Uncovering the Ancient Past in the Centre of Kos Town

One morning we took the local bus from Kefalos to spend the day in Kos, the main town located on the eastern side of the island. Buses ran very infrequently and stopped in the main towns, ports and the airport. As long as you were not tight for time the bus was good for a day trip–the 11 a.m. bus arrived around 11:25, but that’s island time.

The sign on our bus stop in Kefalos. Only five buses a day so timing is important.

After a little over an hour, the bus arrived at the terminal in Kos town. The terminal was a bit chaotic as it was not really a terminal as much as an open parking area, and the signage could be confusing. Before we headed out we decided to ask a bus driver for info on where to wait to get the return bus to Kefalos. After that was done we started exploring.

Greek and Roman ruins are all around the Kos town, so we started with a large section of Roman ruins located south of the old town in an area called Casa Romana. Inside was a reconstruction of a Pompeian-type villa from the second century a.d. but it was closed when we were there. Instead we walked around the ruins found scattered along nearby streets.

Outside the Casa Romana
Walking the ancient streets

We headed over to the Western Archaeological Zone, which had ruins spread over a large area. There were remains of a gymnasium, pool and public baths here.

Preserved mosaic
Local neighbourhoods were built right up to the edge of the ruins

A bit to the west was the Roman odeon. Restored in 1934, it was a small one with seating for up to 75 people. But it was unusual in that you could go inside, where there were displays on the use of the theatre in Roman times.

From there we walked north towards the old town and the harbour. We went through the old town on the way.

A chance for a cheap break in the old town
Resting cats near the main square in the old town

On the way to the harbour we passed another set of ruins. Originally the site of a Hellenistic temple from the second century BC, the area was repurposed in Roman times. There are signs explaining the sights around this archaeological walk.

The Altar of Dionysus–not much left

Eventually we arrived and the harbour. We tried to visit famous Neratzia castle but it closed at 3:30, just a few minutes before we arrived. We were a bit disappointed to only see the outside of the castle.

Neratzia Castle built by the Knights of St. John in the 14th century

But there were always more ruins to explore as there was one more archaeological area downtown. This one included an agora (public space) and was just south of the castle close to the harbour.

Checking out the modern agora

Nearby we checked out the government house, which had an interesting history of occupation by Germans, Italians and British. It had a really nice courtyard view.

Finally, we went to the Tree of Hippocrates. It was said that the father of medicine taught his students in the shade of the tree. Although the tree there now is only around 500 years old, it is supposed to be the descendant of the original one.

Kos town was busier and more touristy than Kefalos but it had a lot to see and do. We too the late afternoon bus back to Kefalos where we spent another day before making the bus trip one more time for a ferry onward to Rhodes. Kos was a great start to the trip–a bit quieter and more laid back than some of the other Greek islands we’d been to.

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