The main population and cultural center is Kos Town, which is on the eastern side of the island. The main port on the island is also located there, with ferry service to and from Bodrum along with nearby islands, Athens, and Thessaloniki. I arrived on a fast ferry from Bodrum for the day in about 20 minutes at a cost of €15 round trip (as of October 2012).
The international airport is located on the western half of the island, 27km from Kos Town. Most international flights are seasonal, with year-round domestic flights to Athens and Thessaloniki.
The main attractions in Kos are the important ancient Greek ruins and the island’s beaches and villages. Kos is the birthplace of Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, who was trained at the Asklepeion. There’s also a Medieval Crusader castle along with structures remaining from nearly 400 years of Ottoman occupation. A small Turkish community continues to live on the island to the west of Kos Town.
Kos Town is very walkable, but it can get extremely hot. Visitors have the option of taking a tourist train to see the main sites. There are two routes. The green train leaves from in front of Town Hall and winds through the town giving an explanation of everything along the way. The tour lasts about 20 minutes. The blue train leaves from the small bus terminal near the castle and takes you all the way to the Asklepeion, located about 4km outside of town. Each train runs about every half hour. I didn’t take the green train, but I paid €4 for the blue train.
Since I only visited Kos on a day trip, I didn’t have a chance to experience anything on the island other than Kos Town. The town didn’t give me a complete picture of the rest of the island. Other than the fantastic historic sites, the overall feel compared to other Greek islands I’ve visited was very touristy and wasn’t authentic at all.
I had my lunch at one of the many touristy restaurants on Nafklirou, running alongside the ancient Agora. I ordered a souvlaki plate. The food (at least the one restaurant where I ate) wasn’t nearly as good as I am used to in Greece, but the service was friendly. It turns out that the owner knows several of the people I know in Chicago, and we ended up having a nice chat during my meal.
If you’re pressed for time on a day trip and absolutely have to get into the water, there’s a small beach next to the bus terminal. It looked ok. If you do have a couple hours to kill, head to Agios Fokas, about 20 minutes away by bus.
I hope to return to Kos one day and see the rest of the island. I’m sure the villages will be quite different than Kos Town and I’ll be able to spend time on some more of the beautiful beaches the island has to offer.