I've got a case of the mean blues (or reds,…
A lot of visitors to Kos only come for the day, either on a cruise ship or a ferry from Bodrum, Turkey. In that short time frame, your best options are to either go on a mad dash motorbike tour of the island or to get to know the harbor town of Kos on foot.
In the 1930’s, a big earthquake destroyed most of the original Kos Town. The bad news: a lot of the cute architecture you associate with Greek villages isn’t there. The good news: the town used the destruction from the earthquake as a excuse to excavate the ancient ruins under the city. Here are my top things to see and do on a day in Kos
1. Right outside of town, you can walk through the Western Excavations for free. These wild ruins of an ancient basilica cover a couple acres full of beautiful mosaics, wildflowers and columns. I would give yourself at least an hour to explore it all. Kos is packed with SO many ancient sites. If you only see one, this should definitely be it.
2. Eleftherias Square bustles with tourists and locals no matter what the weather or season. Sit under an umbrella at the women’s cooperative restaurant, Aegli, for a cheese pie or dolmas like “mama would make” for $3.50 or grab a super strong frappe iced coffee for $2 at a neighboring cafe. Pass through, but don’t shop at the touristy market in the center.
3. Across the street from the Western Excavation, explore the Roman Odeon. This was essentially an ancient version of a suburban shopping mall, with a theater and small shops. It’s well renovated and has informative signs in English. From the back you can see a large mosaic under a canvas tent as well as a nice view of the farms and hillside behind Kos. Free to visit.
4. Window shop the winding streets between the plaza and excavation sites. Most of the store were still closed or under renovation in early April, giving us the quaint village blocks without the crowds. Gold jewelry, leather sandals and soap seem to be the top items for sale.
5. Walk around the small Kos harbor to see even smaller fishing boats in bright blue and orange paint. Plenty of chatty older residents will be fishing or selling fish along the wharf.
6. Walk north from the harbor to see the Kos beach. Seafood restaurants and beach-front bars are packed in along the shore. The view to the Turkish coast is lovely on a calm day.
8. Dip in to the restored, but not functioning, turkish bath house for a free look back at when Kos was ruled by the Ottoman Empire.
9. You should stop to explore the Byzantine Kos Castle, only if you’re not going to see Bodrum Castle or have a chance to see the castle ruins in Pyli – both of which are better versions of the essentially the same thing. It costs $3.50 to walk the walls and enormous moat of this Knights Hospitaller island fortress.
10. End your day relaxing in one of the side plazas off the main square with an ice cream, syrupy Greek pastry or cold Fix beer.