecture of 1933.

The most imposing is the large white Government Building (duck behind here to find the Plane Tree).

There’s also an arched entrance leading to the Agora, plenty of shaded cafes, and a cluster of beachfront hotels including the elegant Albergo Gelsomino boutique hotel, pictured below.

Exterior of the Albergo Gelsomino.

South of here is a palm-lined promenade which runs adjacent to the sea. This part of town is home to many hospitals and medical centres, low-rise hotels and apartment blocks, a cinema, and some unfortunately overpriced and bland waterfront cafes. Explore the backstreets for the better cafes and tavernas.

There are also several tour agencies where you can buy ferry tickets and excursions, as well as agencies renting bikes, e-bikes and scooters.

At the end of this stretch of promenade is the modern yacht marina and the area becomes increasingly residential and quiet, with a few large hotels aimed at the windsurfing crowd.

Kos Town promenade at sunset.

What are the Best Beaches near Kos Town?

Beachfront cafe of the Albergo Gelsomino.

There are a few narrow pebble beaches near the centre of Kos Town but nobody really uses these sections for swimming or bathing as they’re right by the main road.

The first decent section south of the harbour is at the Albergo Gelsomino hotel, where there are several beachfront cafes renting sunloungers. The beach is small and a mix of course sand and pebbles – it’s ok for a day but you wouldn’t base a whole holiday around this beach. It peters out as the coast turns a corner and the stretch of sand next to the promenade is short and scrappy.

The more popular beach is north of the harbour. The sand here is much wider and softer, it’s a dark golden colour with some small pebbles and grit. 

This beach extends for miles and is lined with lively beach clubs and bars. Wifi access and charging points are common. It gets less busy but more shingly the further north you go. The middle section is known as Lambi. The far end, near the north coast, is home to some large resort hotels.

kos ruins to visit

Where to Stay in Kos Town?

Kos Town is substantially bigger than any of the island’s beach resorts and is a popular base for those who like having a variety of things to do, especially given that it has a long beach itself.

There are plenty of budget hotels and cheap package deals to Kos Town. Overall, it’s excellent value compared to other Greek islands.

For something memorable, standouts include:

  • Albergo Gelsomino – elegant 5-star boutique beachfront heritage hotel – Check the prices and reviews on Booking.com.
  • Diamond Boutique Hotel – lush landscaped 4-star with a pool – Check the prices and reviews on Booking.com

For more suggestions on accommodation see Where to Stay on Kos – Ultimate Beach Resort Guide .

How to Get to Kos Town?

Sitar Bar in Kos Town.

Kos Town is located on the far east coast of Kos.

  • From Kos airport: 30 minute drive
  • From Tigaki : 15 minute drive
  • From Marmari: 20 minutes drive
  • From Mastichari : 30 minute drive
  • From Kardamena : 40 minutes drive
  • From Kefalos : 45 minute drive

By Bus : See KTEL Kos for public bus services to and from Kos Town.

Kos International Airport (KGS) is served by both domestic and international budget and charter airlines – check Skyscanner for deals.

See Ferryhopper for local ferry routes and information.

Kos Town has a busy marina – see Marina Reservation for further info.

Where to Stay on Kos: Ultimate Beach Resort Guide

Exploring Kos’ Beaches (By Bike and Bus)

How To Get Around Kos Without a Car

10 Most Beautiful Beaches on Kos

Mastichari, the Most Laid-Back Beach Resort on Kos

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A Quick Guide to Kos Town

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Home > A Guide To Kos Island, Greece

A Guide To Kos Island, Greece

Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

This guide to Kos Island has all of the information you’re looking for if you’re planning a trip to this amazing Dodecanese Island.

Greece Travel Blog_Kos Island Travel Guide

Kos, the third island in the Dodecanese, after Rhodes and Karpathos , is second only to Rhodes when it comes to population. It belongs to the South Aegean region and is one of the most popular holiday resorts in Greece among Europeans.

With more than a hundred kilometers of coastline, Kos is ideal for a beach vacation. It has fairly rugged geography, featuring several capes with romantic landscapes of the sea.

Other than the main village, Kos Town, there are several interesting settlements worth a visit on the island, including Kardamena, Antimakia, Mastichari, and Kefalos .

Besides the attractive beaches, Kos is famous for its lively nightlife and rich history. There are several remarkable archaeological sites to visit and ancient ruins and castles to admire.

Those travelers who can’t stay still and enjoy moving from one place to the other when they are on holiday can easily cross the border and reach the touristic resort of Bodrum, in Turkey , leaving from the port in Kos Town.

A visit to Bodrum can be a fantastic day trip experience as well as an optional two-country holiday if you wish to combine a visit to Greece and Turkey during the same trip.

Let’s now dive into this Kos Island guide to discover everything about it.

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How To Get To Kos Island

Ancient ruins on Kos - Things to do on Kos Island

Since Kos remains one of the most visited destinations in the Dodecanese, traveling to the island is not difficult.

How To Travel To Kos By Plane

Kos is home to Hippocrates International Airport, receiving flights from Athens all year round; the trip lasts about an hour. Although less frequent, the island also gets flights from Thessaloniki , Heraklion (Crete), Rhodes, and the small island of Astypaleia.

From May to September, several international flights and charter flights reach Kos from Europe in summer. Since the airport is about 25 km from the main town, booking a rental car in advance or even a taxi for transfer services is always a good idea.

How To Travel To Kos By Ferry

Easy to reach by sea as well, there are ferries from the port of Piraeus (in Athens) several times a week, the trip is quite long though (about 12 hours).

It is also possible to reach Kos by ferry from the ports of the following nearby islands: Rhodes, Leros, and Kalymnos.

What To Do In Kos

Things to do on Kos Island - Beautiful street with flowers in the old town of Kos

Often described as the perfect destination for all-inclusive holidays, the island is an excellent place for those who look to check in a hotel and do virtually nothing during their time over there. However, this would be an unforgivable sin, there is a lot to see, explore and do on Kos, and it would be really a pity to miss it.

When visiting Kos, it’s a great idea to devote time to visiting the imposing archaeological sites that the island is known for. Don’t miss a stop at the ancient castle that protects the port in Kos Town, as well as the Italian Forum, Hippocrates Tree, or the Ottoman fountains and mosques.

The island is blessed with abundant water resources all year-round; therefore, you will find a much greener landscape that you can see in the rest of the Dodecanese.

If you are a fan of sports, Kos offers plenty of opportunities to practice windsurfing; in fact, there are windsurfing centers on many of Kos’ beaches where you can even learn how to windsurf or even rent the necessary equipment.

Kefalos and Mastichari are the best places for windsurfing on the island. Another popular activity is diving, there are several uninhabited islets and interesting old wrecks to discover, so you can either venture on your own or join one of the many organized trips offered on different beaches.

Visit The Old Town

This is undoubtedly the most visited and active part of the city, with plenty of souvenir shops, tavernas, bars, and restaurants. However, it is also a great place to learn about its history. One of the few on the island that survived a powerful quake back in 1933, this ancient area features the Italian market, several squares, and a fascinating ancient Turkish fountain.

The Castle Of The Knights

Things to do in Kos Island Greece - Greece. Kos island. The castle of the Knights

If you’re visiting Kos with children, you will share their fascination during a visit to the Castle of the Knights of Saint John, also known as Nerantzias. It features very ancient walls made of local stone and several blazons and columns that belong to the ruins of the old town.

This imposing building dated back to the occupation of the Knights, dating back to approximately 1450, and that lasted for two centuries. This impressive two-precinct castle still features towers, gun ports, and bastions, as well as unique gates, bridges, and dungeons.

Inside the castle, it is also possible to visit the museum, located in the formers warehouse of the castle, inside you will appreciate exhibits such as several sculptures and ancient inscriptions.

Hippocrates Plane Tree

You cannot say to have been to Kos if you don’t get back home with a selfie taken by the tree of Hippocrates!

The plane tree of Hippocrates is located right in front of the Castle of the Knights, and it is a famous spot on the island since it is said that Hippocrates used to sit under its shade to teach his pupils. The truth is that the tree is barely only 500 years old; therefore quite impossible for Hippocrates to have sat there since he lived in the fifth century BC.

But don’t be disappointed, because you will still find something quite rare; this monumental tree has a 12-meter perimeter, and is surrounded by some beautiful historic walls with inscriptions in Arabic on it, a memory of the Turkish occupation of the island.

Archaeological Museum of Kos

Located in a building of clear Italian origins, the museum of Kos is a great place to admire ancient statues and mosaics. The most important objects that the museum exhibits is a statue of Hippocrates and a magnificent mosaic depicting Hippocrates and Asclepius.

Check The Ancient Agora Of Kos

Situated behind the area of Kos main harbor, in Kos Town, the Ancient Agora of Kos is a huge area dating back to 366 AC.

Unfortunately, due to the different quakes that hit the island over the centuries, the whole excavation area has several findings in ruins; however, there are many architectural findings, a shrine dedicated to Aphrodite, old columns, and arches. Since the Agora is surrounded by a fantastic green park with palm trees, it can be a perfect sightseeing opportunity for the whole family.

Explore The Aesclepieion

Arguably the most remarkable archaeological site to visit on the island, located about 4 km from Kos Town, the Aesclepieion is an antique site believed to be a medical center of the classic period. Dating back to the III century BC, the temple was built in honor of Asklepios, the Greek god of health and medicine.

The sanctuary features different rooms devoted to healing and therapy. It has a terrace with a portico, which is believed to be the place where stood a prestigious ancient medical school.

There are also Roman baths (from the III century BC) and several spaces for patients and families inside the building. There is also a second terrace that holds an ancient altar and some restored columns from an older Greek temple dedicated to Apollo that used to be in the area. There is also a Doric temple and an old church built during the Christian period on the last terrace.

Enjoy A Visit To The Mosque Of Nefterdar And Hanji Hasan Mosque

You will find this Ottoman building in Eleftherias Square, in Kos Town. The mosque dates back to the end of the eighteenth century and is one of the most classic examples of Islamic architecture in the whole country.

Another beautiful Turkish monument is Hanji Hasan Mosque, a two-floor building that boasts a beautiful minaret. The religious building dates back to 1786, and it is only steps from the plane tree of Hippocrates.

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Other remarkable ancient places to visit in kos.

When visiting Kos Town, it is good to explore the Archaeological Museum of Kos, with plenty of exhibits coming from the many archaeological sites on the island.

Also in the city, the Ancient Gymnasium, or Xisto, has both Hellenistic and Roman origins, and it features interesting areas such as an Acropolis , the Hippodrome, and ruins of temples devoted to Aphrodite and Hercules.

Casa Romana is a fascinating excavation site, a perfect example of the architectural style during the Roman Times. The beautiful mansion resembles the ones found in Pompeii, and it dates back to the second century. Also, in Kos Town, you can check the Roman Odeon, a well-preserved Roman Theater, and the imposing columns in the Ancient Temple of Dionysos .

If you move to the town of Mastichari, pay a visit to Hippocrates Garden Cultural Center. It is dedicated to the ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates of Kos, and it is a fantastic replica of a fifth-century ancient Greek settlement, including a house (oikos) and a stone theater.

It is also worthy of paying a visit to the village of Antimachia. Here, you can check the site known as the Traditional House of Antimachia and the traditional windmill. Also, in this town, the Venetian Castle of Antimachia is on a hill above the village and a magnificent place to capture some of the island’s best views.

Explore The Thermal Springs Of Kos

If outdoor activities attract you more than archaeological sites and museums, then don’t miss a day trip to Kos’ Thermal Springs.

The thermal springs, or thermes, are located in Agios Fokas, known as one of the prettiest places on the island. This sea pool with hot springs is located at the end of a long pebbled beach, and it has water with a temperature ranging between 42 to 50° degrees that mix with the cold sea waters. Different studies have shown that the Thermal Waters of Kos have beneficial properties to heal skin conditions.

The Best Beaches In Kos

Kos boasts incredible beaches, among the most beautiful ones in the Dodecanese. These have contributed to the continuously growing popularity of the island. Although some of these beaches can get really crowded during the months of July and August, they remain gorgeous and worth discovering.

Mastichari Beach

Mastichari beach on Kos Island - Honeymoon in Greece

Probably the best-known beach on the island, Mastichari is located about 27 km from the center of Kos Town. It combines white sand and turquoise waters that give it a unique and exotic vibe.

The beach has a few organized areas, and it is also possible to take windsurfing lessons. Mastichari is an excellent area to stay on the island, where you will find hotels, restaurants, and shops.

Kardamena Beach

Another beautiful shore and quite a popular place in Kos, Kardamena Beach is one of the best spots for swimming. The beach is about 30 km from Kos Town and stretches for more than 3 km.

White and soft sand, crystal clear waters and good organization are some of the key elements that attract hundreds of visitors every day to Kardamena.

Thermes Beach

Things to do in Kos Island - Paralia Thermes springs bath in Kos island Greece

If you’re looking for a romantic spot and stunning landscapes, then a visit to Thermes beach is a must during your visit to Kos. The beach is a bit more than ten km from Kos’ main town.

Thermes Beach has a comfortable parking area, it is a family-friendly beach with tranquil waters, and it does not get very crowded.

Agios Stefanos Beach

Agios Stefanos is about 40 km towards the south of Kos Town, not far from the village and beach of Kefalos. It boasts an amazing natural landscape with rocks, flowers, and bushes.

It is a shallow and tranquil sandy beach with some areas featuring pebbles. Not far from the beach, some old Christian temples are worth the trip to this region of Kos.

Kefalos Beach

A family-friendly beach, relatively long and quite narrow, Kefalos is one of the most visited beaches on the island. It roughly starts on the nearby coast of Kamari and stretches all the way to Agios Stefanos. Although you can enjoy tavernas and bars in the area, some parts of the beach lack organization. Water sports are also available at Kefalos Beach.

Paradise Beach

Although it can rightfully be considered part of Kefalos, Paradise Beach has its own name. Arguably the most famous beach on the island, fine golden sand, and contrasting blue waters attract millions of tourists every year, making it too crowded and quite noisy.

However, its strategic position is one of the many reasons that will make you want to visit. The beach, which is a bit more than 30 km from Kos Town, enjoys the best position on the island to admire fantastic sunsets, making it a super romantic place to visit in Kos.

What To Do On Kos Island With Kids

Ideal for kids with diverse and multiple interests, children will enjoy plenty of things when visiting Kos Island. Besides the fantastic beaches and the possibility of getting started in water sports, the island is a paradise for those kids fascinated with Ancient Greek History , myths, and legends.

Dotted with all kinds of archaeological sites, many of them relatively well preserved, an island is an exciting place for curious kids.

