During its formative years, Kos was colonized by the Carians, a sea-faring people that predated the Minoans.
The island was later inhabited by the Dorians after the War of Troy in the 11th century B.C. Its fertile land,
beauty, and strategic location meant that it was coveted by many over the course of history, and its unique
past has been formed by the alternating reigns of many.
Today Kos is most famous for being the birthplace of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine.
The tree that he once taught under, the Hippocrates Plane Tree, still stands Kos Town and is revered
by hundreds of visitors each year. It is one of the oldest trees in the world, and monumental in the
cultural celebrations of Kos Island.
The island is sprinkled with archeological gems, some of which date back over 3000 years!
These include castles,
ancient temples, Roman theaters, and ancient agora. The Asklepion is perhaps the island’s most
and well-known historical site. It is the oldest and most eminent healing centers of the ancient world.
Dedicated to the god Asklepius, son of Apollo and god of medicine and health,
the Asklepion functioned as a therapeutic complex well into the Roman era.
Kos’s culture has evolved out of its rich ancient heritage, the fact that it has changed hands numerous times,
and its close proximity to Turkey. During the early years, Kos and Turkey enjoyed a friendly,
logistical relationship oriented around trade. However, this soon evolved into a coveting on behalf
of the Ottoman Empire during the Middle Ages. Kos eventually fell to the Ottomans, and today their influence
can be seen clearly in the architecture. This somewhat rocky history is now overlooked in the interest of tourism,
since visitors to Kos enjoy daytrips to the Turkey via the Kos Town’s ferry service.
Located just off the western coast of Turkey, a coastal view of Kos boasts crystalline waters back
dropped by fertile, mountainous terrain. The third largest island of the Dodecanese Greek island chain,
Kos’s geography and landscape are amongst the most convincing reasons to visit the island.
The fresh island air has a seductive quality; while the relaxing sunshine, picturesque mountain villages,
and pristine beach towns are frequently the top choice for honeymooners and vacationing couples.
Kos’s climate is classically Mediterranean. Hot summers and mild winters make planning a visit to Kos easy.
You can count on sunshine between May and October, with the hottest months being July and August.
During this time temperatures can reach as high as 95 degrees Fahrenheit! January is Kos’s coldest month,
with temperatures ranging from 41 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Kos is beautiful year round, but tourism
does die down quite a bit outside of the summer months. Budgeters should note that off season
rates are more economical and can apply as late as June. Here are the top things to see and do in Kos Island.
Lets begin with Kos Town!
Hippocrates Plane Tree
Located directly in front of the Castle of the Knights is the famous Hippocrates Plane Tree.
Hippocrates is recognized as the founder of modern medicine, and is renowned as the most respected doctor
of the ancient world! Born in Kos in 460 B.C., he was also known for his philosophies and humanitarianism.
To this day, medical graduates from around the world recite the Hippocratic Oath and use it as a guideline
in their medical practices. The Medical School of Kos houses roughly 60 volumes of writings by Hippocrates.
The Hippocrates Plane Tree is famous for being the tree that Hippocrates allegedly taught under.
It is one of the oldest in the world, and one of the largest in all of Europe with a perimeter of over 39 feet.
Locals believe the tree to have been planted by the father of medicine himself.
According to local legend, the Apostle Paul also employed the tree’s shade for his lessons.
It is at the epicenter of many of Kos’s cultural festivities during the summertime.
Seeing the tree is free of charge.
The Nerantizia Castle, affectionately dubbed Kos Castle by locals and visitors alike, dominates the island’s
main harbor and Kos town. It is the first thing that you notice as you approach the island by boat,
and what a rewarding view it is! The castle was built by the Knights of Saint John during
their reign between 1314 and 1512. The exterior was at long last completed in 1524, while the exterior was not
completed until 1748.
Nerantizia was strategically built adjacent to Halikarnassos Castle on the Turkish coast.
The two were in cahoots to control the straits between Turkey and Kos. Inside Nerantizia,
many structure are still intact. The most impressive sections are the Tower of Del Caretto
in the southwestern section, and the main entrance with its three arched bridges and mobile gate.
