Tips for Trips

Asklepieion

The island’s most important ancient site stands on a pine-covered hill 3km southwest of Kos Town, commanding lovely views across towards Turkey. A religious sanctuary devoted to Asclepius, the god of healing, it was also a healing centre and a school of medicine. It was founded in the 3rd century BC, according to legend by Hippocrates himself, the Kos-born ‘father’ of modern medicine. He was already dead by then, though, and the training here simply followed his teachings.
Until the sanatorium was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 554, people came from far and wide for treatment.
The ruins occupy three levels, with the propylaeum (approach to the main gate), Roman-era public baths and remains of guest rooms on the first level. The second holds an altar of Kyparissios Apollo, with the 1st-century-BC Temple to Apollo to the east and the first Temple of Asclepius, built in the 4th century BC, to the west. The remains of its successor, the once-magnificent 2nd-century-BC Temple of Asclepius, are on the third level. Climb a little further, to the cool pine woods above, for the best views of all.
A modern museum on the path down preserves ancient inscriptions and shows films explaining the site.

Ancient Agora

Exposed by a devastating earthquake in 1933, Kos’ ancient centre occupies a vast area south of the castle. Back in the 4th century BC, this was the first town ever laid out in blocks, and you can still discern the original town plan, even though it’s very overgrown. Landmarks include a massive columned stoa and the ruins of a Shrine of Aphrodite, Temple of Hercules and Christian basilica.
The site is fenced, but usually open all day. Locals use it as a shortcut.

Plane Tree Square

The warm, graceful charm and sedate pace of Kos Town is experienced at its best in this lovely cobblestone square, immediately south of the castle. Sitting in a cafe here, you can pay your respects to Hippocrates' plane tree. Hippocrates himself is said to have taught his pupils in its shade. The ancient sarcophagus beneath it was converted into a fountain by the Ottomans, while the 18th-century Mosque of Gazi Hassan Pasha, now sadly boarded up, stands opposite.

Knights Castle

Kos’ magnificent 15th-century castle was constructed not on a hilltop, but right beside the entrance to the harbour. Access it by the bridge from Plateia Platanou, crossing what was once a seawater-filled moat but is now a road. Visitors can stroll atop the intact outer walls, surveying all activity in the port and keeping a watchful eye on Turkey across the strait. The precinct within, however, is now largely overgrown, with cats stalking through a wilderness of wildflowers.

Hippocrates' Plane Tree

North of the Ancient Agora is the lovely cobblestone Plateia Platanou, where you can pay your respects to the Hippocrates' plane tree, under which Hippocrates is said to have taught his pupils. Plane trees don't usually live for more than 200 years, though in all fairness this is certainly one of Europe's oldest. This once-magnificent tree is held up with scaffolding, and looks to be in its death throes.

Archaeological Museum

Housed in an Italian-era building in the central square, the small archaeological museum is finally open after restoration and possesses a wealth of sculptures from the Hellenistic to late Roman eras, with a statue of Hippocrates and a 3rd-century-AD mosaic as the star attractions. There are information panels for many of the rooms.

House of Europa

You can still sense the opulence of this 2nd-century private villa, of which the chief surviving relic is a superb mosaic floor depicting the abduction of Europe by Zeus in the form of a bull.

Odeion

Built on the site of an even older Greek predecessor, this 2nd-century Roman theatre seated around 750 spectators.

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