Places such as the Castle of the Knights, the fortresses, the different museums, and unique religious buildings will undoubtedly ignite your kids’ interest when exploring the island.

Moreover, and as if all those weren’t enough, there are also two water parks on the island featuring entertaining slides and special pools such as the lazy river and a wave pool; these parks tend to offer activities divided by ages while also featuring entertainment for adults.

Best Kos Hotels

Being such a famous island, it is relatively easy to find the perfect place to stay any time you want to book, even last minute. However, booking early will undoubtedly secure better rates and the best sea views from your suite window or balcony, in case you’re after them.

Budget Places To Stay In Kos

Greece Travel Blog_Kos Island Guide_Theonia Hotel

Theonia Hotel is a super convenient place to stay. It’s situated in the center of Kos Town, and guests love its comfortable rooms featuring a balcony and comfort details such as satellite TV and fridge.

This hotel has a stunning swimming pool with a sun terrace and a daily buffet breakfast. It is also possible to enjoy a cup of Greek coffee or a refreshing cocktail at the café-bar. Theonia is also close to the beach and about 20 km from Kos Airport. More information here. Find The Best Rate On This Hotel Here  

Greece Travel Blog_Kos Island Guide_Alexandra Beach

Alexandra Beach is a budget hotel centrally located in Kos Town. It features a tennis court and a large swimming pool with sunbeds and umbrellas while also offering access to a sandy beach . The rooms include balconies with sea or pool and garden views, and they are equipped with a kitchenette with a fridge and coffee maker .

Here, you can start your day with a breakfast buffet and later enjoy snack favorites by the poolside. The hotel’s lounge bar serves cocktails and refreshing beverages too. This family-friendly hotel features a children’s pool and playground area to keep younger guests entertained. More information here. Find The Best Rate On This Hotel Here  

Mid-Range Hotels In Kos

Greece Travel Blog_Kos Island Guide_Kalimera Mare

Kalimera Mare is in Kardamena; it is a beautiful property featuring an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and a restaurant. The hotel offers rooms and suites with a private balcony with garden views and some with sea views as well. The hotel is perfect for travelers staying near Kardamena Beach, only meters from the sea.

The onsite restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while local spirits and light snacks can be enjoyed at the hotel’s bar. More information here. Find The Best Rate On This Hotel Here  

Greece Travel Blog_Kos Island Guide_Kos Palace

Kos Palace is a little more than a km from the village of Tigaki. Among its amenities, the hotel features an outdoor pool with sun loungers and umbrellas, while all rooms have balconies with unlimited Aegean Sea views .

The spacious rooms are fitted with modern wood furnishings, a satellite TV, and a fridge. They also include a seating area and a marble bathroom. Guests can also enjoy a good selection of Greek dishes at the onsite restaurant. Moreover, massage treatments can be arranged at the in-house spa. For kids, there’s a playground and paddling pool available. More information here. Find The Best Rate On This Hotel Here  

Luxury Places To Stay In Kos

Greece Travel Blog_Kos Island Guide_Neptune Hotel-Resort, Convention Centre & Spa

Neptune Hotels Resort is in Mastichari, one of the best places to stay on the island. Only eight km from the airport of Kos , the beautiful hotel stands surrounded by a landscape garden. It features five fantastic swimming pools and seven different bars, tennis courts, badminton, and a spa center. The beachfront hotel complex has rooms and apartments with a balcony or a patio; they are elegantly decorated and include a fridge and coffee-and-tea making facilities.

Greek breakfast is served daily, while there are also five onsite restaurants for you to choose between Greek and international cuisine. The Neptune also offers a secluded beach, a children’s pool, and a kid’s club for younger guests. More information here. Find The Best Rate On This Hotel Here  

Greece Travel Blog_Kos Island Guide_Mitsis Norida Beach Hotel

Mitsis Norida Beach Hotel is a five-star sustainable hotel located in Kardamena. This super family-friendly property, right on a sandy beach, boasts an open-air theatre, six restaurants, and seven bars. Guest rooms overlooking its landscaped gardens or the sea have elegant design and modern facilities.

Children can enjoy the kid’s pool and water slides, while the relaxation pool is parents’ favorite. The endless menu of activities includes a tennis court, beach volley, water polo, and basketball facilities.

The all-inclusive hotel features a Grill restaurant, a Pan-Asian restaurant, a Fish restaurant, plus several other food & beverage outlets scattered around the resort . Here, families can enjoy a dedicated kids and teens program offering imaginative activities for children of all ages. Read more here. Find The Best Rate On This Hotel Here  

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Where To Eat In Kos

Yorgos Fish Restaurant: Impossible to visit Greece without enjoying a delicious fish platter by the sea. Yorgos Fish Restaurant will cater to that and exceed your expectations. It is located in Kos Town and enjoys excellent reviews from dozens of satisfied customers.

Akrogiali:  Right in the center of Mastichari Village, this is a traditional Greek taverna serving the staples of the local cuisine . It has a rich menu that features Mediterranean ingredients, fresh seafood, and a typical Greek grill.

Lovemade: Located in Kardamena, Lovemade is the perfect snack place in Kos. It serves delicious cakes and pies, quick sandwiches, coffees, and cold drinks. Perfect for breakfast, brunch, and a quick lunch.

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15 Best Things to do in Kos, Greece • Kos Island Travel Tips

Searching for the best things to do in Kos?  Look no further. The island of Kos in Greece is worth visiting and is one of my favorite travel destinations in Europe as a place to relax, exhale, and reboot. I traveled to Kos many times and there are lots of things to do on this beautiful Greek island of the Dodecanese island group. The wide sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, rich history, archeological sites, delicious Greek food, outstanding hospitality, and the lively center of Kos Town make Kos Island one of the best Greek travel destinations for all types of travelers. In this Kos travel guide, I will share my hand-picked experiences that resulted in the 15 best things to do in Kos, Greece .

The best things to do in Kos, Greece

1. Enjoy Beach Life in Kos

With a stunning coastline of 112 kilometers (70 miles), there are plenty of beautiful beaches in Kos to have relaxing days on the beach, enjoying the sounds of the sea. Most of the best beaches in Kos are sandy and offer tourist facilities like bathrooms, sunbeds, umbrellas, bars, restaurants, and water sports activities, which are fun activities in Kos. Now, what are the best beaches in Kos? I will share a few of my favorite beaches:

Paradise Beach in Kefalos

One of the most popular beaches in Kos is  Paradise Beach , east of Kefalos, situated in the southwest of the Island, approximately 33 km from Kos Town. Paradise Beach is well known because of the pale sand and shallow clear seawater. On this side of the island, the sea is pretty calm and less windy. There are also several watersports activities like banana boating or jetski.

Kefalos Beaches and a stunning coastline

Lambi Beach near Kos Town

Lambi Beach Kos is a long sandy beach located just outside Kos Town, easily accessible by bike or a short walk. It’s not the most beautiful and quiet beach, but Lambi Beach is centrally located for those staying in Kos Town, Lambi, and even Psalidi Kos.

The beaches around Lambi Kos are well-organized with lots of sun loungers. However, in Kos' high season it can get pretty busy with lots of tourists. Expect a lively atmosphere with music from the beach bars and water sport activities. I haven't experienced Lambi Beach as overcrowded, but if you prefer a more quite beach, Lambi is probably not the place for you.

visit Lambi Beach as one of the best things to do in Kos

Whenever I visit Lambi Beach, I go to Papa’s Beach Bar and Jackson’s Beach Bar to chill on their sun beds, have a drink, and enjoy their music and food. Looking for more Kos lunch tips or restaurants in Kos? Check out the best restaurants in Kos.

Papas Beach is one of the beach bars on Lambi Beach near Kos Town

Must see Kos: TamTam Beach near Marmari

My personal favorite beach in Kos Greece is Tam Tam Beach, located 16 km from Kos Town near Mastihari, opposite Lido Water Park. TamTam Beach is a hidden gem in Kos ; a small, safe, and less crowded beach with small sand dunes. When you’re walking down through the dunes you can use sun beds, umbrellas, and windscreens for a fair price, which also includes a ticket for a free (soft) drink at the taverna of Tam Tam Beach. There’s also a small children’s playground and a nice shop with fair-trade products.   

Tam Tam Beach is one of the best Beaches in Kos

Tam Tam Beach is part of the endless sandy beach of Marmari. At this amazing beach, you can enjoy the enchanted dune landscape, the soft white sand underneath your feet, the turquoise blue sea , and several water sports facilities.

Visit TamTam Beach is one of the best things to do in Kos

I highly recommend visiting Tam Tam Beach. Don’t forget to go for lunch in their Taverna overlooking the dunes and turquoise blue sea; one of my best travel tips if you travel to Kos . The views are stunning, just like their food!

Great food at Tam Tam Beach Restaurant in Kos

Agios Stefanos Beach

Agios Stefanos Beach is one of the best beaches in Kos to visit because of its diversity. The beach offers both white sand and pebbles including beautiful crystal clear turquoise water and perfect views of the picturesque islet of Kastri , crested by a tall rock. With a pedal boat, you’re able to peddle to Kastri island and admire the church of Agios Nicolaos. On Agios Stefanos Beach you can also find ruins of two basilicas.

Agios Stefanos Beach in Kos with views of Kastri Island

Mastichari Beach on Kos Island

The town of Mastichari offers a white sandy beach with plenty of accommodations, restaurants, and shops. Mastichari Beach has a laid-back vibe. It also has a little port from where you can go to Kalymnos by boat.

Other top  beaches on Kos Island in Greece are Camel Beach, Mylos Beach, Psalidi Beach, Kefalos Beach, Kardamena Beach, Marmari Beach, and Tigaki Beach. Exploring the different paradise beaches is one of the most popular things to do in Kos.

Enjoy the beach life on Kos Island

2. Eat local!

Visiting local Kos restaurants and tasting delicious Greek food is one of the best things to do in Kos. Searching for Kos restaurant tips? Greece is a foodie’s dream come true. Kos Island offers many restaurants, varying from trendy, international (and touristic) restaurants with a sea view at the waterfront to authentic Greek Taverns in the smaller (back)streets, serving delicious, local Kos food. Two of my favorite local restaurants in Kos Town are Mummy’s Cooking (Ευδοκία-Eudokia) and Astakos Fish Taverne .

Best restaurants Kos Island Greece

I love the genuine Greek cuisine, nothing can beat those delicious traditional dishes like olives and their olive oil, fresh seafood like fish and octopus,   feta cheese, gemista, dolmades, papoutsakia, taramasalata, and of course desserts like kataifi and baklava. Therefore, I recommend visiting a few local Kos restaurants, to support the locals in Kos and to enjoy these Greek delights.

  Kos Restaurant Tip!  Curious about the best restaurants in Kos? Read about our favorite Greek Taverns on Kos Island in Greece

3. Kos Boat Tour with Eva Boat

One of my kos tips that I rate in the top 3 things to do in Kos is a two-island boat excursion to nearby Greek islands. Depending on the Kos boat trip of your choice, you will most likely discover the shores of Kalymnos, Pserimos, and Plati. During the boat trip, there’s plenty of time to relax or snorkel in the crystal clear waters. A perfect way to enjoy the beautiful turquoise waters from the Aegean Sea . Most of the boats in the harbor offer a two or three-island boat tour. Prices, as well as the number of people allowed on a boat, vary per tour operator.

Boat excursion Kos with Eva Boat

Two-island boat tour with Eva Boat Kos

I’ve visited Kos multiple times and one of my best Kos travel tips is to book your boat tour with Eva Boat in the port of Kos . I absolutely love their hospitality. It’s the smallest and most cozy boat in the harbor of Kos Town, which means there will be fewer people on the boat. Apart from that, Eva Boat has the option of sailing on the waters around Kos (depending on the wind) and they serve a delicious rich BBQ and fresh fruits. Tour starts at 10.00 and ends at 17.30.

Eva Boat Tour is one of the best things to do in Kos

Delicious Barbecue in a secret bay of Kalymnos

Eva Boat offers an amazing Greek BBQ in a secret bay of Kalymnos Island with a small private (pebble stone) beach and crystal clear turquoise waters with no other boats or tourists. I love this stop because it’s away from the crowds. While the captain is preparing the barbecue, you will have the possibility to snorkel or relax on a secret beach in Kalymnos .

Snorkling on a 2-island boat tour with Eva Boat

Once the captain is finished preparing the food, you will have lunch on the boat. Expect a great variety of meat, seafood, fresh vegetables, lettuce, and delicious fruits including wine. They ask for a small fee for beer and soft drinks. There’s enough for everybody.

Greek BBQ on Eva Boat Tour Kos in a secret Bay of Kalymnos

Did you know that Kalymnos is famous, all over the world, for its natural sea-sponge harvest? Sponge diving is a common occupation on Kalymnos. It’s the main source of income. I love these sponges. It’s also a great souvenir to take back home. Kalymnos is also very popular among scuba divers.

The island offers unique diving experiences like underwater caves, reefs, but also cape slopes, and shipwrecks. For a real scuba diving experience, it’s best to stay in Kalymnos for a few nights. Optionally you can take some lessons at one of the two diving centers in Kalymnos. Kalymnos is also a great place for climbers. The island offers a rugged mountain landscape that attracts climbers from all over the world.

Best activity in Kos: 2-island boat trip

Relax on the white sandy remote beach of Pserimos

The small fisher village of Pserimos is only a short boat ride from Kos Island and Kalymnos Island. This remote island has a small number of inhabitants and heavily relies on tourism. It offers crystal clear waters, unharmed landscapes, and a peaceful laid back atmosphere. There are a few ruins on the island, shipwrecks, and taverns, all located around the harbor.

The Island of Pserimos in Greece is part of a 2-island boat tour from Kos

There’s not much to do on Pserimos Island, but I love the laid-back atmosphere. There are a few restaurants and taverns on the beach where you can have a cold beer or a milkshake. On the Island, you have time to relax for a bit. After boarding the boat you will be treated with fresh fruits, like melon, oranges, grapes.

Visit Pserimos Island on a boat tour from Kos

Plati and its iconic Greek chapel

Plati is a tiny island with no inhabitants, located between Kalymnos and Kos Island. The island has an iconic Greek chapel and is supposed to have the cleanest water in the Dodecanese. Because of Kos’ strong winds, it sometimes isn’t possible to get into the bay of Pserimos. If the winds are too strong, they usually switch to Plati.

Spot wild dolphins in Kos

Seeing dolphins on a boat trip in Kos

Can you spot dolphins on Kos Island? If you’re lucky,  you will spot dolphins jumping out of the water or swimming right next to the boat; a great experience. On your way back to Kos Island, the boat usually approaches nearby fish farms on the water that attract wild dolphins because of the smell of fish. Therefore, there’s a fair chance of seeing dolphins on your Kos boat trip .

