“A never-ending shoreline, standout scenery and plenty to keep you busy – Kos may be small, but this Greek island packs a lot in.”
With a coastline that unravels for over 290 kilometres, Kos has more than its fair share of beaches. They come in all shapes and sizes, from golden swathes backed by beach bars to hidden bays and forgotten coves. The island’s good looks don’t end with its shores, either. Inland, whitewashed villages spill down the hillsides and wild flowers blanket the fields. Then there’s Mount Dikeos, whose slopes are peppered with pine forests and castles.
In terms of where to stay, Kos has two very different sides to it. Kardamena is the best place to head for nightlife – its streets are packed with karaoke bars, English pubs and strobe-lit clubs. The capital, Kos Town, is also really lively, but it’s much more sophisticated than its neighbour. Holidays here revolve around lantern-lit dinners by the harbourside, and cocktails in the chic bars of the backstreets.
Kefalos, meanwhile, combines old and new. At first glance it’s thoroughly traditional, with its sugar cube houses, ancient ruins and timeworn windmills. But it’s also home to the purpose-built resort of Kamari, which is bubbling with cafés, bars and restaurants. If you want to keep things low-key, Psaladi is a good option. There’s little more than a golden sandy beach and a sprinkle of tavernas and shops here, but the capital is just down the road, so getting out and about is easy.
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Golden sands. Sugar-white shores. And dark shingle sunspots. With over 290 kilometres of coastline, Kos caters for every kind of beach lover. Young, bronzed bodies and watersports lovers will fit in best with the crowds on Kardamena’s shores. With two long sandy beaches bursting with bars, shops and hotels, it’s one of the most popular beach destinations on the island. South to Kefalos, and the coast barely seems to pause for breath. It’s golden beaches all the way – and some of the island’s best. With names that seem plucked from a children’s book, they’re must-sees on your journey. Magic Beach has the island’s broadest sands, meaning plenty of space to unroll your towel. Dune-backed Banana Beach is arguably the prettiest for postcard-worthy snaps. And the ever-popular Paradise Beach demands a stop if just to experience the spa-like volcanic bubbles that rise from the seabed. Across the island in Kos Town, the beaches are slightly less impressive. There’s a rather narrow, pebbly beach just south of the main harbour, but for a better equipped shingle beach, head north a few miles to Lambi. For those in search of a little peace and quiet, the north of the island holds the perfect shores. Unspoilt Selveri Beach provides panoramic views of the Turkish coast and is blissfully quiet compared with the busy resorts further west. Tingaki has all the makings of a popular beach resort but manages to keep it low-key. And Mastihari Beach’s flat white sands are well off the beaten track – paradise for those wanting to escape the crowds.
- Fish and chips? Or souvlaki and kreatopites? You can be as British as roast dinner and Yorkshire pudding or as Greek as olives and ouzo – Kos caters for every type of diner. Unadventurous tastebuds will feel right at home in Kardamena. Home to the Black Swan pub, Maccy D’s and more chippies than Brighton seafront, there’s plenty here that’ll mean you won’t have to so much as sniff a moussaka. Across the island though, Kos Town puts traditional recipes at the top of its menu. Caffeine fans, head to old town and its thriving cafe culture for some traditional Greek coffee, brewed in a ‘briki’, a traditional Greek coffee pot. Come evening time, the capital’s harbour-side restaurants jump into action, scrambling over themselves to offer you everything from succulent grilled meats to freshly-caught fish. Try a glass of Greek wine to wash it all down with – acclaimed local wine label Hatziemmanouil should do the trick nicely. If beer is more your thing, Greek lager, Mythos, will quench your thirst after a day on the beach. And for an aperitif to perk you up before dinner, give ouzo a go. But be careful – more than two glasses of the anise-flavoured liqueur may make your dinner less than memorable. For an intimate dinner with a beautiful setting, look no further than Tingaki, Mastihari or Marmari. These small resorts each have handfuls of restaurants set on the seafront, serving up full-flavoured Greek dishes. Sink your teeth into some ‘spedzofai’, a spicy sausage and pepper stew. Tuck into ‘tzatziki’, a cucumber, garlic and yogurt dip great with pitta bread. Or sample ‘saganale’, deep-fried goat’s cheese. But still the award for the ultimate dining experience has to go to the hillside village of Zia. Pick any one of the highly recommended tavernas here – the biggest pull isn’t what’s served on the plate, it’s the sunsets. They’re simply spectacular.
