“This is where people should go to retire”, said my significant other. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Kos, but I’ll try my best to explain what he meant.
Kos is a small island belonging to Greece in the Aegean Seam, but it doesn’t bask in the same level of notoriety that other Greek islands like Crete, Rhodes, Mykonos, and Santorini enjoy. Geographically closer to Turkey than the Greek mainland, the climate here is pretty hot and dry, and you won’t find as many ancient ruins here compared to the more famous islands in the Aegean. However, I don’t think that takes anything away from Kos if you’re in search of a laid-back beach holiday as opposed to an archeological hunt.
I arrived at Kos late on a Saturday night and took a bus into town. Once it had journeyed from the airport in the center of the island to the northern coastline, I began to see dozens of tourists making their way between towns on foot in the middle the night without a care in the world. “This seems like a really safe place”, I said to my other half.
For our 5-night stay, I chose an apartment-hotel about a mile outside of Kos Town in a suburb called Lambi. Our 75-Euro/night room was large, clean, air-conditioned, and came with a fully-stocked kitchenette. We were about a 5-minute walk from the ocean and a 15-minute walk into town, so for our first day we decided to take in the major sights of Kos Town.
Kos is a very friendly island for pedestrians and cyclists, which is no doubt an adaptation made in response to the large number of Dutch tourists that come here each year. Kos Town itself is a bit kitschy, but has a lovely port and a well preserved crusades-era castle, along with both Greek and Roman ruins. There is also a bus from the center of town that will take you up to the Kos Asklepieion, which was where Hippocrates (the father of modern medicine) received his medical training.
As far as dining was concerned, we struggled to rack up a bill exceeding 25 Euros, even after ordering alcohol. The affordable prices allowed us to try all the Greek staples – gyros, souvlaki, moussaka, and even Greek wine. Add to this the fact that there were plenty of duty-free shops offering everything from traditional desserts and imported beer, and I found myself shoveling food into my mouth for almost the entire duration of my holiday.
While an argument could be made that Kos doesn’t have much going on, it’s worth noting that it’s pretty easy to get on a boat and tour other islands from Kos Town. There are frequent ferries to Bodrum, Turkey; Rhodes, Greece; as well as several other smaller islands. A “3-island Boat Tour” is a must for all Kos visitors, and was at the top of my to-do list. For 30 Euros, you can get a day’s worth of island hopping, swimming in the Aegean Sea, and lunch. Most boats stop at Kalymnos, Pserimos, and Plati. These are all tiny islands that rely heavily on tourism, so the locals are naturally extremely friendly and appreciative.
Back on Kos, we had a few days to really enjoy the island. All the major towns here are connected by fairly reliable and extremely affordable bus routes. From Kos Town, we took the bus to the resort town of Tigaki, which is known for its shallow beach. Most of Kos’ most famous beaches are in the resort areas of Kefalos and Kardamena, both of which were on the opposite side of the island from Kos. At just 20 minutes from our hotel, Tigaki was a great compromise. Tigaki beach is extremely long and broad enough to cram in thousands of sunbathers. Luckily, there were only a few hundred people lounging about when we visited in the peak of summer. The water off the coast was clear and shallow, which is perfect for those of use who aren’t strong swimmers.
Kos may lack the “wow factor” of its more famous island cousins, but its also more laid-back and affordable. The locals are friendly and it’s perfectly safe to walk around town in the middle of the night. The beaches are nice, and getting around the island is as easy as hopping on a bus or renting a bicycle. So while I suppose it does fit the criteria of an ideal retirement community, it’s a pretty nice place for anyone to vacation as well.