To do Kos: full-day boat cruise from Kos Harbor

All of the boat trips in Kos are full-day cruises that depart from the main port in Kos Town. The time of departure is usually around 10.00-11.00 o’clock in the morning and you will return around 17.00-18.00 o’clock.

If you’re planning to do a  boat tour in Kos , I highly recommend booking with Eva Boat . I already gave this Kos travel tip to many of my friends, and they sure agreed it is one of the best things to do in Kos!

Boat trip with Eva Boat from Kos port

4. Sunset in Zia is a must see in Kos

Mount Zia is known as the best place to watch the sunset in Kos .   For that same reason, it’s also one of the major tourist attractions and most visited places in Kos, Greece. Zia is to Kos what Oia is to Santorini : the famous spot where people gather for a spectacular sundowner . The mountain village of Zia has several traditional tavernas with great views over Kos Island and its coastline. Try to look for the islands of Pserimos and Kalymnos or the Turkish coast.

You can also find narrow roads with small souvenir shops selling local products and crafts. It’s nice to have a short walk through the village and climb up to the church from where you will have great views as well. The panorama sunset view in Zia is simply magnificent and therefore a must see in Kos .

kos ruins to visit

Although Zia is a bit crowded one of the most famous Kos instagram spots , there’s a relaxing atmosphere with great views and therefore one of the best things to do if you travel to Kos Greece ! My best Zia travel tip is to arrive in time to secure a parking spot and even more importantly, a good spot in one of the restaurants in Zia to watch the sunset. You can also ask the hotel reception or your host to make a reservation in advance.

How to get to Zia?

The best way to get to Zia is by car, taxi or to book an arranged sunset trip to Zia . Local travel agents often arrange the transport to Zia, including dinner with a view and your return trip. During the day, the cheapest way to get to Zia is by bus, but these local busses won’t drive in the evening. The easiest option is to hire a car and drive by yourself. This is also my personal favorite way to visit Zia.

kos ruins to visit

5. Sightseeing Kos: Hire a car to explore Kos attractions

One of the best things to do in Kos is to hire a car to drive around Kos Island. For the best sunset viewing in Kos, plan to end one of your days exploring Kos attractions in Zia.

Is it possible to drive around Kos in a day?  Yes, you can cover most of the Island in a day, but I would suggest renting a car for a minimum of two-three days, so you have more time to really explore the different places of Kos Island.

6. Therma hot springs in Agios Fokas

About 12 kilometers from Kos Town, you can find the naturally heated sea-pool springs of Embros Therme in Agios Fokas . These healing hot springs in Kos have a temperature of 30 to 60 degrees Celsius (140 F). Take a healthy bath in this hot spring and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The scenery is characterized by a wild beauty of deep gulches, rocks, and black pebbles. This natural spa of Embros is even considered to have healing features because the water is rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, and sodium.

The disadvantage of this Kos attraction is that it can be quite touristic and crowded during the day. Apart from that, you have to love the smell of gas emissions, because of the volcanic activity. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most healthy and sustainable activities to do in Kos .

How to get to the Embros Therme in Kos?

The Therma is located in Agios Fokas. The best way to get to Therma Beach is by car. It’s not possible to drive all the way to the hot springs, so you need to park your car in the parking area along the road and walk down for about 10 minutes. Next to this car park, there’s also a bus stop. You can take the local bus 5 from the port in town up to Agios Fokas for 2 euros if you buy your ticket onboard the bus.

To reach the Thermae, you’ll face a bit of a steep walk that leads you to the small Therma Beach. At this beach, you will find a small café. There’s another café located at the top, near the parking place. During the day they offer donkey rides up and down the Therma but this is something I don’t recommend at all! Just be sportive and have a walk, instead of riding on these animals.

What is the best time to visit Therma Hot Springs in Kos?

If you travel to Kos in the early spring months or at the end of the seasons (October) the Therma is already less crowded. Off-season there’s a high chance of having the Therma to yourself, or you will share a healing bath with a few locals. Overall, the best time to visit Embros Therma is in the early morning or in the evening. Visiting Embros Therme in Kos is free of charge , and accessible the whole day (and night).

7. Hammam & Spa Tigaki Kos

Like a Turkish bath, a hammam is a steam bath that revitalizes the body and mind. This spa tradition has its origins in ancient Greek and Roman times. A traditional hammam experience often involves a wet steam bath (sauna) and your body will be rinsed, exfoliated (scrubbed to remove dead skin), and massaged with foam. This process will detox your body, clear your skin, soften your muscles, and strengthen your immune system. It’s a very peaceful and relaxing experience! It’s also possible to book an extra massage, a facial treatment, or just take your time sunbathing.

The Island of Kos has only one traditional Hamam: Artemis Hamam and Spa . It was established in 2012 and is located in Tigaki, around 10 km from Kos Town. They offer a shuttle service and it’s easily accessible by car or bus. So, if you really want to relax, this is one of the Kos things to do.

8 Archaeological ruins of Kos Island

Kos is a Greek island with a rich history and plenty of ancient Greek archaeological sites and monuments to visit. Asklepion  is the most popular archaeological site. It’s known as the center of Hippocrates’ Medical School, an ancient Greek physician, regarded as the father of medicine. It’s close to Platani in the South of Kos Town and one of the best things to do in Kos Old Town if you want to explore the Island’s long history.

Archaeological ruins in Kos Town

Other popular archaeological sites in Kos are the ruins of Palio Pyli (Old Pyli), the ancient Agora , which is the largest archaeological site in Kos Town, Hippocrates Tree , the  Castle of the Knights of Saint John, the Roman Odeon (theater), and the Venetian Castle of Antimachia.

Roman Odeon Theater of Kos

You will find many historical highlights, spread over the entire island. Exploring all these archaeological sites is a must-do when you visit Kos because it is part of ancient Greek history.

discover the ruins of Kos Island

9. Kos nightlife on Bar Street

One of the things Kos is famous for is its bustling nightlife! Because of the lively Kos nightlife , the island of Kos is one of the most visited islands of the entire Dodecanese group. Personally, I don’t think Kos is a party island, but if you’re a party animal, the nightlife in Kos can certainly be one of the reasons to visit Kos with Bar Street as one of the main hotspots in Kos.

Enjoy the nightlife in Kos Town

Kardamena’s Nightlife

Kardamena  is one of the best places to stay if you travel to Kos for its nightlife. The small fisherman village of Kardamena is located on the Eastern coast and offers several popular bars like the Neon Bar, Crossroads Bar, Jam Bar, and Bar 1960.

Bar Street Kos Town

The nightlife in Kos Town is based around two famous streets located in the heart of the town. They are called Diakon and Nafklirou. This lively area is full of bars and clubs where you can party all night long. During the day these streets are very calm, but at night it gets very busy. This area is also referred to as Bar Street in Kos Town . If partying and dancing is the reason for your visit, one of the best things to do is going out in Kos Bar Street. Tigaki is another popular place to find Kos clubs. Agios Stefanos, Psalidi, and Lambi also offer a few amusing bars.

10. Kos Island Waterparks

If you’re on a family holiday in Kos with kids, you might want to consider one of the two waterparks in Kos : Lido Waterpark in Mastichari and Aquatica Waterpark in Kardamena. Both waterparks offer unique aquatic entertainment with various attractions like pools, a river for tubing, and slides. Both parks are easily accessible by bus or car. Pack your sunscreen and swimsuit and enjoy a fun day out full of water activities; one of the most fun things to do in Kos with family and kids or as friends who love waterslides!

11. Ferry Kos to Bodrum (Turkey)

If you want to collect another passport stamp while on holiday in Kos, one of the best things to do is to book a 50-minute ferry ride to Bodrum in Turkey from the harbor of Kos Town . Discover Bodrum and the castle of the ancient city of Halicarnassus, which is the birthplace of the father of history: Herodotus. Stroll through the Turkish Bazaars, enjoy the local kitchen, and drink a Turkish coffee or tea.

Visit the Marina in Psalidi, Kos

12. Flamingos in the Alyki wetlands Kos

If you travel to Kos Greece between October and March, one of the best things to do is spot flamingos in the protected area of the Aliki (Salt Lake) near Tigaki. I always love to watch these pink-feathered birds; they are great models for my wildlife photography . Apart from watching flamingos, it’s also the  most popular spot for bird watching in Kos , so don’t forget your binoculars. You can also spot Pelicans. The Aliki wetlands used to be a salt flat where they produced cooking salt. Nowadays it's a beautiful piece of nature and one of the top tourist attractions in Kos .

13. Sightseeing Kos: Explore Kos by Bike

Did you know that this Greek Island of the Dodecanese is a great place to get around by bike? Kos is also called a cycling island! Many locals use their bicycles to get to work and the Greek island offers many bike rental stores for tourists to go sightseeing in Kos. One of the best travel tips is to hire a bike to explore the stunning Greek island of Kos ; a sporty and healthy activity.

Best activities in Kos: explore Kos by bike

Kos Island in Greece offers a beautiful 13km-long bicycle road along the coast of Kos from Psalidi to Faros Beach . I also love the Kos Island cycling route from Kos Town through Tigaki to the beaches of Marmari. I once cycled this route on one of the hottest summer days, but it’s an amazing coastal route. If you’re getting too hot; just have a quick dip in the sea. The more advanced bikers will love the steep hills and biking through the mountains in Kos. Exploring Kos by bike is definitely one of the best things to do!

Explore Kos Town and Kos port by bike

14. Windsurfing in Kos or learn to kitesurf

Due to the winds in the summer months, Kos is a windsurfer’s paradise and a popular sport on several beaches of this beautiful Greek Island of the Dodecanese. The most popular spots for windsurfers in Kos are Lambi, Psalidi, Mastihari, Kefalos, and Agios Stefanos. In these places, you can find windsurfing centers where you can hire equipment. Kitesurfing is another popular activity in Kos ; there are a few spots where you can learn how to kitesurf; one of the best things to do if you like a bit of (water) adventure.

15. Adventurous things to do Kos

Other thrilling outdoor activities in Kos, Greece you might want to consider are:

  • 4X4 jeep tour
  • Parasailing above the turquoise waters of Kos Island
  • Jet-skiing on one of the lively Kos Beaches
  • Quad-biking safari
  • Scuba-diving
  • Horse-back riding on the beaches of Kos Island in Greece

Explore the small churches on Kos Island

Best places to stay in Kos

The best place to stay in Kos is in one of the main villages of the island like Kos Town, Psalidi, Kardamena, Kefalos, Tigaki, Mastihari, or Marmari.

Kos Town is the most popular place to stay

Kos Town ,   including the very near Lambi and Psalidi, are by far the most popular place to stay in Kos , especially for first-time visitors. With a nice promenade, bustling nightlife on Bar Street, lovely Greek restaurants, archeological ruins, and a cozy port with small fishing boats, you can't go wrong if you choose to stay in Kos Town. You can find a good selection of accommodation in Kos city, from beach hotels to Airbnb's and apartments.

Kos Town is also easily accessible and it’s the base for public transport to other beautiful places to visit in Kos, or to go on boat trips to other Greek islands near Kos Island.

Kos Harbor located in the centre of Kos Town

The best beach destination on Kos Island

For the best beach experiences on Kos Island , you might want to choose a beach hotel in Kefalos, Tigaki, or Marmari. These places offer huge beaches, with some of the best all-inclusive resorts on Kos, Greece.

People wit children often choose Tigaki, Marmari, and Mastichari for their family holiday in Kos . These areas offer a lot of activities like horse riding, beach sports, and a karting track. Older couples may find Kos Town a bit too busy and choose to stay in Kefalos instead. However, the hills in this area can be a bit challenging for some.

No matter which of these best places to visit in Kos you choose, you will have a wonderful time!

Kos Town Platia Eleftherias (Freedom Square)

Where I stay in Kos

Now, where to stay in Kos? When I travel to Kos, I love to stay around Kos Town (including Lambi and Psalidi Kos). The main reason why I like to stay near Kos Town is because these places are very centrally located. I’m not a fan of eating in a hotel, therefore I rather stay close (or within biking distance) to several local Kos restaurants .

I’ve visited Kos Greece many times, and I stayed for example in the family-owned and cozy Denise Apartments in Psalidi (book through Corendon or Olympic), in Astron Suites & Apartments at the port in Kos Town, and in a nice AirBnB where we got treated with freshly baked cake and a Greek BBQ. I’ve also stayed with friends whom I met on my first Kos Island visit.

Is Kos Island Greece safe?

I always felt safe in Kos and I find it a safe Greek Island to visit for singles, friends, and families with children. So don't worry about safety in Kos . It's perfectly safe to wander the streets at night, which is not an unusual thing to do in Kos. Public transport on Kos Greece is also safe to use and the cheapest way to explore the island.

Hotels in Kos

Looking for hotels or all inclusive resorts in Kos? I made a selection of accommodations in Kos (from hotels and apartments, to villas and adult only all-inclusive resorts).

15 best things to do in Kos

I hope this Kos Travel Guide - including many useful Kos travel tips and travel photos - answered your most important questions about what to do in Kos , what to see in Kos, and how to make the most out of your time on this stunning Greek Island in the Aegean Sea.

Here's a summary of what to do on Kos Island:

  • Enjoy Kos Beach life
  • Boat tour Kos Island
  • Sunset in Zia
  • Car hire to explore Kos attractions
  • Kos Hot Springs
  • Traditional Hammam in Tigaki
  • Archeological sites of Kos Island
  • Kos nightlife on Bar Street
  • Waterparks in Kos
  • Kos to Bodrum Ferry
  • Flamingos Alyki Wetlands
  • Kos by bike
  • Windsurfing in Kos
  • Adventurous things to do Kos

To me, Kos Island is one of the best destinations for a summer vacation in Greece  and there are plenty of reasons why Kos is worth visiting. Also check out my article about our favorite restaurants on Kos !

Curious about other beautiful islands or places to visit in Greece? Check out my Greece Travel Guide .

Reach out if you have any questions or other tips about things to do in Kos or travel to Kos Island and Greece in general as I've also visited places like Athens , Meteora , and Santorini . I’m happy to help.

You could help me following my dream by sharing this Kos Travel Blog on your social media channels. Every share on Facebook, Tweet on Twitter, or Pin on Pinterest is very much appreciated and will help me to continue what I love doing.

kos ruins to visit

solosophie

10+ Best Things to do in Kos, Greece

By: Author Charlotte

Posted on Last updated: 11th May 2024

Categories Greece

Last Updated on 11th May 2024 by Sophie Nadeau

Lying in the heart of the Dodecanese cluster of islands, Kos is a haven of plush sandy beaches, crystal clear blue waters and ancient ruins. The island is rich with culture and one of the most popular Greek islands of the Mediterranean to visit.

