Kos is the third largest Greek Island, with a rich cultural history and miles of pristine Mediterranean landscape to explore. Famed for being the home of Hippocrates and the realm of medieval knights, Kos today is an alluring playground for the curious traveler.
There are plenty of things to do in Kos, from snorkeling in turquoise coves to venturing up rocky peaks for spectacular views. Read our insider guide to help you decide which activities to include on your vacation.
1 – Take a boat tour around the island
No vacation in Kos is complete without a boat trip along the coast, exploring hidden bays and mysterious sea caves. Swim and snorkel in the clear waters, then relax on deck with the sun on your back, surrounded by dramatic scenery.
Make a day of it with an excursion to some of the surrounding islands. Nisyros, Kalymnos, and Pserimos are fun options, with volcanic craters and mountain villages to discover.
2 – Walk in ancient footsteps at Asklepieion
Named after the Greek god of healing, this legendary medical center is one of the best things to see in Kos if you like your history. Dating back to the 3rd century BC, Asklepieion is thought to be the birthplace of medicine.
The ruins stand proudly on a pine-forested hill near Kos Town, and you can scramble up several levels, exploring Roman baths and temples. Check out the museum on the way down.
3 – Soak in thermal springs at Agios Fokas Beach
Feeling tired after exploring? Then head to Therma Beach at Agios Fokas in eastern Kos and treat yourself to a dip in the hot spring. The temperature is perfect, with seawater keeping the thermal pool cool enough to swim in.
Relax and enjoy views of imposing crags and distant islands while the healing water works its magic on those weary limbs. Spas do not get any more natural than this!
4 – Venture up a volcano on Nisyros Island
The volcanic island of Nisyros packs a punch when it comes to remote adventure and iconic Greek settlements. Drive through the rugged lunar landscape up to the volcano rim and enjoy superb sea views out toward neighboring islands.
Then take a stroll through the traditional streets of Mandraki, and tuck into a tasty local lunch in one of the laid-back taverns. Visit a hillside monastery inside the Venetian Castle before you leave.
5 – Drive up Mount Dikaios on a jeep safari
Wind your way up unpaved mountain tracks on a mission to reach the peak of Mount Dikaios – the highest point in Kos. This is a fun way to explore off the beaten tourist track, with dense vegetation and sweeping views around every corner.
At the summit, pop into the tiny chapel of Christos and take panoramic island photos. Continue your tour with a traditional tavern lunch in a local village.
6 – Slide down flumes at Aquatica Water Park
Slap on the sunscreen and get ready for a day of family thrills at this fun water park near Kardamena. Want to feel the adrenaline pumping? Then take on the Kamikaze and Freefall slides and keep your wits about you in the Spin Bowl.
Alternatively, float along the lazy river and relax with a refreshing drink beside the swimming pool. Skip the line tickets are available at Aquatica Water Park to avoid the long queues.
7 – Discover past civilizations at Ancient Agora
This centuries-old social forum in the center of Kos is home to several excavated temples, houses, and baths. Only revealed after a catastrophic earthquake in 1933, the Ancient Agora is one of the most impressive historical sights on the island.
Wander around the streets of old, and imagine what life was like back in the 4th century BC. Keep an eye out for the Christian basilica and the shrine of Aphrodite.
8 – Enjoy a relaxing massage at Artemis Hamam
One of the most indulgent things to do in Kos is visiting the Artemis Hamam in Tigaki village. Close your eyes and feel your senses awaken with an aromatherapy massage, or enjoy an invigorating scrub in the hamam that will leave you glowing.
Feeling adventurous? Then opt for a session of caviar therapy or grapeseed peeling. Meanwhile, kids love the edible chocolate bath treatments designed especially for younger guests.
9 – Rent a jet ski and explore the coast
Take a spin out to sea on a jet ski and see the island from a new angle. Ride solo or with a friend, and bounce through the waves leaving a shower of spray in your wake.
