The Ultimate Guide to Kos Island Hopping: An Island 101

Kos island hopping
Photo by Mico59/Pixabay
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Kos island hopping is one of the great treats of the eastern Greek Aegean. It will whisk you away to a sun-scorched island on the very edge of Turkey, where intriguing Roman ruins abut brilliant white beaches (some of the best in the whole country, no less), where party towns rub shoulders with deluxe resort hotels.

No matter if you travel by boat, by plane, or by ferry, there’s oodles to get stuck into here. From the soaring mountain paths to the age-old villages in the hills, the windsurfer bays to the tavernas on the seafront, there’s plenty to keep you going.

This ultimate guide to Kos island hopping can help you plan a trip that’s brimming with all that and more. It’s also got info on the more practical details of putting together a jaunt here, including grabbing those flights to Kos International Airport and booking that rental car to get around the island. Let’s go…

Where is Kos?

Kos boats
Photo by rawenergy/Pixabay

Kos is in the far eastern Aegean Sea. It’s a member of the Dodecanese islands chain, which strings along the Turkish coast. In fact, all of the islands there are far nearer to Turkey than they are to Athens. And Kos happens to be one of the closest of all to Turkey, with a strait of just five miles separating Kos Town from the Bodrum Peninsula at its narrowest point.

Kos is neighbored by the almost-uninhabited Greek island of Pserimos to the north (it has just 80 full-time residents). Sleepy Nisiros is to the south, about 12 nautical miles away. Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese islands and the gateway to the region for many, is about 63 miles away to the south and east.

How to get to Kos

Kos harbor
Photo by justmarius_de/Pixabay

Getting to Kos shouldn’t be too hard. It’s one of the most popular Greek islands of all, attracting numbers in the millions to its shores with the promise of rustic villages, stunning beaches, and traditional islander cuisine. The upshot? There are plenty of flights and boats to take you there.

Arriving by ferry can be done from a whole host of nearby islands. There are at least daily links (in fact, there are over 15 crossings each week) from Rhodes (the largest of the nearby islands) that take about 1.5 hours in all. You can also catch boats in from Leros, Siros, and Symi, but the schedules for those tend to change every year and sailings won’t be so common in the low season and shoulder season, so be sure to check ahead of time and book as early as you can.

Kos also has its very own airport. Cue the Kos International Airport. A whopping 800,000 travelers use the terminals there every year. It hosts flight arrivals on major carriers like TUI, Scandinavian, and BA. The Greek flag carrier Aegean Airlines also has arrivals from Athens (handy if you want to start your Kos island hopping after seeing the capital’s totemic history sites), while budget fliers like easyJet and Ryanair offer oodles of low-cost flights from European cities – think Berlin, Bristol, London, Bologna, and loads others.

Islands to visit before Kos

A island near Kos
Photo by loveombra/Pixabay

If you’re not starting your island-hopping adventure in Kos, then it’s worth checking the map to see what destinations await on the way. Some are very common stopovers for sailors and yachters already in the Aegean. Others are more off the beaten track, touting sleepy fishing towns and empty coves where you can snorkel and swim all alone.

We can recommend:

  • RhodesRhodes will enthrall with its medieval history. The capital is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and comes capped by a massive castle built by the Knights Hospitaller. Really impressive stuff.
  • Symi – A island-hopping dream, Symi is a small speck on the map with a stunning Venetian harbor. The approach into the docks is one of the great experiences of the Dodecanese.
  • Nisiros – A gorgeous volcanic island with a huge caldera in its highlands, Nisiros hits a zenith with the charming harbor town of Mandraki.
  • Kalimnos – A rugged island to the north. Come here for rock climbing and diving – there are awesome graded routes in the mountains and some of the clearest waters around.

Another possibility is coming over the strait from Turkey. Lots of people do that, especially since Bodrum and nearby Dacta are such yachting havens. However, be aware that you might need to fill out transit logs and appear at the Port Authority in either Greece or Turkey to register your departures and arrivals. Simply changing the flag mid sail is not officially legal.

Arriving in Kos

Church on Kos
Photo by Peggychoucair/Pixabay

Where you’ll arrive in Kos will depend on how you arrive in Kos. Those coming by boat will almost always get into the main harbor of the main town, which is conveniently known as Kos Town. It’s a great place to arrive, since the marina is just a short walk from the historic center, where there are oodles of cafés and bars, but also the KTEL bus station for onward journeys around the island (more on that below).

Those who come to Kos by airplane will touchdown on the opposite side of the island to Kos Town. Yep, the airport is just north of the resort town and party mecca of Kardamaina (it takes about 10 minutes to get there in a taxi). Getting to Kos Town from the airport takes about 25-30 minutes in a taxi or private rental car.