Easy to fall in love with, there’s so much to see and do, so to make things easier for you we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Kos while visiting.

If you’ve already decided tha Kos is the destination for you then also check out our 2 days in Kos itinerary you’ll want to steal , making planning your trip that bit easier.

view of hidden beach on kos island greece

What is Kos best known for?

How to get there, when to go to kos, enjoy the beaches, castle of the knights, taste traditional greek cuisine at a taverna, see the roman odeon, wine tasting, stroll around the old town and kos port, cats, cats, cats, visit kastri island, admire hippocrates tree, explore the ancient ruins, archaeological museum of kos, watch the sunset, book a boat trip and go fishing, take a day trip to bodrum, turkey, where to stay in kos.

This small but mighty island has over 5,000 years of history and has been influenced by many cultures such as the Ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Venetians, Ottomans and medieval Knights, all of which can be explored through its historical sites. It’s also the birthplace of the famed Greek physician Hippocrates!

Kos has become a popular destination for those seeking relaxation, thanks to its wide variety of beaches as well as intrigue in its history and culture, it really is an island that has it all!

kos ruins to visit

There are different ways to get to Kos, with a wider transport option during the high season (May-September) , but the easiest and quickest way to reach Kos is by plane.

The island is home to an international airport (Hippocrates Airport) that receives direct flights from various European cities, including Athens and other major Greek airports. 

However, if you prefer a scenic journey or would like to experience the most authentic way to travel between the  Greek islands , you can also take a ferry to Kos, departing from several ports in Greece and from Turkey.

The most popular time for most to visit is during Summer, generally the months of July and August as you are guaranteed a hot climate and dry weather.

That being said, if you’re not too bothered about going in the peak of heat season then I would suggest May or June, this gives you warm weather and you can see the Greek flora in blossom, plus the island is quieter as it hasn’t reached full tourist season yet.

Obviously it’s down to personal preference, but during these months of May, June and even September, you can enjoy the island with a little peace and you won’t have to fight for a spot on the beach!

(For reference, the images in this article were taken at the very start of June)

sunset in kos greece

Best things to do in Kos

Considered to be home to some of the most beautiful in all of the Dodecanese islands, Kos is abundant with both sandy and pebble textured beaches. Most of the soft sandy and more picturesque beaches are situated around the bay of Kefalos, so if you are staying in Kos town you can get to most of them by bus and a short walk.

Golden beach :

As the name suggests (known as Chryssi Akti in Greek), this gorgeous beach is a stretch of golden, plush sand. Located on the south coast of Kefalos bay, it stretches out as far as the eye can see!

Agios Stefanos beach :

Also located in the Bay of Kefalos, Agios Stefanos is one of the most picturesque and unique beaches of the island thanks to its ancient ruins of the Christian basilica. Overlooking views of Kastri Island, if you’re feeling adventurous you could swim out to explore the islet and its quaint blue and white church.

Lambi beach :

One of the closest beaches to Kos Town, its just a short walk from the main town and offers the most options for nearby restaurants and a wide variety of sun loungers (most of which are free, but you have to purchase a drink while there).

Paradise beach :

Another of Kefalos Bay’s beaches, this beach is described via its name. A dreamy stretch of golden hued sand and crystal clear waters, this haven is one of the most popular beaches of the island and it also has a wide variety of water sports to choose from.

Camel beach :

Close to Paradise beach, but slightly harder to get to, Camel beach is a hidden gem. Thanks to its blue clear waters, it makes for the perfect spot to go snorkelling, and it also goes deep quickly so it’s great for swimming!

Therma beacha:

Located nearby to Agios Fokas, the natural thermal springs of Kos, known as Therma. Boasting of incredible sweeping views towards the volcanic island of Nisyros, the sand is made up of volcanic-black pebbles and you can enjoy the warmth of the crystal clear waters as they lap up against the large surrounding rocks.

Psaldi beach :

Situated on the east coast of Kos, we travelled to this beach by bus and a short walk and then actually ended up walking back to Kos Town from there (and played mini golf on the way home). A gorgeous stretch of sand and small pebbles, this was the most windy beach and is definitely perfect for water sports!

beach in kos greece

The Castle of the Knights, which locals also call Neratzia Castle, owes its name to the Seville Orange trees that were planted all over Kos Island by the Knights.

Dating back to the 14th century when the Knights of St. John ruled over the island, the impressive castle was strategically built near the harbour to protect the town from pirate invasions. Initially the castle was built on a small island of its own, but it now remains entirely connected to the main land.

The imposing medieval ruins dominate the port entrance of Kos that lies below, easily walkable and free to wander around, the castle boasts of breathtaking panoramic views you have to see!

castle of the knights ruins in kos greece

Greek food is delicious! And what better way to experience the cuisine than in a traditional taverna?Scattered across Kos town and all over the island you’ll find charming tavernas covered in vines and flowers, usually with outdoor seating too, welcoming you in with the scent of delicious homemade food!

Our favourite place to dine was the authentic Greek taverna, Patriko . Hidden on a side street, this jewel of a restaurant stuck out to us as we walked past and definitely did not disappoint! Serving hearty dishes like dolmades, gigantes and mousakka, this restaurant also had a lot of great vegetarian options too.

Kos is plentiful with places to dine in, including some with an excellent sea view. We’ve put together just some of our top suggestions of where to eat in Kos:

  • Agkyra Fish Restaurant , situated along the waterfront, enjoy fresh seafood with a sunset view
  • Taverna Hirodion, a romantic spot hidden under vine covered verandas, tucked away in the back streets of Kos
  • Angelica’s Beach Taverna, this beach taverna offers the perfect afternoon spot after working an appetite up from swimming, serving freshly cooked tasty Greek food
  • Taverna Evdokia Mummy’s cooking , as the name suggests this taverna serves the most delicious cosy Greek comfort food, offering a memorable gastronomic experience
  • Ampeli Tigaki, situated in a vineyard, you are sure to have accompanying great wine, because of its location this taverna his a hidden gem of Kos and absolutely worth making the trip to

taverna in kos greece

Located in the heart of Kos Town lies the ancient Odeon of Kos, built by the Romans in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, this archaeological site was only discovered and excavated in 1929 by Italian archeologist, Luciano Laurenzi.

Today it stands as one of the most significant buildings of ancient Kos and is definitely worth a visit while visiting the island!

roman odeon in kos greece

Koios Enos, the wine of Kos, has played an important role in the history and culture of the island. Scattered with vineyards, Kos is abundant with wineries producing their delicious sun-kissed grapes into Greek wine.

We took a taxi to the Ktima Akrani Winery, nestled within the mountainous landscape this beautiful winery offers guided vine tours and informative wine and food pairings in a dreamy setting overlooking their stretch of vineyards.

kos ruins to visit

Wandering around the charming cobbled streets of Kos’ Old Town and port area, espeically in the evening when the temperature is a bit cooler, is one of the best places to grab a drink and experience the island’s vibrant atmosphere.

The Old Town area begins at Freedom Square and ends in Diagoras Square, it’s pretty easy to stumble across it and makes for a gorgeous spot to explore, lined with bars, restaurants and cute shops to buy souvenirs in!

Also walking along the waterfront at night and seeing various ferries come in to the port makes for a romantic stroll as the warm colour of lights bounce off of the waters surface.

kos ruins to visit

If you’ve previously travelled to Greece or its islands then you’ll be aware that they are inundated with stray or abandoned cats, all roaming the streets it’s almost impossible to go five minutes without seeing one!

(Of course, not everyone is a cat person so if you have allergies or hate cats, don’t worry, the majority of cats will only come close if you welcome them to).

cat in the shade in kos greece

Situated on the southern side of Kos, just across from the main beach of Kefalos town, lies the small islet of Kastri.

Only reachable by boat or a short swim, this iconic landmark is a rocky, barren formation with little vegetation, and has the remains of an old castle that used to guard the bay from enemies and pirates. On the other side sits a small blue and white chapel and a hidden beach.

kastri island in kos greece

In the historic district lies the Tree of Hippocrates or Plane Tree of Hippocrates, a famous landmark in Kos. According to a local legend, this tree could be the descendant of the original tree under which Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician, and father of medicine, taught his students.

This enormous plane tree, an iconic symbol of the island, stands in the central square of Kos, Plateia Platanou, close to the Castle of the Knights. While the original tree has withered over time, the current tree remains a symbol of knowledge, healing, and the island’s connection to the roots of medicine.

Tree of Hippocrates kos greece

An island rich with ancient heritage, it almost feels as though everywhere you go there’s another archaeological site to visit! Here are some of the top spots you won’t want to miss:

  • The Asklipeion , the most famous site of Kos this archaeological site is dedicated to Asklipeios, the father of modern medicine and is the medical site where Hippocrates once studied! Located in the centre of the island, just a short walk from the main town
  • Casa Romana , this restored Roman mansion is the perfect example of Hellenistic architecture, giving a real feel for how people once lived, it’s situated just by the Roman Odeon
  • The ancient Agora , the marketplace of Kos, these ancient ruins include the temple of Aphrodite, the temple of Hercules, and a basilica

The majority of ancient ruins are free to wander about, all of which are well labelled with informative signs to give you further insight into what you are visiting.

view of ancient ruins in kos greece

In Kos’ archaeological museum visitors can discover some of Greece’s most historical treasures, boasting of a rich collection of well preserved archaeological finds this is a must-see museum!

Located on the central square of Kos Town, the museum is within a beautiful neoclassical building. You visit for a small fee of €6, and its fine to purchase your ticket on arrival.

One of the most calming and relaxing things to do while visiting Kos is to watch the sunset. Whether its sipping on Greek wine, eating traditional cuisine with a view or simply lying by the beach with your toes dipped in water, there’s nothing more magical than watching the candy colour hues melt in the sky!

We found that the best place for sunset was along the shoreline of Kos Town, with a wine in hand! That being said, an amazing ay to experience the sunset while also viewing Kos island from afar is from the water. Book your sunset boar tour here.

seaview from kos in greece

Truly a unique experience and absolutely worth while when visitng Kos is to take a boat tour and fishing trip for half the day. We took the Capitain Tasos half day fishing trip and it was amazing!

Taking a bus from Kos town, we got on the boat at Kefalos Bay with a group size of about 12 people, we were taken around Kastri Island, then to deeper waters ideal for fishing. After a demonstration and trying out line fishing for ourselves, we were taken around to a hidden beach, then had a BBQ (although you don’t eat the fish you catch as they put them back in the water…if you catch any at all that is) .

I would definitely recommend this as you get to visit parts of the island that are only accessible by boat and it’s definitely an unforgettable experience, with the opportunity to meet people too! Find the best fishing boat trips and tours here.

view from the boat trip in kos

Because of the islands close proximity, if you have time and feel like venturing out further you could visit another country and take a day trip to the city of Bodrum in Turkey.

Bodrum boasts of beautiful beaches, a medieval castle and great shopping, making for the perfect destination to explore and giving yourself a slightly different experience.

The ferry over only lasts around 25 minutes, but be aware as you are going into another country so will be subject to going through customs, be sure to have your passport at the ready.

Kos Town:  This is the island’s capital as well as a bustling and lively area with a mix of ancient history, modern amenities, and interesting things to do at night as well.  Staying in Kos Town gives you easy access to the town’s historic attraction. Suggested hotel:  Kosea Boutique Hotel

Kardamena:  Situated on the southern coast of Kos, Kardamena is a lively resort with beautiful sandy beaches and nightlife activities. Kardamena is the place to go for a fun-filled beach holiday with plenty of entertainment.  Suggested hotel:  Hotel Agrelli

Tigaki:  Another popular tourist spot is Tigaki, on the northern coast of Kos. It features a long sandy beach and calm waters, making it a great family destination on the island, with easy access to amenities, plenty of accommodations, and traditional local tavernas.  Suggested hotel:  Tigaki

Enjoyed learning about the best things to do in Kos, Greece? Pin this article now, read it again later:

best things to do in kos

Charlotte is a photographer, cat lover and an avid knitter. When she’s not curled up on the sofa with her newest knitting project (and Rico her cat!) you can find her out and about on long walks. Currently living in the magical city of Edinburgh, she looks forward to travelling and seeing more of the world!

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  • Top Reasons Why You Should...

Top Reasons Why You Should Visit Kos, Greece

The photogenic beauty of places like Agios Stefanos Beach is just one of the reasons Kos is worth visiting

There’s more to Kos than bronzed beaches and lively nightclubs. Explore an ancient Roman city, cycle its family-friendly trails and soak in geothermal hot springs – these are just a handful of reasons why you should visit this Dodecanese island.

Famous for its white-sand beaches, hot thermal pools, ancient ruins and the gleaming waters of the Aegean Sea, there’s plenty to discover on this Greek island. In fact, explore Kos and you’ll discover facts about the Dodecanese islands’ storied past – from its rulership under the Romans, Ottomans and Italians – as well as scenic spots that keep travellers visiting time and again.

1. To learn about the origins of medicine at Asklepion

Archaeological site, Ruins, Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

View Over The Asklepion Kos Greece

Jump right into a history lesson with ancient Greek mythology. Asclepius, son of Apollo and god of medicine and healing, is said to have taught medicine here on Kos. Walk the ruins of the Asklepion, an ancient medical school named in his honour. Large parts of the structure still remain, including thermal baths, stone archways and standing columns belonging to the temple of Apollo. Later, head towards the Neratzia Castle, and you’ll find the Tree of Hippocrates, where the Greek physician, known as the father of medicine, is said to have taught his pupils.

2. To wander through ancient Roman ruins

Theater, Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark

HNMMPD Roman Odeon of Kos

An earthquake in 1933 uncovered extensive Roman city ruins, dating to the 3rd century BCE, with treasures including a well-preserved Roman city street, a Nymphaeum, a cluster of Doric columns, a theatre, bath houses and the elaborate mosaics of a 2nd-century private villa. Walk among towering columns, still standing after millennia, and look upon intricate mosaics depicting everything from great battles to wine. There’s little by way of informational signs on site, so read up before you go. We recommend an early morning visit, before the heat of the afternoon and the crowds that come with it.

3. To party ‘til dawn on the island’s bar-lined streets

Bar, Cocktails

BKYBDE Young woman preparing drinks in the nightclub Hamam Club, Kos-Town, Kos, Greece

Fancy a boogie? Want to wind down over a few drinks? Then head to Kos town’s de-facto nightlife district, where when the sun goes down, the neon lights flicker on. The main action is found around two streets – Diakon and Nafklirou – home to most of the town’s bars and clubs. Don’t like the vibe in one? Simply pop next door to try another. Order a plum sour at Sitar cocktail bar, or for something more high-tempo, head to the ever-popular Camel bar, the largest and perhaps liveliest bar in town.