Power through the water beneath towering sea cliffs, and discover remote beaches where you can enjoy a quick dip. Expert instructors are on hand to show you the ropes so all abilities are welcome.
10 – Soar through the air on a parasailing adventure
Take to the skies and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the island as you give parasailing a whirl. After a surprisingly gentle launch from the beach, you will be pulled along the coast by a motorboat.
See if you can spot local landmarks and other nearby islands from your lofty position above the dazzling blue sea. Make sure your camera batteries are charged – you are going to need them!
11 – Admire mosaics at Casa Romana
This beautifully restored Roman villa is a favorite sight for history buffs, with the remains of mosaics, statues, and pools everywhere you turn. Casa Romana boasts 36 rooms and three atriums, showcasing the distinctive architectural style of the period.
Travel back through time as you wander through the passageways of the manor, admiring the building symmetry and the well-preserved design detail. Can you find the colorful seahorse and tiger mosaics?
12 – Wander through the cool Plaka Forest
Escape the bustle of the city and heat of the coastal resorts with a jaunt into the cool reaches of Plaka Forest. Tucked away in a meandering gorge, this fragrant pine forest offers bags of shade for tranquil strolls and relaxing picnics or barbecues.
Follow the leafy trails and take photos of the resident peacocks as they strut around showing off their colorful feathers. Keep an eye out for terrapins and squirrels too.
13 – Splash around at Lido Water Park
Keep cool under the hot Mediterranean sun with a day at Lido Water Park. This is one of the best things to do in Kos for families, with plenty of fun slides and water games for youngsters to enjoy.
Ramp up the action with a spin on the Space Bowl and the Hydrotube, or put your racing skills to the test with friends on the multilane flume. Chill out afterward in the Jacuzzi.
14 – Go hiking on Kalymnos Island
Take a trip to the rugged island of Kalymnos for a day exploring lush valleys and rocky mountain peaks. Once renowned for its sponge diving, today Kalymnos is famed for its climbing scene, thanks to the coastal crags that emerge majestically from the water.
Keep your feet firmly on the ground as you hike through olive groves and visit museums. Or swim from beaches and enjoy a tavern lunch down on the waterfront in Pothia.
15 – Sunbathe and water ski at Paradise Beach
Paradise Beach in the far south is the most famous stretch of shore in Kos, and for good reason. The powdery sand and sparkling ocean will make you think this is the Caribbean, not the Mediterranean.
There are loungers for hire, and a beach bar to keep you hydrated. Ready for some action? Then bounce along on a banana boat, or have a go at water skiing to test your balancing skills.
16 – Embrace island isolation at Pserimos
This tiny island is home to just 130 inhabitants and not a single vehicle. Come here for pristine nature and relaxing seclusion on an island stuck delightfully in a time warp. There are no streets on Pserimos so pull on your hiking shoes to explore the rugged interior.
A few isolated bays offer sublime swimming in the crystal-clear waters, while hungry visitors love trying fresh fish at beach tavernas around the tiny harbor.
17 – Make a pilgrimage to the Hippocrates Plane Tree
Pay your respects to a legendary Greek physician at the Hippocrates Plane Tree in the center of Kos. Located beside the Castle of Knights, this tree is around 500 years old and believed to be the largest in Europe.
Legend has it that Hippocrates would sit beneath the tree (or its predecessor!) and teach his medical students in the shade. Today, this ancient sight feels like a portal to the past.
18 – Swim in turquoise bays off Plati Island
Plati is a deserted islet off the coast of Pserimos, and a popular spot on boat trips from Kos. Visitors can walk up to the tiny, whitewashed chapel but the main event is the ocean.
Jump overboard for a dip in one of the secluded bays, which are famed for their inviting waters. Take a snorkel so you can discover life beneath the waves, or try cliff jumping if you feel brave.
19 – Relax in peace on Limnionas Beach
Searching for a quiet beach? Then head to Limnionas near the little village of Kefalos in northwestern Kos. Yes, the sands are golden and the water a brilliant shade of blue, but the tranquility is the real draw here.