Tourists should not miss the opportunity to experience the castle first-hand and have uninhibited
access to the entire perimeter. Be sure to bring a camera because Nerantiza offers panoramic
views of Kos harbor. The castle is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.,
and Mondays from 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is €3.
The Ancient Agora, or marketplace, is an excavation area comprised of a series of ruins dating back to
the fourth century B.C. It is conveniently located next to the port, and bordered by a wall that is
over 60 feet in length and eight feet tall. Once the island’s main trading center, the Agoria features
the ruins of a temple that was possibly dedicated to Hercules, and a shrine to Aphrodite.
The columns of the stoa, or covered walkway, date back to the third century B.C. The actual market
that once dominated the area was strategically located next to the port, Kos Town,
Kos’s economical backbone. The Agora was the perfect spot for trading and the movement of local goods.
The Agora ruins are located to the south of the Kos Castle and next to what the locals affectionately
refer to as “the bar street.” The Agora is open daily and admission is free.
Kos’s Roman Odeon is a famous theater dating back to the second or third century. Standing amongst
the rows, it is easy to imagine the grandiosity of the theater’s prime. According to ancient inscriptions,
the theater replaced the precedent public building that was once used for assemblies and served
as the council chamber. It was constructed between the first and second century A.D.
for the purpose of hosting music competitions, concerts, and theatrical performances.
During its glory days, the Odeon was roofed and had seating for up to 750 people. Many of the original
front rows are still intact, though much of the site has undergone a great deal of restoration.
The first nine rows were carved of marble and reserved for royalty and higher classes,
following rows were carved of granite and designated for people of a lesser social status.
In 1929, the excavations were carried out by an Italian archeologist, and restorations continued well into the 1990s.
There is a small museum on site that features before and after pictures, as well as images
of the damage from the 1933 earthquake. There are also ruins of a nearby bathhouse and Roman gym
that were discovered along with the theater in the early 20th century.
Visitors should keep in mind that the steps are steep and may present a challenge for people
with mobility issues. A visit to the Odeon is easily combined with a visit to the nearby
Roman villa, Casa Romana. The Roman Odeon is open daily and admission is free.
Archaeological Museum of Kos
The neoclassical building that houses the Archaeological Museum of Kos was constructed in 1935.
Located in the Eleftherias Square, it is easily identified for its distinctive architecture.
The museum displays findings from the 20th and 21st century excavations of the islands of
Kos and Rhodes, as well as some of the smaller Dodecanese Islands.
The findings cover an impressive timespan, across Hellenistic, Roman, and Venetian times. Among the
displays are mosaics, statues from the Asklepion site, prehistoric pottery and metal objects, and gold coins.
Famous pieces include a statue of Hippocrates, pieces of the heads of Alexander the Great and Demeter
, a mosaic illustrating Dionysus, and the statue of Diana and Asklepius. Many of these pieces
are in remarkably excellent conditional. The museum often hosts educational programs to orient
students and visitors within the extensive history and unique culture of the island.
The museum is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., closed on Mondays. Admission is €3.
Located two and half miles outside of Kos, the Asklepion is the most celebrated archaeological site
on the island. It was the healing center of the Greek god Asklepius, son of Apollo and god of medicine.
Often referred to as a “Jesus Christ figure,” Greek mythology states that Asklepius was capable
of raising the dead and healing sick people by appearing in the form of a serpent in the night.
The symbol of a snake wrapped around a scepter is known as today as the universal symbol for medicine.
The Asklepion in Kos, though not the only one of its kind, is one of the largest ancient healing centers
of the ancient world.
It served as a sanatorium dedicated healing the sick with natural remedies and restorative therapies.
Hippocrates himself taught here, along with many other significant historical figures.
Excavations began in 1902, and uncovered the four levels that comprised the Asklepion,
one of which was used as a spa. Nearby springs from Mount Dikeo supplied the healing
waters for patients. Visitors will be able to walk freely around the large complex admiring the ruins.
Allow at one and a half hours to visit the Asklepion. Bathrooms and a small café are located near the
entrance for your convenience. Hours of operation are Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
(closed on Mondays). Admission is €4.80. Parking is free.