4. To discover a castle built by the Knights Templar

Archaeological site, Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Walk the ramparts and sun-baked stone battlements that face the water, guarding the entrance to Kos Harbour. Neratzia Castle was named for the Seville orange trees that were planted across the island. It was constructed by the Knights of St John between 1314 and 1522 to protect the island from attacks from the sea. It remains largely intact; stroll through the courtyards filled with marble columns and statues.

people cheering on a mountain

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5. To watch the sunrise from one of Greece’s most photogenic sites

Natural Feature

It’s easy to get blasé about seeing ancient artifacts while on Kos – a mosaic floor here, a marble column there. But a visit to Agios Stefanos can’t fail to impress. Ruins of a grand basilica front the Aegean at this incredibly photogenic spot. The ruins of the temple, built between 469 and 554 CE, sit aside the waves, with views of Kastri island beyond. Many swim to this distinctive conical rocky outcrop with its blue roofed church. Set your alarms, and get your camera ready; the temple looks its best at sunrise, when the fiery red sky etches out the details of the remaining standing columns and walls.

6. To cycle along the accessible coastal trails

E6P829 Cyclists, Kozouli square, Kos town, Kos island, Dodecanese islands, Greece, Europe

Pass remote beaches and countryside villages, and scale the mountains for the best views of the island. There’s really no need to pack your lycras – though you can if you really want to. With relatively flat terrain for a Greek island, Kos offers cycling for all abilities, with dedicated cycle routes and bike lanes that snake their way across the island. There are also over 35 bicycle rental shops to choose from. Try the 13km (8mi) cycle route that starts at Faros Beach, finishing at the beach in Psalidi. Stop in Kos town for lunch. Alternatively, take the dirt roads for a more challenging ride into the mountains.

7. To swim in natural hot springs

G40NK0 Sign to Therma Hot Springs, Therma Beach, Agios Fokas, Kos (Cos), The Dodecanese, South Aegean Region, Greece

Sit back, relax and let the warm waters work their magic on tired muscles, as the waves of the Aegean Sea break gently over the rocks. There are not many places in the world where you can bathe in a natural pool of hot thermal waves, and then cool off in the deep blue sea right next to them. Walk to the far end of Agios Fokas Beach and look for the red, hand-painted Therma sign as you make your way across the pebbles. There’s usually a crowd looking to make the most of the 30C to 50C (86F to 122F) waters. Beat the rush with an early morning dip.

8. To bask in the year-round balmy weather

Historical Landmark

With warm summers and mild winters, the lure of the Mediterranean climate is obvious. Sun seekers should aim for the summer months, when temperatures in Kos are at their highest, and there are on average just three rainy days per month. It’s not unusual to see temperatures of up to 29C (84F) in August; in fact, it rarely drops below 21C (70F). Visit during the shoulder seasons of October and November, or March and April, for slightly cooler weather; you’ll be rewarded with fewer crowds.

There are plenty of things to see and do on Kos once you’ve been to the best restaurants on the island. You could also book a stay at a top hotel on Kos through Culture Trip. Alternatively, head to Athens and visit some of the best beaches in Greece before checking out some boutique hotels in the capital.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips , led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

kos ruins to visit

Bars & Cafes

The best bars to visit in kos, greece.

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Ruins on island of Agios Stefanos.

Fringed by the finest beaches in the Dodecanese, dwarfed beneath mighty crags, and blessed with lush valleys, Kos is an island of endless treasures. Visitors soon become blasé at sidestepping the millennia-old Corinthian columns that poke through the rampant wildflowers – even in Kos Town, the lively capital, ancient Greek ruins are scattered everywhere you turn, and a mighty medieval castle still watches over the harbour.

Attractions

Must-see attractions.

Asklepieion

Asklepieion

The island’s most important ancient site stands on a pine-covered hill 3km southwest of Kos Town, commanding lovely views across towards Turkey. A…

The Plane Tree of Hippocrates. Platanus orientalis.

Hippocrates' Plane Tree

North of the Ancient Agora is the lovely cobblestone Plateia Platanou, where you can pay your respects to the Hippocrates' plane tree, under which…

View inside the Neratzia Castle, a former fortress of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, at Mandraki harbour, Kos-Town, Kos, Greece

Castle of the Knights

Due to damage caused by an earthquake in 2017, Kos’ magnificent 15th-century castle is currently closed. Nevertheless, given its extraordinary location at…

Western Excavation Site

Western Excavation Site

This open archaeological site, south of the centre, holds ancient ruins uncovered by an earthquake in 1933. Its real treasures are the mosaics of the…

Hippocratic Botanic Garden & International Hippocratic Foundation

Hippocratic Botanic Garden & International Hippocratic Foundation

This little-known place, 1km before Asklepieion, does not have the immediate 'wow' factor due to its modest collection. But it should. It houses a small…

Casa Romana

Casa Romana

Reopened to the public in 2015 after years of restoration, Casa Romana is believed to have been constructed during Hellenistic times and remodelled until…

Ancient Agora

Ancient Agora

Exposed by a devastating earthquake in 1933, Kos’ ancient centre – an important market, political and social hub – occupies a large area south of the…

Plateia Platanou

Plateia Platanou

The warm, graceful charm and sedate pace of Kos Town is experienced at its best in this lovely cobblestone square, immediately south of the castle…

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kos ruins to visit

Kos and beyond

Kos Town

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Source: National Observatory of Athens / meteo.gr

Remains of the palaiochristian church of Agios Stefanos overlooking the sea and an islet

© Y. Skoulas

Hippocrates’ Island

View of the beach of the island from above with greenish blue waters and islets

Unique Experiences

kos ruins to visit

Touring the Town

Filming in kos.

kos ruins to visit

THE ISLAND OF SECRETS (2014)

In the beautiful island of Kos and in the turquoise Greek seas, 15-year-old Adriana will meet 14-year-old Tony, who is on the island for holidays with his family from Finland, and between them will develop a youthful romance and a tender relationship of love and trust. Overlooking the Aegean Sea, the two children, along with Tony’s brothers, 12-year-old Alexis and 10-year-old Veeti, will unwittingly entangle in a dangerous adventure...

DIRECTOR: TAAVI VARTIA FILMING LOCATION: KOS, NISYROS

kos ruins to visit

WINDOW TO THE SEA (2019)

Faced with life changing news, Maria, a fifty-five year old Spanish woman from Bilbao, chooses to take a trip to Greece with her closest girlfriends against the advice of her son and doctors. There, she unexpectedly finds love and what seemed like a brief escape from reality turns into a luminous story of a woman, who dares to live for the moment on her own terms on the beautiful island of Nisyros.

DIRECTOR: MIGUEL ANGEL JIMENEZ FILMING LOCATION: NISYROS, ATHENS, KOS

Other destinations

Hill with a castle at the top and a settlement with white houses that ends in a small port.

Kastellorizo

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Ferry routes

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Greek Island

Beautiful day at Camel Beach in Kos island, Greece.

Islands Near Kos: A Comprehensive Guide to Nearby Gems

posted by Charmaine Cortes on July 20, 2023 // last updated on July 20, 2023

The Greek island of Kos is a popular destination in the Dodecanese, offering beautiful landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture. Situated in the crystal-clear waters of the Aegean Sea, it is surrounded by numerous smaller islands that are perfect for exploring and discovering new experiences. These nearby islands provide visitors with a variety of attractions and activities, ranging from stunning beaches to ancient ruins, creating a unique island hopping experience.

One such nearby destination is Nisyros, a small, quiet island located between Kos, Tilos, and Astypalea. Nisyros is best known for its active volcano but also boasts picturesque villages and a serene atmosphere. Another island worth visiting is Pserimos, also known as Kapari, a tiny island with just 130 inhabitants. Though small in size, Pserimos offers unspoiled nature and idyllic beaches, providing an ideal day trip for those looking to escape the larger islands’ bustle.

Key Takeaways

  • Near Kos, smaller islands like Nisyros and Pserimos offer diverse attractions and activities
  • Exploring the nearby islands provides unique experiences such as visiting an active volcano
  • Many islands can be visited on day trips, adding variety to a holiday experience

Geographical Context

Dodecanese islands.

kos ruins to visit

The island of Kos is part of the Dodecanese group, the third largest island after Rhodes and Karpathos. This group of islands is located in the southeastern Aegean Sea and includes a total of 15 larger islands and 150 smaller ones. The Dodecanese islands are known for their rich history and cultural heritage, as well as their beautiful landscapes and attractive beaches.

Kos is situated south of Kalymnos and north of Nisyros, very close to the coasts of Turkey. Its proximity to other Greek islands allows for easy island-hopping to nearby destinations such as Kalymnos, Nisyros, Pserimos, Telendos, Nera, Leros, Gyali, Platy, Kandeleousa, and Levitha.

kos ruins to visit

The Aegean Sea is a part of the Mediterranean Sea, located between the Greek and Anatolian peninsulas. The sea is approximately 214,000 square kilometres in size, and it contains numerous islands and islets, including the Cyclades, the North Aegean islands, and the Dodecanese. It is noteworthy for its crystal-clear waters, incredible marine life, and stunning coastline.

Kos, being an island in the Aegean Sea, enjoys a unique geographical location, which has a strong connection to the local history and culture. It is about 200 nautical miles from Piraeus, making it easily accessible to travellers from mainland Greece. Surrounding Kos, the Aegean Sea provides a beautiful backdrop for visitors and offers numerous opportunities for water activities such as swimming, sailing, and diving.

Popular Islands Near Kos

kos ruins to visit

Kalymnos, known as the “sponge-divers’ island”, is famous for its brave divers who collect natural sponges from the sea. This island is the third most populated in the Dodecanese chain and is situated between Leros and Kos. Rich in history and beauty, Kalymnos offers stunning landscapes and unique cultural experiences for visitors.

kos ruins to visit

Pserimos is a small, stress-free island that provides a tranquil escape from the busier neighbouring islands. With beautiful sandy beaches and serene surroundings, this island is perfect for those looking for a peaceful holiday destination.

kos ruins to visit

Nisyros is a unique island with a distinct volcanic landscape, making it a fascinating place to explore. Visitors can witness the beauty of its active volcano, visit ancient ruins and enjoy the charming villages scattered throughout the island.

kos ruins to visit

Tilos is known for its unspoiled nature, crystal-clear waters, and diverse wildlife. The island attracts nature lovers, bird-watchers, and those seeking a peaceful escape from the hustle of everyday life. Its pristine beaches and beautiful landscapes make Tilos a great destination for relaxation.

kos ruins to visit

Symi is often considered the most beautiful island near Kos. Its stunning architecture, picturesque harbour and vibrant colours make for a breathtaking experience. The island has a rich history and offers plenty of opportunities to explore ancient sites and monuments.

kos ruins to visit

Patmos is a historic and spiritual island, famously known as the place where Saint John wrote the Book of Revelation. Visitors can explore the historic monasteries, wander through traditional villages and appreciate the beautiful architecture that makes Patmos a unique destination.

Island Activities

kos ruins to visit

Kos and its surrounding islands offer numerous pristine beaches, each with their unique atmosphere and charm. On Kos island, popular windsurfing spots include Mastihari and Kefalos, where windsurfing centres rent equipment and offer courses. Exploring nearby islands like Pserimos, a tiny island with 130 inhabitants, is perfect for a day trip to enjoy the sun, sea, and sand in a tranquil setting.

Hiking and Exploration

kos ruins to visit

The islands south of Kos, such as Nisyros, Kalymnos, Telendos, and Leros, provide excellent opportunities for hiking and exploration. Nisyros, a small Dodecanese island, is famous for its active volcano, offering adventurous trails and stunning views. Exploring traditional villages on the islands adds a cultural element to your adventures. For a unique safari tour, head to Kos city centre or touristic areas where you can join excursions and explore the island’s natural beauty further.

Historical Sites

Kos and its nearby islands are rich in history, with many fascinating sites to visit. On Kos, you can explore the Asclepeion, an ancient healing centre dedicated to Hippocrates, the Father of Western Medicine. You can also visit Ancient Ruins, Byzantine and Medieval castles, and Ottoman-era structures that showcase the island’s diverse history. On other islands such as Kalymnos and Leros, you can experience their fascinating cultural heritage by visiting Sacred & Religious Sites, Churches & Cathedrals, and Points of Interest & Landmarks.

Travelling Between Islands

kos ruins to visit

Ferry Connections

Ferry connections are a popular and convenient method of travelling between islands near Kos. One nearby island you can visit is Kalymnos , which is accessible from Mastichari port in about 20 minutes via a fast boat and 50 minutes with a car ferry. Regular connections are available throughout the day.

Another option is a one-day trip from Kos to Leros , with 2-3 ferry crossings scheduled daily. The earliest ferry departs at 09:00 from Kos and arrives at around 11:30 in Leros. Ticket prices typically start at around €10.50.

For a more peaceful experience, you can also take a ferry from Kos to Nisyros , a small island between Kos, Tilos, and Astypalea known for its active volcano. Finally, the serene island of Symi offers a picturesque day trip option from Kos.

Sea taxis provide an alternative option for reaching nearby islands such as Pserimos . Although smaller and with fewer inhabitants, the island is an excellent day trip choice from its neighbouring islands. Consider booking a sea taxi to explore the local beauty of these quaint islands at a more tailored pace.

Please note, the availability and schedules of sea taxis may vary by the season or specific island destination. It’s best to check in advance before planning your trip.

Keep in mind that ferries and sea taxis may be subject to changes due to weather conditions. Be prepared to be flexible with your travel plans, especially when venturing out to the lesser-known islands.

Accommodation Options

When planning a trip to the islands near Kos, there are various accommodation options to choose from, ensuring you have a comfortable and memorable stay.

kos ruins to visit

A variety of hotels are available throughout the nearby islands, catering to different budgets and preferences. Many hotels offer essential amenities, such as free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and breakfast service. Depending on the location, some hotels might offer stunning views and proximity to popular attractions. A few popular hotels that can be found on Kos are:

  • Kardamaina (60 hotels)
  • Kefalos (76 hotels)
  • Tigaki (46 hotels)

For those seeking privacy and a more luxurious experience, villas can be an excellent choice. Many villas on the islands near Kos offer spacious living spaces, private pools, and breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. These accommodations are perfect for families, couples, or friends travelling together, offering the comforts of home while still providing easy access to local attractions and amenities.