A small restaurant serves local favorites just up the hill, and there are a handful of loungers, making this the perfect cove for a peaceful day of swimming and sunbathing at the seaside.
20 – Spot an octopus while scuba diving
Visibility in the waters around the island is excellent, which makes scuba diving one of the most thrilling things to do in Kos. There are trips for both beginners and experts, taking in famous local dive sites from the shore or by boat.
Descend into the underwater kingdom and swim with shoals of fish as they dart over the reef. Keep your eyes peeled for moray eels lurking in dark crevices.
21 – Visit the Hippocrates Garden Cultural Center
Find out about the father of medicine at the Hippocrates Garden Cultural Center in Mastihari. The site is a replica of an ancient Greek settlement, complete with buildings and cultivated grounds.
Explore the house and discover what life was like back in the 5th century BC, and admire frescos and mosaics in the arcade. Then take a wander through the fragrant gardens and vineyards, or enjoy a performance at the reconstructed theater.
22 – Explore the Western Archaeological Zone
Enjoy a bit of time travel at the Western Archaeological Zone which can be found opposite the historic theater in Kos Town. This part of the city was abandoned during the Middle Ages, and excavations have uncovered Roman baths, paved roads, and even a stadium.
Walk in the footsteps of ancient settlers and admire the well-preserved ruins with their colorful mosaics and marble floors. Make sure you visit the grand gymnasium before you leave.
23 – Swim to an islet from Agios Stefanos Beach
Agios Stefanos Beach in southwest Kos hits all the right notes when it comes to seaside sun. You can splash around in the shallow water or scramble up flower-carped hillsides to explore the remains of ancient Christian temples.
Yet the star of the show is the offshore islet of Kastri, which can be reached by swimming, or by boat. A tiny chapel and castle ruins make it worth the effort.
24 – Party at the Black Amber Club
Celebrate your vacation with an evening at the Black Amber Club in Kos Town. This open-air pool bar has a chilled vibe by day, with sunbeds and cocktails on tap.
As dusk falls, the mood is ramped up a few notches, with international DJs playing all the top tunes. Join in the fun at regular pool parties, which are renowned for being one of the best things to do in Kos.
25 – Chart medical history at the International Hippocratic Foundation
Created in 1960, the International Hippocratic Foundation pays tribute to the father of medicine with lectures and exhibitions open to visitors.
Visit the museum to learn about Hippocrates and medicine through the ages – see how these early influences have impacted the work of physicians today. Highlights include an impressive statue collection, ancient coins, and of course several medical tools. You can also explore the botanical gardens behind the building.
26 – Scramble up to Palio Pili Castle
Hidden in the mountain wilderness and surrounded by pine forests, the Byzantine castle of Palio Pili is a must for history lovers. Built to protect the inhabitants from pirate raids, the formidable fortress is accessed by a steep pathway winding up the hillside. The panoramas from the top are worth the effort!
Wander beside the ruined castle walls and buildings, then enjoy a refreshing drink with a view at the superbly situated café.
There are so many things to do in Kos that deciding on your favorites can be an enjoyable, yet difficult task. Hopefully, this article has narrowed down your choices so you can plan the trip of a lifetime.
Where to stay in Kos
Kos is a relatively large island, so to really make the most of your vacation here, consider a multi-destination stay. There are lots of hotels in Kos to choose from, suitable for all types of travelers.
For family-friendly resorts with sandy beaches, head to Marmari or Tigaki on the north coast. Meanwhile, down in the southwest, the scenery feels wilder, with quiet beaches and towering mountains. The resorts of Agios Stefanos and Kardamena are popular options.
How to get around Kos
Kos is an easy island to explore, with plenty of transport options available. Check out the local car rental companies if you fancy a day or two exploring the remoter regions. You can also hire a moped or take advantage of the extensive network of cycling trails that radiate from Kos Town.
Boat tours are a popular way of seeing the island from a new perspective – with secluded beaches and visits to nearby islands all on the agenda.