How to get around Kos

Kos walkers
Photo by gladysoudshoorn31/Pixabay

There are a number of ways to travel around during your Kos island hopping adventure. Some offer more freedom, while others are perfect if you just want to pick one resort and spend your whole vacation there. Here are the options to consider:

  • Rental car – This is the best way to get around Kos in our opinion. Rentals on the island aren’t too expensive and they offer loads of extra freedom. You’ll be able to escape to the Dikeos Mountains when you want to hike, seek out secret beaches, and drive from town to town.
  • Buses – There is a pretty decent bus network on Kos. Popular routes connect Kos Town with the international airport via the town of Mastichari. Others link the main KTEL station near the port with beaches on the south coast. You can buy your tickets from the conductor onboard the buses.
  • Bike – Kos is pretty hilly but not as hilly as other Aegean islets. The north coast especially is well suited to getting around on two wheels. Kos Town has a fantastic web of bike routes within city limits, too.
  • Taxi – Taxis on Kos – as on virtually all Greek islands – can be pricy. You’re looking at paying around €40 for a one-way transfer from the airport to Kos Town. It’s less than that to Kardamaina and the south-east coast, though, just because those resorts are closer to the terminals.

The top things to do in Kos

Kos beach
Photo by Amandathibaut/Pixabay

There are loads of reasons why Kos deserves a place on a Greek travel bucket list. From rustic towns plumed in pretty flowers to gorgeous beaches that can rival any in Europe, there’s stacks on the menu for the would-be island hopper in these parts. The things we 100% think everyone should see include are…

  • Asklepeion – An ancient medical center that was once the practicing ground of Hippocrates, said to be the father of medicine. A couple of kilometers outside Kos Town, it’s a history lover’s dream come true, with 2,500-year-old porticoes and the ruins of old Roman baths to boot.
  • Kardamaina – Kos’s answer to Ios and Mykonos, Kardamaina is the party town of the island. It’s packed with uber-lively clubs and pubs that go on all night long during the peak season between June and August. The main crowd of patrons is 18-35 Brits and northern Europeans.
  • Mastichari Beach – Mastichari Beaci is where Kos does its best impression of the Caribbean. A swerve of white-tinged sand with clusters of pine trees and olive groves, it’s considered the finest beach on the whole island, which really is saying something!
  • Therma Beach – There are natural hot springs at Therma Beach that keep the water bath-warm throughout the whole year. It’s also said to be healing H2O, with plenty of minerals and salts to make you glow.
  • Lagoudi Zia – Don’t miss this uber-charming village in the Kos highlands. It’s a traditional Dodecanese mountain hamlet filled with excellent tavernas and souvenir shops. There are also loads of top-class hikes right on the doorstep.

Where to stay for your Kos island hopping

Kos buildings
Photo by Maya-5/Pixabay

We’d actually recommend basing yourself in Kos Town if you’re planning on island hopping here. The reason? It’s a convenient place to be after you hop off the ferry. What’s more, the town has all the conveniences you could want, from supermarkets to coffee roasters. It’s also right on the edge of the main archaeology site (an old Roman city and ancient hospital) and close to some fantastic family beaches. Here are some of the top hotels to pick in Kos Town…

  • Aqua Blu Boutique Hotel & Spa, Adults Only- Small Luxury Hotels of the World ($$$) – This hotel has some serious pizzazz. Small but uber stylish, it’s a great choice for honeymooners on a Kos island hopping trip, offering suites with private pools and sea views.
  • Angelos Studios ($$) – Go for Angelos Studios if you’re after a solid midrange choice close to Kos marina. There’s a pool in the grounds and it’s very quiet and secluded.
  • Kos Aktis Art Hotel ($$-$$$) – You could hop from your balcony and be swimming in the Aegean Sea if you scored a waterfront suite at this lovely hotel. It’s also super close to Kos harbor and the party strip of the main town.

Kos island hopping guide conclusion

Kos island hopping is actually pretty easy to plan. There are ferries, flights, and plenty of private boat charter moorings to help you arrive on this ever-popular island in the Dodecanese region. Then, you can explore the whole place by rental car, bus, or even on bike and foot. What’s more, Kos has plenty up its sleeve, from wild party towns where you can dance all night with the younger crowd to long-lost mountain villages that beckon foodies with family owned tavernas.

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Joe has been a freelance travel writer for over nine years. His writing and roaming have taken him from the colonial towns of Mexico to the chowks of Mumbai to the Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not putting together the next epic blog on the best Greek islands or ski fields in France, you can usually find him surfing or hiking – his two top hobbies.