Holiday Rentals

Holiday rentals provide travellers with a more independent and flexible option during their stay. These accommodations could be apartments, cottages, or smaller villas, often coming fully equipped with kitchens, laundry facilities, and separate bedrooms. Holiday rentals can be found in various sizes and locations, ensuring a match for varying needs and preferences. Some popular areas for holiday rentals on Kos include:

  • Antimácheia (11 holiday rentals)
  • Lagoúdi Zía (6 holiday rentals)
  • Ampavris (1 holiday rental)
  • Pylíon (2 holiday rentals)
  • Psalidi (2 holiday rentals)

By considering the various accommodation options available on the islands near Kos, you can find the perfect place to stay that suits your budget, needs, and preferences during your visit.

Culinary Experiences

Local cuisine.

The islands near Kos offer delightful culinary experiences that showcase the rich flavours of Greek cuisine. Traditional dishes on nearby islands like Kalymnos and Nisyros focus on locally-sourced ingredients, such as olives, tomatoes, and wild greens. Mezze platters are a popular option, featuring small bites including spinach pies, stuffed grape leaves, and locally-made cheeses.

As expected for islands surrounded by the Aegean Sea, fresh seafood is a staple in the local cuisine. Fish and shellfish are caught daily and served in various forms, from simple grilled fish to more elaborate dishes, such as seafood risotto and oven-baked fish with vegetables. In the local tavernas, you can find delicacies like octopus, squid, and red mullet prepared in traditional methods, such as grilling, frying, and marinating in olive oil and vinegar.

Tavernas are traditional Greek restaurants that offer a warm, welcoming atmosphere and authentic dining experiences on the islands near Kos. These establishments, often family-run, serve homemade Greek dishes showcasing the islands’ local recipes, seasonal ingredients, and generations-old culinary techniques. In these tavernas, you can enjoy a relaxed dining experience, savouring delicious meals while taking in the picturesque views of the surrounding sea and landscapes.

Charmaine Cortes

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kos ruins to visit

5 Amazing Ancient Ruins in Rome (That Aren't the Colosseum)

R ome is full of ruins. You practically can’t turn a corner without seeing an ancient temple or statue or column. Obviously the Colosseum is the most popular site to visit, but don’t stop there! Here are the best ancient ruins in Rome that AREN’T the Colosseum!

Want to go underground to a 1st century Roman street? How about walking through the ruins of an ancient palace? Here are the best ruins to add to your Rome itinerary .

Pro Tip: Save money visit Rome’s museums and ancient sites with the Go City Pass . You can get the Explorer Pass and choose how many of the included attraction you want to see. But be sure to check the prices of your specific activities to make sure it’s the right deal for you!

Basilica San Clemente

The Basilica San Clemente is such a fantastic attraction in Rome that I think is completely underrated! A lot of people don’t know about it, but it was one of our favorite places we went in Rome. And anytime I know someone going to Rome, I always talk them into visiting this gem.

Within walking distance of the Colosseum, the Basilica San Clemente is a modern Basilica with an interesting history that you can literally descend into.

In the late 1800s, the Prior of the church began excavating beneath it and uncovered a 4th century basilica. Further excavations revealed a section of 1st Century Rome that had been destroyed in the fire of Nero in 64 A.D. At this level you can find an altar of Mithras, an alleyway, and what is thought to be an apartment room and school room.

The thing that is so amazing about San Clemente is that you can see these layers of history and the way Rome has been built on top of itself over and over again. It is such a unique experience to be able to descend into the different levels of Roman history and walk around in them.

Tips Visiting Basilica San Clemente

The Basilica San Clemente is location at Via Labicana 95, just a few blocks east of the Colosseum.

The San Clemente Basilica is a sacred site, so be sure to wear appropriate and modest clothing (as you would when visiting St. Peter’s Basilica).

Palatine Hill

The Palatine Hill was once the home of ancient Roman emperors and elites. Now it is an open air museum of sorts, and it’s one of our favorite ruins to visit in Rome because it has such a relaxing feel to it. Wandering through the Palatine Hill truly makes you feel like you are not in the middle of a busy city!

Stroll through the grassy meadows just southwest of the Colosseum and explore the Palace of Domitian, which includes a stadium, as well as the houses of other nobility, and ancient temples. The Palatine Hill also provides some beautiful views of Rome and the Colosseum.

Tips for Visiting the Palatine Hill

Tickets to the Palatine Hill include admission to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. You can also pay extra to book a guided 3 hour tour through the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum.

Don’t rush yourself here and be sure to allow plenty of time to enjoy this beautiful place!

Roman Forum

The Roman Forum is just east of the Colosseum and was once the center of Roman government. It’s smaller than the Palatine Hill and can get more crowded, but it is full of truly rich history.

Here you can find the public forums and a civic hall, temples, statues, and even the ruins of an ancient Roman jail. It really is like walking through a central city block in ancient Rome (although of course you have to picture that all the buildings are in their prime.)

We highly recommend finding some kind of guide for your visit, whether you go on a guided tour or use something like the Rick Steves Roman Forum audio tour and map .

Visiting the Roman Forum

Tickets to the Roman Forum include admission the Palatine Hill and Colosseum. You can also pay extra to book a guided 3 hour tour through the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum or purchase an audio guide ticket.

The Jewish Ghetto

The Jewish Ghetto is an area of Rome just north of Tiber Island. The Jewish Ghetto was established in 1555 and for centuries was home to Rome’s Jewish population.

Today it is part of the regular city of Rome, but several ancient ruins still exist in the area. We love this area because the streets are lovely to stroll through and you stumble upon the ruins of the ghetto which are just interspersed with everything else.

This area was also subject to tragic round-ups of Jews during WWII, and if you look at the ground you can see gold markers indicating where various members of the community were arrested.

Visiting the Jewish Ghetto

There is no ticket for the Jewish Ghetto — it is just part of the city of Rome! Downloading a guide for your visit might be helpful though.

Largo de Torre Argentina

The Largo de Torre Argentina is located just north of the Jewish Ghetto. Here you can see the ruins of several temples and a theater. You can’t actually wander through these ruins, but you can walk along the edge of them. My favorite thing here is that the Largo de Torre Argentina is home to a colony of cats!

Visiting the Largo de Torre Argentina

There is no ticket for the Largo de Torre Argentina; rather it makes a great quick stop as you are wandering through the streets of Rome.

More Ancient Ruins in Rome

Even beyond these five ruins to see, there so many more ancient ruins in Rome. Here’s a some to considering visiting:

  • Circus Maximus — A ruins of a chariot stadium and a place where ancient Roman’s gathered for games and competition. Located just south of the Palatine Hill. (You can actually see it from certain spots on the Palatine Hill.)
  • Via Sacra — A major street of ancient Rome that leads to the Colosseum and has lots to see along it still.
  • Baths of Diocletian — The largest public bath in Rome (Seriously, it’s a huge complex!) and part of the National Museum of Rome. Located just northwest of the Termini train station.
  • Baths of Caracalla — Once the second largest public baths in Rome. Located south of the Colosseum.
  • Teatro Marcello — A theater planned by Julius Caesar and built by Augustus. Located just north of Tiber Island.
  • Pyramid of Cestius — A Egyptian-style pyramid that was the burial spot for Gaius Cestius, an ancient Roman magistrate. Located in the southern part of the city.
  • Via Appia — The Appian Way was one of ancient Rome’s most important roads, and part of it runs through Rome. The most popular part to visit in Rome is the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica.
  • Ostia Antica — Technically this isn’t quite in Rome, but its a large archaeological park of an ancient city near Rome’s port. It takes about 30 minutes to drive there from central Rome, or about 1.5 hours on public transportation.

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The post 5 Amazing Ancient Ruins in Rome (That Aren’t the Colosseum) appeared first on Flying Off The Bookshelf .

Rome is full of ruins. You practically can’t turn a corner without seeing an ancient temple or statue or column. Obviously the Colosseum is the most popular site to visit, but don’t stop there! Here are the best ancient ruins in Rome that AREN’T the Colosseum! Want to go underground to a 1st century Roman...

In the Ruins of Edward Gibbon’s Masterpiece

“decline and fall of the roman empire” is an enduring work—just not of history..

Magnifying glass and book "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" by Edward Gibbon

There is an old joke. A student at Oxford attends a cocktail party with members of the faculty. Hoping to impress these august dons, the student casually mentions, “I was reading Gibbon the other night …” Later, the student’s faculty mentor pulls him aside to chide him for the comment. “One must never say one is reading Gibbon,” he says. “One must always say one is re-reading Gibbon.”  

There is a good case to be made that Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is the single most famous work of history ever written in the English language. Published in the auspicious year of 1776, Gibbon’s first volume of Decline and Fall landed to instant success and acclaim. Its first print run sold out, necessitating an immediate second printing. It has been in continuous print ever since. The success of the books made Gibbon a literary and intellectual celebrity in his own time and landed Decline and Fall on the syllabus of every university in the English-speaking world. Well into the twentieth century, Gibbon was regarded as the authority on the Roman Empire. To be educated was to have read Gibbon.  

But while the impact and influence of Decline and Fall is almost impossible to overstate, we are not here to prove Gibbon wrote a uniquely significant work of history. He obviously did. We are here to ask whether Decline and Fall holds up. Is this a work that still deserves the power of authority it immediately wielded? Does it command attention and respect from the foremost practitioners of the historical discipline today? Should parents and teachers consider it a reliable guide to the Roman world to assign students in the twenty-first century? The short answer to all three of these questions is … no. Absolutely not. On all three counts.

But before we single out Gibbon for skewering, we must first remember that no work written in the late eighteenth century in nearly any academic discipline holds up to modern scrutiny. Here in the twenty-first century, our corpus of knowledge is vastly superior to that in Gibbon’s time. Of course it is. We simply have more information, better sources, and superior analytic skills. So even cursory scrutiny of Decline and Fall reveals factual inaccuracies, distorted analysis, and polemical rhetoric that disqualify it from being considered an authoritative history of Rome in comparison to any work about Rome written by an expert in the field in the twenty-first century. That does not mean it’s worthless. It just means there are lots of other, better, books to read first.

Let’s start with the title: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Right away we have problems. Contemporary historians have challenged and overthrown the entire framework of “the fall of Rome.” We understand now that while a slow-moving social and cultural transformation took place, the idea of a sudden visible collapse of civilization is not supported by the record. Nor is it true that the societies that sprang up after Roman rule were ignorant black holes lacking education and culture. Gibbon bears a measure of responsibility for formulating and promulgating the Enlightenment idea that humanity entered what Gibbon called “the rubbish of the dark age” after the fall of Rome.

Gibbon’s central thesis emerges from this flawed framework. An Enlightenment critic of Christianity, Gibbon naturally saw the Church as the principal author of the Dark Ages. Decline and Fall spends much time tracing the rise of Christianity and its spread through the Mediterranean, and how its adoption as state religion fatally undermined the ancient virtues that brought the Romans to their hegemonic heights. None of this holds up. Today, no serious scholar of Rome believes that Christianity played such a central role in the Empire’s decline—not least for the reason that the Eastern Roman Empire, orthodox Christian to its core, persisted for another thousand years after the fall of the Western Empire.

One way to rescue Decline and Fall is to repeat the pithy pronouncement that one may argue with Gibbon’s interpretations but not his facts. His thesis might be wrong, but his facts are solid as oak. But this, unfortunately, is not true either.

It is not hard to understand why Gibbon might still be regarded as a reliable factual authority more than two centuries after his death. It is the same reason his work had such a massive impact in the first place. Decline and Fall is a legitimately groundbreaking work of professional history as we understand it today. Not content to simply synthesize what he read and produce an uninterrupted narrative, Gibbon visibly showed his work, with footnotes that cited his sources, commented on their veracity, and invited the reader to follow not just the story but how he constructed the story. In 1779, he wrote, “The Writer who aspires to the name of Historian, is obliged to consult a variety of original testimonies, each of which, taken separately, is perhaps imperfect and partial.” It was the historian’s job to weigh and measure these sources, but “nothing ought to be inserted which is not proved by some of the witnesses.” The insistence on footnotes and citations is so obvious today that scholars would find it inconceivable  not to   write as Gibbon does. It is a major part of why he can claim with some legitimacy the title of first modern historian.

But this very openness about his sourcing is often what allows us to see where his story is flawed, misguided, or outright incorrect. Gibbon makes a large and fatal error in relying on a collection of imperial biographies collectively dubbed the Historia Augusta. The collection purports to be written by six different authors, who provide a wealth of information and detail about chaotic periods with otherwise scant and fragmentary sources. Though he deploys his critical eye to describe one of these volumes as the work of a “wretched biographer,” Gibbon nonetheless uses the Historia Augusta to flesh out his story and provide colorful backstories for his characters. But in the late nineteenth century, German historian Hermann Dessau broke critical ground by arguing the Historia Augusta was not written by six different authors over many years but was in fact the work of a single anonymous hoaxster writing in the late fourth century. Though many basic facts in the Historia Augusta can be independently verified, the exquisite details it contains must be read as unreliable historical fiction. Any passage in Decline and Fall found perched atop footnotes citing the Historia Augusta —and there are many—cannot be taken at face value. This is not to say that Decline and Fall is uniformly inaccurate or completely unreliable. Just that there are enough basic factual problems to give pause.   

Problems of both interpretation and fact combine in Gibbon’s ethnographic depictions of various groups of people. Gibbon is a disaster on matters of cultural anthropology. Writing from his position as a European acolyte of the Enlightenment, his descriptions and characterizations are replete with various bigotries. Of the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppe, Gibbon says their unwillingness to settle into civilized agriculture boils down to “indolence.” He says, “The only example of their industry seems to consist in the art of extracting from mare’s milk a fermented liquor, which possesses a very strong power of intoxication.” Of the Tatars he writes that “they are an ugly and even deformed race; And, while they consider their own women as the instruments of domestic labor, their desires, or rather their appetites, are directed to the enjoyment of more elegant beauty.” Which is to say they fought wars to get hotter women. He assigns to the Jews a “narrow and unsocial spirit” and calls them “a race of fanatics, whose dire and credulous superstition seemed to render them the implacable enemies not only of the Roman government, but also of mankind.”  

Gibbon also habitually writes with misogynistic undertones—that the decline of Rome was the story of manly virtues falling into effeminate vices. In a passage explaining the decline in military prowess, he says that “the effeminate luxury which infected the manners of courts and cities had instilled a secret and destructive poison into the camps of the legion.” When describing the Gothic sacking of Rome, Gibbon writes that Alaric encouraged his men “to enrich themselves with the spoils of a wealthy and effeminate people.” Clearly Gibbon saw something damning about anything feminine-coded. Of the Empress Julia Domna, Gibbon writes that “she possessed, even in an advanced age, the attractions of beauty, and united to a lively imagination a firmness of mind, and strength of judgment, seldom bestowed on her sex.” Even in paying a woman a compliment, he can’t escape his attitude.  

