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A Classic Slice of Kos

Kos, Greece

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You come to the Greek Islands for beautiful beaches, warm sea-bathing, watersports, the odd classical ruin and a wonderfully relaxed yet vibrant atmosphere. Kos delivers on every score: you'll see an imposing Castle of the Knights of St John directly you enter the harbor in Kos Town, although you shouldn't let it detain you long when you disembark and the beaches are excellent for bathing. Kos is one of the Greek Islands that the travel writers love to hate and you know what that often means: it's popular; lots of people come here and have a great time because it's a great place. Who cares if the island's so flat you can see the mountains on Nissyros to the south from Kalymnos to the north? In fact it's a positive advantage, if you're not planning on spending all your shore leave by the sea you can hire a bike when you get off the ship and bike to all the main sites - or another beach - with ease. That way you'll avoid the chaos of Greek public transport and taxis!

Those beaches: to the north of Kos Town you've got white sand at Tingaki and Marmari, or you can take a short trip to the miniature island of Pserimos and seek out the idyllic hideaway sandy beach near the Grafiotissa chapel - the hordes of trippers tend to stay on the main beach by the harbor. On the south coast of the island the beaches are even more scenic and more tranquil. The long strip of beaches near Kamari should suit everyone. The Brits have given the different sections names: Magic, Sunny, Paradise (also called the Bubble Beach because of the volcanic gas vents in the tidal zone) and Camel. Langadhes, the most picturesque section keeps its Greek name. Watersports are well catered for, with snorkeling, windsurfing and sea-kayaking all popular. Jet skiing is 'over': if you want to be hip you'll need to go banana-riding or - best of all - parasailing.

You'll disembark in Kos Town and there's plenty to see and do within easy reach of the ship. Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, was born on the island and there's an ancient plane tree, propped up with incongruous modern steel scaffolding at the entrance to the causeway leading the Knight's Castle. At about seven hundred years old it's certainly one of Europe's oldest trees but still far too young to have been even a twinkle in Hippocrates's eye as he died nearly 2400 years ago! Nonetheless this venerable tree, even with its trunk splitting into sections - the ravages of old age - is a pretty impressive sight. New shoots are springing up from the base, so it looks like it'll be around for a while yet. If you're interested in ancient ruins make sure you visit the Asklepion: a temple to the god of medicine, founded just after Hippocrates' death. The temple's in a splendid setting on hillside terraces. The temple doubled as curative center, so as well as the altar there were glorious fountains to provide clean water and a tranquil, healing ambience- who said beauty spas were a modern invention?

If you want to prove the travel writers wrong and get a glimpse of your ship at the centre of possibly the best view in the whole of the Aegean, spend half a day climbing the 846m Khristos peak of Mount Dhikeos. It's not a strenuous hike and you can take in some pretty windmills and chapels on your way. The villages on the mountain slopes offer a glimpse of what life was like before mass tourism came to the islands. Stop off in one of the taverns for a meal and a drink if you want to sample more authentic peasant cuisine than you'll find elsewhere on the island. Refresh yourself after the climb with a dip in the unusual hot springs at Ayios Foka. Transport to the Bros Therma as they're called isn't great, so it's quite likely your cruise operator will organize it for you. Scalding hot springs emerge from a tiny grotto buried in the volcanic cliffs and flow through a channel to mingle with the sea at a pleasant temperature in a pool corralled off with stones. This natural hot tub is popular with local and tourists, especially in the evenings - it's the perfect finish to a chilled day on the beach or a good way to relax after a day's sport or touring the ruins.

Kos is a summer blockbuster that continues to be a hit year after year and that peeves the travel writers, who'd like you to struggle a bit more for your pleasure. Why should you? You don't earn your living on vacation, so you want to enjoy every minute of your precious vacation time and Kos is a great place for that.

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