You get a lot of beach for your buck on Kos holidays – some 290 kilometres, to be precise. A ruin-packed capital and party playground are part of the package, too.
If Rhodes is the groom of the South Aegean Islands, Kos is its best man. But this place doesn’t settle for runner-up. It proudly dons the crown for the greenest of the bunch, plus sun-worshippers will be chuffed with the crop of beaches. It floats near one of Turkey’s toes, too, so you can easily plan a daytrip.
This Greek island has racked up a lot of sand miles. Milky beaches queue up around the block along the north and east coast of Kos. Fishing villages like Mastichari, Marmari and Tingaki keep it simple, with long stretches and a clump of tavernas. Meanwhile, Kardamena’s sandy beach is a magnet for watersports fans.
Kos Town’s got a sand-and-pebble beach on its books. But that’s not its biggest draw. This place is chockfull of ancient ruins, as well – and they’re pretty much all slap-bang in the town centre. The Romans left behind their baths, an amphitheatre and an open-air gym. But top of the list is the Castle of the Knights – a Medieval fort by the water.
When it comes to nights out, Kardamena calls the shots. It won’t take you long to track down the bars and clubs – just follow the bassy beats and flashing lights to Bar Street. Here, karaoke bars, Brit pubs and underground clubs are all present and correct. Kos Town’s strip of bars goes by the same moniker, too.
Things to See and Do in Kos
When it comes to beaches, Kos doesn’t hold back – this little island has almost 300 kilometres of coastline and it definitely makes the most of it. On the south coast there are first-class sandy stretches in resorts like Kardamena, while up on the north coast the beaches come with decent sea breezes – perfect for watersports.
The Big Beach
The top name here is Kardamena Beach. It’s a 3-kilometre ribbon of fine, white sand on Kos’ west side. This is definitely the place to be if you like your beaches busy and buzzing with action. You’ve got all manner of watersports to get your teeth into, and the beach is backed by bars and restaurants dishing up everything from traditional meze to burgers and chips.
The Secret Beach
If you’d rather take the tempo down a notch, head 10 minutes down the road from Kardamena to laid-back Helona Beach. It’s a long stretch of blonde sand with calm, paddle-friendly waters. And apart from a couple of swish hotels and a smart sailing club, there’s nothing here to disturb the peace.
Markets traders have been selling their wares in Kos Town’s Agora marketplace for centuries. You can still pick up all sorts of things today, from huge jars of sticky island honey to shells and sponges. In Kardamena, you’ll find a few cheap shops in the main square selling things like T-shirts and bikinis. And if you need any basics, head to the Louis supermarket at the top of Bar Street.
If you’re a bit of a browser, the pedestrianised old town in the capital will be your kind of thing. It’s like one huge al fresco shopping centre, with everything from jewellery boutiques to craft shops crammed with curios. And if you’re in Kardamena, it’s worth catching the boat to Bodrum in Turkey for the Tuesday market – the place is piled high with rainbow-bright dresses and leather bags.
For designer togs in Kardamena, head to the main square, where fashion boutiques sell everything from fancy frocks to designer sunnies and gold jewellery. In Psalidi, the narrow streets of the old town are dotted with dinky shops selling hand-woven linen and hand-painted ceramic pots. And in Kos Town, you can buy things like gold jewellery and hand-knotted rugs in the shops in the old town.
For a quiet one, pull up a pew at any of the family-run tavernas lining the sand in Psalidi. They serve up a tidy line in fish dishes. And although Kos Town is best known for its party scene, the cocktail bars along the harbour pull in a more relaxed crowd. Plus, you can catch a film at Orpheus, the open-air cinema, at the marina next door.
For a concentrated hit of Kos nightlife, head to Kardamena’s Bar Street. It’s packed to the rafters with clubs and bars, and there are plenty of karaoke joints where you can belt out Eighties’ numbers until the wee hours. Kos Town is a big contender, too – head to Daikon and Nafklirou streets, where cosmopolitan cocktail bars and clubs pull in a classy crowd.
Souvlaki is the Greek take on fast food. Juicy chunks of meat – usually lamb or pork – are grilled on skewers and served up in pita bread with a pile of crunchy salad. They’re pretty tasty eaten straight off the skewer, and you can usually get veggie versions, too.
These moreish pastry triangles look a bit like Cornish pasties, but they’re way lighter on your stomach. You can get them filled with all sorts of things, but the line-up usually involves lamb, mint and shallots. Follow the locals’ lead and dunk them in a pot of tzatziki.
There are versions of this comfort food all over the Eastern Med, Balkans and Middle East, but the Greek one tops the bill. Juicy lamb – or sometimes beef – in a rich tomato sauce is layered up with aubergine and béchamel, and baked until it’s golden and oozy. Locals eat it with tzatziki on the side.
If you fancy a drop of Greek wine, this is your best bet. The Hatziemmanouil family have been producing this award-winning vino for generations. The vineyard produces a good Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, and the dessert wine slides down your throat like honey.
Head out to eat and you’ll most likely be presented with a glass of this anise-flavoured liqueur at some stage of the meal. It’s served ice-cold and straight up, but be warned – you’ll be tipsy pretty quickly.
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You’ll find Helona Beach on the southern belly of Kos, just 10 minutes’ cab ride from Kardamena. But this place gets way fewer footprints than its playful neighbour. Its beach is a big, untouched stretch. And a couple of plush hotels have cut themselves a slice of the pie. Other than that, you won’t find anything else to disturb your snoozes on the sand.
As far as resorts go, Kardamena’s the social butterfly of Kos’ south-east shore. This place has waved goodbye to its fishing village roots. Instead, it’s built up its rep as a clubbing hotspot, with a buzzing beach. And a bus to Kos Town will only set you back a couple of euros.
Just like its name suggests, Kos Town’s top dog on the Greek island of Kos. It’s a real sightseer’s fave, thanks to the dot-to-dot of throwback attractions that call this place home. The sea-facing Castle of the Knights dates back to the 1300s, and it shares a corner of the town with the ultimate elder statesman – Ancient Agora. This cluster of ruins has been around since the 3rd century BC. Elsewhere, you can see the Plane Tree, where the father of modern medicine – Hippocrates – once taught his fledglings.
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