The ignorant portrayals of other peoples and the casual misogyny combine when Gibbon turns his attention to Eastern “oriental” peoples who are naturally slavish of mind, habituated for despotism, and deeply unmanly to boot. The luxury, effeminacy, and degraded morality of Eastern societies is always depicted as equivalent to a virus infiltrating the Roman Empire. Gibbon writes of the notorious emperor Elagabalus: “The grave senators confessed with a sigh, that, after having long experienced the stern tyranny of their own countrymen, Rome was at length humbled beneath the effeminate luxury of oriental despotism.” These stereotypes pop up routinely, undermining the book’s authority because Gibbon’s premises and conclusions are so obviously distorted by inaccurate portrayals of the peoples he purports to understand.  

Does this mean we should chuck Decline and Fall into the dustbin of history? No. Decline and Fall may be most valuable for what it tells us about Gibbon’s times and his purpose in writing it. Gibbon is an unabashed partisan of the Enlightenment, and Decline and Fall was a highly charged text in the social, political, and religious discourse of his era. His broadsides against Christianity may fail as historical argument, but as British historian David Wootton has put it , “It suddenly becomes clear that Gibbon was not simply producing a survey of arguments that might have been used against Christianity in the first century. He was quite systematically trying to provide a survey of eighteenth-century arguments against Christianity.” Decline and Fall may not hold up as a history of Rome, but it is certainly valuable as a confession of the Enlightenment mind.

Gibbon is also a phenomenal prose stylist. On a craft level, his sentences are sparkling, witty, observant, insightful, and very near flawless. There is a reason he has been permanently in print for nearly 250 years. The man can turn a phrase. Even if Gibbon were forever exiled from the history department, we would still be left with a monumental work of literature worthy of study by the English department. On the intersection of religion and politics, he writes: “The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher, equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful.” On the Emperor Caracalla, he says that “his rash ambition had climbed a height where it was difficult to stand with firmness, and impossible to fall without instant destruction.” What turns of phrase! Of Justinian’s patched-together legal code, he artfully says: “Instead of a statue cast in a simple mold by the hand of an artist, the works of Justinian represent a tessellated pavement of antique and costly, but too often of incoherent, fragments.” Of the phenomenon of elite opulence in a time of decline, Gibbon writes that “the mad prodigality which prevails in the confusion of a shipwreck or siege may serve to explain the progress of luxury amidst the misfortunes and terrors of a sinking nation.” Even if not a single word were true, Gibbon’s prose would still be worth reading, just for the joy of reading.

Finally, Gibbon’s work sits comfortably on a chronological continuum of imperfect Roman historians from Polybius to Sallust to Livy to Tacitus to Plutarch to Ammianus Marcellinus to Zosimus to Zonaras. When we read any of these authors to glean insight into Rome, we always start by placing them in their proper times, places, and purposes. The same is true of those who followed Gibbon on this continuum, like Theodore Mommsen in the nineteenth century, Ronald Syme in the twentieth century, or Mary Beard in the twenty-first century. We do not say, “Don’t read Livy” or “Don’t read Plutarch” just because we understand that limits and qualifications must be taken into consideration when reading their work. I read Gibbon the same way I read the ancient writers: as an often unreliable, biased, and mistaken guide of ancient Rome who is valuable and pleasurable nonetheless. If we are lucky, future historians will consider what we write today just as blinkered, inaccurate, and misguided as we consider Gibbon. Because that means the process of transparent, source-driven, critical history that Decline and Fall did so much to define is working.

In the meantime, I will be rereading Gibbon.

Mike Duncan was the host of The History of Rome and Revolutions podcast series. He is most recently the author of Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution .

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A woman walks into the roman ruins known as the Baths of Antoninus in Carthage, in Tunisia, Africa.

Carthage was Rome’s greatest rival. Go see its side of the story.

Roman conquerors tried to erase the past of this ancient Tunisian port city—but these historic sites shed light on the true glories of Carthage.

From 650 B.C. to 146 B.C., Carthage was the most powerful trading and commercial city in the Mediterranean. Its sophisticated 200-dock harbor and wealthy population supported a sprawling metropolis of temples, markets, and estates outside present day Tunis, a 20-minute drive away. It even loomed large in Greek mythology as the home of the legendary Dido , whose racy story of forced marriage and illicit love inspired poetry, operas, and countless classical oil paintings.  

But some 2,000 years ago, Carthage was razed to the ground by its rival, the Roman Republic . Carthaginians were murdered or sold into slavery, and the Romans built a new Carthage on the ruins.  

A modern painting of Carthaginians defending their city during the third Punic War in 149 BC.

Since the Romans sacked the city and destroyed most of its libraries and archives, “virtually nothing” known of the Carthaginian people has been gleaned from primary sources. “With Carthage, you’re dealing with something where there are huge holes,” says Richard Miles, author of Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization .  

Now, Carthage is seeing revitalization efforts helmed by the Tunisian Ministry of Culture and the European Union that aim to restore several Carthaginian sites, providing visitors with an improved experience and better protecting what remains of the city’s nearly lost legacy.

‘Carthage must be destroyed’

Around 200 B.C., “Carthage [was] the original Mediterranean superpower,” says Miles. Thanks to its vast control over trading ports and various North African land routes, “Carthage was the great connector. It [took] all sorts of influences—Greek, Phoenician, Italian, [and also from] the Iberian Peninsula, Nubians, and the Libyans in North Africa—and it melded them together into something that is unique.”

( Find mosaics and mystery in an outpost of the Roman Empire .)

As the Roman Republic’s power grew across the sea, however, so did its rivalry with the Carthaginians. Three wars flared between the two empires, spanning nearly a hundred years.

People stand among the Roman ruins in the capital city of Tunis, Tunisia in 1909 in a black and white photo

In 149 B.C. Rome laid siege to Carthage, burning its famed fleet before nearly leveling the city. “The destruction of Carthage was an act of vengeance,” Miles says, adding that the Romans wanted to ensure that the Carthaginians never rose again to challenge them. “ Delenda est Carthago [Carthage must be destroyed]” were words often repeated by Roman senator Cato.

Exploring ancient Carthage

Yet, Rome was unable to erase Carthage from history in its entirety, says Miles. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, the ancient site of Carthage, at the peak of Byrsa Hill, overlooks the Punic port that grew the city’s power. Here visitors can explore the once thriving Byrsa Acropolis, which holds a museum, a necropolis, and several remarkably maintained Carthaginian houses.

“The houses—just before the destruction [of Carthage]—are perfectly preserved. That part of the Byrsa Hill is something you have to visit for sure,” says archaeologist Stefano Cespa, who, with the German Archaeological Institute of Rome , has spent the past decade excavating Carthaginian sites around the city.

An elevated view of the ruins of the Villa of the Aviary along the Roman causeway in ancient Carthage

The redevelopment effort will renovate the adjacent Carthage National Museum (expected to reopen in June 2026) that will “connect the museum exhibition halls to the outdoors and the views of Carthage,” says Gabriela Carillo, an architect who is assisting the project. Other aspects of renovation will address the site’s landscape, accessibility, and environmental concerns.

From the complex on Byrsa Hill, visitors can descend to explore the crescent-shaped port that once served the Carthaginians’ impressive naval fleet. Miles adds that the port may have played a direct role in the city’s destruction since the military fleet docked there violated the treaty between the empires of Rome and Carthage. Today, the port is used only by fishing boats, and a small walking path runs around the rim.

Tourists visit the Carthage National Museum in a suburbs of Tunis, Tunisia.

Just down the street is the Tophet of Salammbo—a graveyard that, according to Cespa, was the burial ground for animals and children used for ritual sacrifices. However, he adds that may have been a rumor spread by the Romans and Greeks. To date, over 20,000 urns buried under stone slabs have been found here, making it one of the largest cemeteries from the Phoenician period.

( Here’s where to search for traces of the ancient Chola dynasty .)

Relics from the Roman Republic’s rule over Carthage can also be seen on the hill and around the city. The Baths of Antoninus —a sprawling complex of ruins standing beside Tunisia’s presidential palace—is one of the more popular historic sites, replete with remarkably well-preserved walls, tunnels, and porticos. Nearby is an expansive Roman theater, where visitors can observe archaeologists as they restore structures and refurbish intricate mosaics.  

A short walk away are the twin sites of the Circus of Carthage , which was modeled after the Circus Maximus in Rome. Cespa and his team have been surveying these sites—called Quartier Magon and Quartier Didion—for several years. “You have almost 2,000 years of stratigraphy in these two sites,” Cespa says. “There you have all the phases of ancient Carthage, from the Phoenician foundation through the Punic age, then the Roman age and medieval, late Byzantine, and Islamic period.”

“It shows that you can’t totally destroy something,” says Miles. “There’s always a little bit of the past that survives.”

What to know

Related topics.

  • WORLD HERITAGE SITES
  • ANCIENT ROME
  • ANCIENT HISTORY
  • ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS
  • HISTORY AND CIVILIZATION
  • HISTORIC SITES

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A black-and-white photograph shows a rock formation on a rugged coastline resembling the head of an elephant with its trunk in the water.

So Close to Sicily, So Far From the Crowds

Pantelleria is a seductive idyll of mud baths, romantic ruins and secluded swimming coves. It’s also rocky and wind-whipped, making it quieter than its big-sister island next door.

Visitors can get close to the rock formation known as Arco dell’Elefante, a lava arch that resembles an elephant drinking water, when touring Pantelleria by boat. Credit...

Supported by

By Amy Tara Koch

Photographs by Paolo Pellegrin

  • Published May 29, 2024 Updated May 30, 2024

For years I had been hearing about the island of Pantelleria, the craggy, hard-to-get-to Eden with middle-of-nowhere tranquillity that sits 89 miles southwest of the island of Sicily and about 50 miles east of Tunisia. Luca Guadagnino’s 2015 film “ A Bigger Splash ” painted a seductive idyll of mud baths, romantic ruins and secluded swimming coves. Celebrities like Madonna, Sting and Julia Roberts visited, drawn to the striking, Africa-meets-Italy ambience, along with Giorgio Armani, a part-time resident since 1980. The fact that nobody was impressed by them added to the allure.

“We always tell newbies that you will either love it or hate it,” said the fashion stylist Sciascia Gambaccini, who has owned a vacation home on the island for 33 years. “This is not Capri. We don’t have Chanel. There aren’t fancy resort hotels. There is constant wind. The beauty is in the slow pace and the wild landscape.”

In a black-and-white photograph, the intersection of two narrow stone streets is shown, with a bell tower in the distance.

The absence of white-sand beaches is worn like a badge of honor. Locals schlep their own gear to the jagged lava rock perches that line the coast and cannonball into the turquoise sea. The old-fashioned pasticceria and dingy olive stalls in Pantelleria Town, bestow it with “Godfather”-like charm.

And the wind, well, it’s part of the package. As locals will tell you, nature is in charge here, and when a sirocco hits, you have to go with the flow.

A fragrant, otherworldly landscape

Thousands of years ago, farmers on rocky, wind-whipped, fresh-water-free Pantelleria figured out how to cultivate crops.

They built terraced walls from porous lava rock that blocked the wind and irrigated the fruits and vegetables with dew. These steep terraces undulate throughout the island, lending a primordial texture to the bluffs of lava rock. Ubiquitous lava stone dwellings called dammusi also lend to the otherworldly landscape.

Pantelleria’s topography completely shifts as you move from one part of the 32-square-mile island to another. As I zipped along the narrow main road and unpaved side routes, the scenery moved from lush caldera-formed valleys to barren plateaus tufted in Mediterranean scrub to hilltop villages festooned in pink bougainvillea, and up to woodsy mountains. Flowering cactuses and caper bushes with purple stamens grow with abandon, as do herbs. When the wind blows, it smells of wild oregano.

Reminders of Pantelleria’s ancient roots are everywhere.

In Mursia, the bar Sesiventi overlooks Bronze Age burial monuments. In Nikà, I thought of the Romans as I plopped into the burbling thermal baths that they carved into the stone. Pantelleria Town is dominated by a castle begun in the Byzantine era, Norman additions and a bell tower built later by the Spanish.

That Pantescan vibe

The island is not easy to reach. The Danish airline DAT , the Spanish carrier Volotea and the Italian ITA Airways fly there from within Italy, but only on certain days. After the high season, which runs from the end of May through the end of September, it becomes more challenging with one-off flights or an overnight ferry option from Trapani on the main island of Sicily. (Pantelleria is part of the region of Sicily.)

I flew from Palermo last June, and after the jolt of landing on a volcanic speck in the sea, I felt the siren song of slackerdom. It was hot. And the wind/cicadas combo was like an island lullaby. My late-afternoon arrival coincided with aperitivo hour, which has its own format in Pantelleria. People climb to the roofs and sit on pillows to watch the sun slip into the sea. I experienced this tranquil rooftop scene, or anti-scene, at different restaurants, hotels and homes throughout my week on the island.

Of note, there was no blaring music. Nature was the main event, and it was treated with reverence. Tesla? Mercedes? Land Rover? Not a chance. Everyone drives beat-up cars, the Fiat Panda being the most popular. When a friend picked me up in this toylike contraption, I learned why. Their tiny size and light weight make it simple to wedge into tight parking spots and navigate oncoming traffic on single-lane roads, a maneuver that often involves pulling over into bushes or onto a narrow precipice.

While there may not be beach days, there are certainly swim days that unfold upon lava outcroppings. Balata dei Turchi was my favorite, partly because it was such an adventure to get to this bay beneath approximately 800-foot lava cliffs. It involved negotiating steep, unpaved terrain in my friend’s decrepit Panda, bouncing over boulders as plumes of dust clouded the windshield. After parking, it was a 10-minute descent down the rocks on foot. We placed towels on the black rocks and plunged into the sea. A thick rope affixed to the rocks helped swimmers pull themselves back up.

Some days, the swim was spontaneous. After a wine-soused lunch at La Vela in the Scauri port, I ditched my clothes (I learned to tuck a swimsuit into my tote) and waded past sea urchins into the crystal clear sea. Around me, sunbathers were reading (real books) and children snorkeled and played (real) games. It felt like 1985.

A boat tour offers the best perspective of the island. But with the wind, one had been tricky to schedule. Finally, the gusts receded, and I set out with a lithe, Speedo-clad skipper to explore the lava-formed grottoes accessible only by sea. We motored into the Grotta delle Sirene and then Sataria , the sponge-encrusted grotto where legend has it that Odysseus was bewitched by the sea nymph Calypso. We got up close to Arco dell’Elefante , a lava arch that resembles an elephant drinking water. Then we anchored in front of the caves of Punta Spadillo for a panini lunch before diving into the green-blue, parrotfish-rich sea. We saw one only other boat, which departed as we arrived.