- Pote tin Kyriaki, Kos Town The island’s only genuine ouzeri, you don’t get more untouristy than this quirky restaurant. Here you can drink ouzo and enjoy various styles of traditional meze – small dishes similar to tapas, but with a gorgeously Greek twist.
- Ambeli, Tingaki Off the beaten track, a little way out of town, you’ll find this vine-covered taverna dishing up good food with friendly service. Definitely worth the trip.
- Oromedon Restaurant, Zia Right in the centre of Zia, the Oromedon has the best island views and sunsets. Sit back and drink in the glory before tucking into traditional Greek goodies.
- Kali Kardia, Mastihari Put simply, the food is excellent. Their fish is fresh and highly recommended. But leave some room because the desserts are out of this world.
- Arap Taverna, Plantani If you like Turkish food, you’ve got to visit the little village of Plantani, just outside Kos Town. Not only does it have world-class kebabs, it’s got a great atmosphere to boot.
- Queen of the night here is Kardamena - it’s got more karaoke, clubs and discos than you can shake your bootie at. Once the sun goes down, the seafront here buzzes with all the latest sounds. Swing your hips to R&B. Dance to the latest house and trance. Or sing along to the cheesy anthems. It really is the clubbers’ capital. As you can imagine, this place is favourite with the young and skimpily clad, but as long as you’re up for a good time, this is the place to be. Moving to its proper capital, however, and you’re still in for a top night out. Kos Town has got all the enthusiasm of Kardamena, but with a slightly classier edge and a more mature crowd. Here, it’s about a cocktail or two at a harbour-side bar, before a spot of dinner at a local taverna. Then it’s on to Diakon and Nafklirou streets to mix it up in a mile of cosmopolitan clubs and bars that wouldn’t be out of place in London’s Leicester Square. If you need a night off from the noise, head to Orfeos, Kos Town’s open-air cinema. Of course, wild nights out aren’t obligatory. In fact you can avoid them quite easily if you want to. Just find yourself a quiet bar somewhere like Kefalos, Psalidi or Tingaki and settle in for a few laid-back drinks in the balmy evening air.
- Haman Bar, Kos Town Once a Turkish bath, it’s now a top-end bar complete with Oriental decor, chill-out rooms and open-air dance floor. Expect DJs, live music and oodles of style.
- Heaven, Lambi Not so much a club as an open-air disco experience. It comes complete with swimming pool, comfy cushions and curtained seating areas. Dress to impress – the crowd here matches its funky appearance.
- Nostos, Kos Town A small but cool open-air cafe-bar attached to Theodorou Beach Hotel. Wicker seats in a wooden gazebo with palm trees all around – a perfect spot either to end the day or start the night.
- Downtown, Kardamena A bubbly bar that churns out a mix of 80s and dance music, this is the place to get on down and have a boogie.
- Starlight, Kardamena One of Kardamena’s top clubs, this is the place to move to house, garage and R’n’B well into the early hours. Don’t miss the Saturday foam parties.
Kos’s shopping is no Fifth Avenue. If a spending spree’s in your top 10 holiday must-dos, you might be left with money in your wallet. Having said that, if it’s a souvenir you’re after, you won’t have to look for long. Beachside stalls at most resorts will sell more sarongs and sandals than you can shake your euros at – just remember to barter. Kardamena’s stores, although large, are more tailored for holidaymakers shopping for fridge magnets and T-shirts rather than one-off trinkets and handmade goodies. In contrast, Kos Town offers some of the more cosmopolitan shopping on the island, and much more choice for original gifts. Head to the pedestrianised old town district for a range of shops selling all kinds of goodies. Or wander through the city’s central market to pick up bargains on authentic olive oil, locally produced honey and carefully embroidered tablecloths. Aromas of herbs and spices float on the breeze, and you’ll be hard pushed to find them fresher or tastier than here. You may also notice a bizarre abundance of sponges on your shopping travels – don’t worry, it’s not a hint. Kos and its neighbouring island Kalymonos have been famed for their natural sponge production since way back when. Even better news is they’re about a quarter of what you’d pay back home.