What kind of holiday do you give a frequent traveller who ventures around the world with aspirations of culture, long lost cities and overnight buses where you wake up to find 2 people beside you on a two seater, or a chicken? You give him a beach holiday in Greece devoid of hints of culture – a trip to really wind down.
Where there is nothing to do except get up, wash down a bowl of supermarket cornflakes, hit the beach, lie on said beach, swim, wash up, go out for dinner, drinks and then go to sleep. Yes that’s right backpackers; sometimes even the most hardened traveller likes to fritter his annual leave doing absolutely bugger all but basting on both sides in the warm Mediterranean sun and eating amazing food! And I don’t feel guilty about that!
The Greek Island of Kos
However, in my pursuit of the ultimate lazy holiday on the sunny Greek Island of Kos, I inadvertently found an island bursting with culture. I tried so hard folks to avoid it; I went to the most remote beaches to hide from it, I didn’t plan my day to avoid stumbling upon it and there wasn’t a guide book to be found but culture found me and the island of Kos is a veritable treasure trove of interesting places to visit, incredible food, cocktails lovingly made with care, friendly people and some of the most stunning beaches in Europe.
I’ve been to the Greek Islands many times and I love it. I come every year. Greece to me is poor man’s Maldives! There I said it; I just compared Greece to the Maldives. My reasons: the beaches are divine, the water is crystal, the cuisine literally drips from your plate into your mouth, it’s hot and it’s only 3.5 hours from London. Ok so the water coming out of the taps sometimes doesn’t flow as it should, 10 minutes usually means 30 and it is known as an 18-30’s hangout but so what, seek and yee shall find and this trip I found a whole lot more than club reps, dirty martinis and budgie smugglers (anyone not familiar with that term is a seriously inappropriate swimsuit worn by men who should know better).
What to do in Kos, Greece?
Where do I start, Kos is the birthplace of Hippocrates who is regarded as the father of medicine, there is that. You’re also a hop, skip and a jump (I mean a ferry) from Turkey and any number of neighbouring islands, but there is something for everyone including the historical gems such as the Plane Tree of Hippocrates, ancient Agora, Kos old town with is tiny winding roads packed with handicrafts, the church of Saint Paraskevi and also the archaeological museum, so leave a day, rent a car and see it for yourself. Be sure to check out the Asclepeion on your travels. In ancient Greece and Rome, an asclepeion was a healing temple, sacred to the god Asclepius.
For those of you thinking that all sounds like hard work, why not hit the Artemis hammam in the evening for some self-indulgence. Seriously, scraping and sweating-off the old layers to reveal a very clean self underneath is just the ticket and it means you can leave your nightclub whistle at home. But what I recommend is the Thermes. OK, are you ready for this? You can go at any time of the day or night, it’s free but you need a car, and it optimises self-indulgence as you relax in the naturally heated springs under a blanket of stars, with the cold waves crashing over. It warms then it cools so you can stay in for hours and absolutely worthy of a visit. If it was me, I would put tea lights around the edges and play soft music but that’s just me of course. My recommendation is to arrive about midnight as its quiet but if you go during the day there is donkey riding although I suspect you could only get away with it if you had children!
If you do have kids, or just want to be one, then a trip to the raging Aquatica waterpark could be just the ticket, or why not rent a bike, moped or quad-rider to explore at your own leisure. We rented a car or at least I think it was a car. It was like a smart-car on acid but actually we didn’t need much more. You can also dive with Arian diving centre which caters for experienced and intro divers at decent prices, yacht sailing and wine tasting.
My recommendation in the evening is to head into the mountains to Zia. A small but beautiful town with views over all of Kos and its stunning shoreline. We drove up for sunset and enjoyed a cold beer and dinner as the setting sun revealed changing colours over the Med.
Kos obviously has all the usual souvenir tat but veering off the tourist trail, be sure to check out the local beehives and honey shop (it’s not called ‘Honey Changes Everything’ but it should be) near Magic Beach.
We stayed at the Estia Beach Hotel which is by no means a top hotel and has the usual but bearable flaws of a Greek hotel. I’ve stayed in better but most definitely stayed in worse. There was an issue with no water between the hours of midday and 10pm and leaking air-con units (EUR10 per night) but the balcony was massive and generally not a bad place to rest our heads. I always think if I’m not paying top dollar then I shouldn’t expect it; running water being the exception. But honestly, I have stayed at loads of places on many different islands and they are fine, but pay for air-con; just factor it into your budget!
There is a range of cuisine on offer and for the most part it is trial and error. We made a couple or errors but also found a few gems which were filled with Greek families; always a good sign. The small family run restaurants seem to be best, no matter where in the world you travel. A couple of recommendations are: Pelagos in Kardamena – the baby squid was incredible and Ali Restaurant in Kos Town tucked up a side street where the mixed meat platter left my mouth watering and belly full. Of course being an island the seafood is something you won’t want to bypass. Let me just say I do not eat seafood and I am on the cusp of 38 years old however, I inhaled fresh calamari like a seagull with a piece of bread and it was incredible; cooked in a garlic sauce.
For the animal lovers, why not visit Plaka which is an animal sanctuary for cats, dogs, peacocks and as assortment of other wildlife. I suspect in all honesty it might be a dumping ground for unwanted pets but they are visited frequently by tourists with bags of food and free to roam around the forest and play. They certainly seemed content and not scavenging in the towns.
There is more to do. Kos offers a lot and much more than your typical beach holiday. There are still clubs and bars left over from its 18-30’3 heyday so if you want nightlife you won’t look far, but if you are a culture vulture and sun lover, then this could be your perfect island! As the former governor of California once said, ‘I’ll be back’!
Finally, here is a 2 minute video synopsis of my time in Kos. You’re welcome!