Vino e capperi

If people know Pantelleria, chances are they will mention its two most famous exports: passito, a sweet wine made with the zibibbo grape, and capers. It is no easy feat to produce wine on an arid, fresh-water-free island. Vines were trained to grow horizontally to avoid the wind. To self-irrigate, they were planted in hollows so dew could drip into the roots at night. This centuries-old practice is recognized by UNESCO as an “intangible cultural heritage.”

All of the island’s 22 winemakers produce their own version of amber-hued passito, and each winemaker speaks poetically of how harsh conditions yield this “vino da meditazione,” or meditation wine, to be sipped slowly after dinner. “When you drink it, you can feel the people and land behind the flavor,” said Antonio Rallo, the fifth-generation co-owner of Donnafugata vineyards and president of the Sicilia DOC wine consortium. “It could never be made anywhere else besides this island.”

Sun, wind and mineral-rich volcanic soil are also the secret to Pantelleria’s capers, whose exceptional sweetness makes them prized throughout the gastronomic world. As most vineyards grow grapes and capers, wine tastings include foods that showcase both flavors.

Emanuela Bonomo , a rare female winemaker here, explained how the wind created a concentrated flavor of lava minerality and salt in both her produce and small-batch wines. At the vineyard she served fried zucchini with mint and oregano; caponata; and cheese topped with dried zibibbo grapes alongside fig jam, and huge lemons, sliced and drizzled with oil. Everything was layered with aromatic capers. Ms. Bonomo also wanted to make sure that I understood that everything was “fatto a mano”: She and every other farmer still harvest by hand.

At Mr. Rallo’s vineyard, guests can walk past centuries-old olive trees and gardens and through a natural amphitheater of stone walls to examine the gnarled, low-to-the-ground vines and caper bushes. There are multiple tasting options, the most exciting being an under-the-stars dinner that pairs wines with classic Pantescan dishes.

Wellness, volcanic-style

On top of inspiring the rugged terrain, geothermal activity has fashioned the island into a spa playground with hot springs and natural saunas. Near Mr. Armani’s compound in the fishing village of Gadír is a small marina with tubs hewed into the stone. I followed the locals’ lead and submerged myself in a slightly slimy tub (the water is between 104 and 131 degrees Fahrenheit) for about six minutes, then cooled off in the adjacent harbor. Never mind the egg smell. The sulfur and mineral content is why the waters are effective at alleviating aches and pains.

On my boat day, I swam to the Sataria cave, which has three algae-laced hot spring holes with water temperatures progressing from tepid to medium hot. The island’s largest hot spring, Specchio di Venere (Mirror of Venus), is an aquamarine-colored lake that sits in a volcanic crater bordered by mountains and vineyards. On top of gurgling 104 degree water , the draw is a therapeutic (and stinky) mud that bathers slather all over their bodies. Does it work? Well, the heat rash on my arms and chest stopped itching, and my travel-tight back relaxed.

The springs were lovely, but I was most excited to detox in a natural stone sauna tucked into a mountain grotto. I trekked up the western slope of Montagna Grande for about 10 minutes and knew that I had arrived at Benikulá Cave , or Bagno Asciutto, when I saw puffs of steam filter out of a slit in the rocks, and then an older man emerge in a very slinky Speedo. Inside, nine people sat on piping hot stones and the ground (bring a towel!), shvitzing in vapors that can reach 104 degrees. Afterward, everyone relaxed on shaded benches with sweeping views of the Piana di Monastero valley.

Thanks to volcanic cliffs and verdant valleys, there is excellent hiking to counteract the effects of pasta and wine: 80 percent of the island is a national park, Parco Nazionale dell’Isola di Pantelleria, with 63 miles of paths across the Mediterranean scrubland, and up to the forests on Monte Gibele and Montagna Grande.

At every turn, I kept expecting the tourist scrum I had seen in Rome earlier in the month. But it never happened. Not at Dispensa Pantesca , an aperitivo hot spot; not at La Nicchia or Il Principe e il Pirata , the “it” restaurants; and not at Allevolte , a fashion boutique stocked with the kinds of silk caftans and crisply tailored linen trousers that travelers dream about nabbing on an Italian holiday.

If Sikelia , my chic, 20-room hotel, had been in Amalfi, dressed-to-the-nines guests would have been jockeying for selfies amid the fireball sunsets. Not here. “This island is bewitching. But it’s not for everyone,” said the hotel’s owner, Giulia Pazienza Gelmetti. “Getting here is challenging. Getting to the sea is challenging. It attracts a specific type of person. For those who get it, the payoff is huge.”

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram and sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to get expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places to Go in 2024 .

An earlier version of this article misstated the town on Pantelleria with old-fashioned pasticceria and dingy olive stalls. It is Pantelleria Town, not Scauri. It also referred incorrectly to Sicily, it is a region, not a province.

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Exploring the Outdoors, One Step at a Time

Hiking is a great way to immerse yourself in nature and tune out the chaos of city life. the tips below will help you get ready before you hit the trail..

Hiking offers a host of mental and physical benefits. If you’re new to it, here’s how to get started .

Fourteen years and one Apple App of the Year award in, AllTrails has become something rare: a tool that works for both experts and newbies .

Make sure you have the right gear . Wirecutter has recommendations for anything you might need — from hydration packs  to trekking poles . And remember to try on hiking boots  at the right time of the day .

These clever apps and devices  will help you to find your way, triage an injury and generally stay out of trouble on the trail.

Planning to venture out for a nighttime  hike ? Opt for wide, easy-to-navigate paths.

Experts say failing to alert family or friends of your plans is one of the biggest mistakes hikers make. Here are some more safety tips .

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  1. Historical sites to visit in Kos Island

    Historical & Folklore Museum of Kos. In Kos center, Grigoriou V' street, among important archaeological sites, such as Roman Odeum and Casa Romana, one can visit "Hani", aka Historical and Folklore Museum. The long, illustrious history of Kos island, has provided vivid traces of the peoples and civilizations from East and West that came ...

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    Visit Kos outside of the high season — especially avoiding the Hippocratia Festival, Kos's main national holiday — if you want space and quiet to enjoy the historic sites in peace. Many of the historic sites are ruins and have little or no information available on-site, so be sure to do your research before you get there.

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    Let's explore the best things to do in Kos: 1. Asklepion. Source: George Papapostolou / shutterstock. Asklepion. The place where Hippocrates was trained in the 5th century BC was discovered not far from Kos Town in 1902. Raised above the Kos plain, the Asklepion is the Sanctuary of Asclepius, the god of medicine.

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    A picturesque village to visit in Kos is Zia, while nice beaches are Thermes, Paradise, Mastichari and Agios Stefanos. Popular activities in Kos are windsurfing and diving. Visitors also have the chance to take a boat trip from Kos Town to the tourist resort of Bodrum in Turkey. ... as well as the ruins of the temples of Aphrodite and Hercules ...

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    Kós Ancient Ruins: See reviews and photos of 10 ancient ruins in Kós, Greece on Tripadvisor. ... With the ruins being right next to one of the best beaches on Kos it is possible to both explore the ruins and enjoy the beach. The ruins themselves are free to visit and there is a reasonable amount of free parking right next to them. Read more.

  8. Asclepieion

    The Asklepieion of Kos, whose surviving ruins date back to the Hellenistic period, after the 4th century BC, was built on the slopes of a hill with lush vegetation and impressive sea views. It was constructed on three "andera" - terraces. On the second terrace, there are remains of a large altar, the oldest structure from the Asklepieion from ...

  9. The cultural landmarks of Kos town

    The Ancient Agora. Your first outdoors landmark of Kos town is just 200m away, in the Limenas district just by the port. The Ancient Agora was the administrative and commercial centre in antiquity and, unsurprisingly, has contributed many of the island's most important archaeological finds. Dating to the 5th century BC, the Agora was much ...

  10. Must-see attractions Kos, Dodecanese

    On the south side of Kos' castle are the ruins of the Shrine of Aphrodite. Xysto. Kos Town. This cluster of Doric columns once supported the roof of an open-sided portion of the ancient gymnasium. Nymphaeum. Kos Town. Despite its misleading name, this columned structure was actually a public toilet.

  11. Kos Greece

    What to do on Kos island Visit Hippocrates' Asclepeion, the first healing centre. Just 4km northwest of Kos town, on a verdant hill with a spectacular view, you'll discover one of Greece's most important archaeological sites, the Asclepion of Kos. ... an old harbour, and Roman ruins in the west? Don't forget to pay your respects to ...

  12. Ancient Ruins in Kos Town (Kos, Greece)

    Last updated on December 18, 2023.. Outside of the ancient Agora and the Western Excavation Area, Kos Town has a few more ancient Greek and Roman ruins to visit. No, they aren't as spectacular as many other ancient ruins in Greece, but they're worth seeking out if you find yourself on the island.Admission to all of the ancient ruins in Kos Town is free.

  13. Kos: Your Guide To The Greek Island

    Kos Town. Kos Town is small, but has a lot to offer. For history buffs, one can spend hours wandering around ruins scattered around the town. Most access to these ruins is free. The one exception is the Roman Villa, but it's worth the 6 Euro entry fee. We stayed at Triton Hotel in Kos Town.

  14. A Quick Guide to Kos Town

    But Kos Town is definitely worth a visit. Although much of the town's original architecture was destroyed in various earthquakes, there are plenty of interesting sights - including ancient ruins and a pocket old quarter. Kos Town has a feel of easy living, enhanced by its pleasant central harbour which is lined with tall trees, and cycle ...

  15. A Guide To Kos Island, Greece

    Other Remarkable Ancient Places To Visit In Kos. When visiting Kos Town, it is good to explore the Archaeological Museum of Kos, with plenty of exhibits coming from the many archaeological sites on the island.. Also in the city, the Ancient Gymnasium, or Xisto, has both Hellenistic and Roman origins, and it features interesting areas such as an Acropolis, the Hippodrome, and ruins of temples ...

  16. 15 Best Things to do in Kos Greece • Kos Island Travel Tips

    4. Sunset in Zia is a must see in Kos. Mount Zia is known as the best place to watch the sunset in Kos. For that same reason, it's also one of the major tourist attractions and most visited places in Kos, Greece. Zia is to Kos what Oia is to Santorini: the famous spot where people gather for a spectacular sundowner.

  17. 10+ Best Things to do in Kos, Greece

    Last Updated on 11th May 2024 by Sophie Nadeau. Lying in the heart of the Dodecanese cluster of islands, Kos is a haven of plush sandy beaches, crystal clear blue waters and ancient ruins. The island is rich with culture and one of the most popular Greek islands of the Mediterranean to visit.. Easy to fall in love with, there's so much to see and do, so to make things easier for you we've ...

  18. Top Reasons Why You Should Visit Kos Greece

    Claire Dodd 16 February 2022. There's more to Kos than bronzed beaches and lively nightclubs. Explore an ancient Roman city, cycle its family-friendly trails and soak in geothermal hot springs - these are just a handful of reasons why you should visit this Dodecanese island. Famous for its white-sand beaches, hot thermal pools, ancient ...

  19. Visiting Kos: Everything You need to Know

    The Greek island of Kos boasts a flavoursome and diverse cuisine. Some of the must-try dishes here include: Souvlaki: Skewered meat, often served with pita bread and tzatziki sauce. Moussaka: A baked dish made with layers of eggplant, minced meat, and béchamel sauce. Dolmades: Grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs.

  20. Kos travel

    Kos. Fringed by the finest beaches in the Dodecanese, dwarfed beneath mighty crags, and blessed with lush valleys, Kos is an island of endless treasures. Visitors soon become blasé at sidestepping the millennia-old Corinthian columns that poke through the rampant wildflowers - even in Kos Town, the lively capital, ancient Greek ruins are ...

  21. Kos

    In the town of Kos you should visit the mediaeval Neratzias Castle. It's located at the entrance of the port and is believed to have been fortified since Byzantine times (7th century). ... Kefalos is a seaside village and ancient capital of the island, built near the ruins of a mediaeval castle. visit the traditional house of Kefalos with ...

  22. 23 Ancient Greek Ruins That ALL History-Lovers Should See

    Dominating the top of a 1,000-foot-high hill on the island of Kos stands the castle of Palio Pyli - only abandoned in the 19th century, probably due to a plague epidemic.

  23. Islands Near Kos: A Comprehensive Guide to Nearby Gems

    Kos and its nearby islands are rich in history, with many fascinating sites to visit. On Kos, you can explore the Asclepeion, an ancient healing centre dedicated to Hippocrates, the Father of Western Medicine. You can also visit Ancient Ruins, Byzantine and Medieval castles, and Ottoman-era structures that showcase the island's diverse history.

  24. These Are The Seven Hills Of Rome (& Their Ruins You Can Visit)

    Medieval attractions on the hill include the Palace of Senators (built between 1200 and 1300 and is now the oldest city council in the world), the Palazzo Nuovo, and Palazzo dei Conservatori.

  25. 5 Amazing Ancient Ruins in Rome (That Aren't the Colosseum)

    R ome is full of ruins. You practically can't turn a corner without seeing an ancient temple or statue or column. Obviously the Colosseum is the most popular site to visit, but don't stop there!

  26. The 10 Best Things to Do in Kós

    Mother and Daughter visit, booked through Jet 2 Holidays, the Beach is about 40 minutes away from Kos Town, with stunning views and plenty to do for adults and children. Paradise Beach is a massive stretch which has loads of sun loungers and three or four stations across the beach which have the opportunity for you to use the Jet Ski's, Banana ...

  27. In the Ruins of Edward Gibbon's Masterpiece

    In the Ruins of Edward Gibbon's Masterpiece "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" is an enduring work—just not of history. Illustration by Aaron Lowell Denton

  28. Carthage was Rome's greatest rival. Go see its side of the story

    A tourist explores the Baths of Antoninus in ancient Carthage, an archaeological site just outside Tunis, Tunisia. When the Romans destroyed the original port city in 149 B.C., they built ...

  29. So Close to Sicily, So Far From the Crowds

    Pantelleria is a seductive idyll of mud baths, romantic ruins and secluded swimming coves. It's also rocky and wind-whipped, making it quieter than its big-sister island next door.

  30. Ukraine Update: More planes, more ammo, more money flowing ...

    Daily Kos Staff Saturday, Jun. 08, 2024 Saturday, Jun. 08, 2024 at 4:00:21pm PDT President Joe Biden shakes hands with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Intercontinental Hotel in ...