Kos could Heal!
Updated: Jun 6, 2022
Kos is a beautiful Greek island found among the Dodecanese, which is the southernmost grouping of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea near the coast of Turkey. Kos has a prominent history, having been inhabited or occupied by the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders (Knights of St. John), the Ottomans, the Italians, and the Germans each having left their mark prior to Kos' unification with Greece in 1948. The island can be reached by plane or ferry. It is easily navigable but certainly easiest with a car so that you can conveniently visit the many beaches and sites.
As with ALL Greek islands, its sandy beaches are a big draw, with crystal clear blue waters. There are MANY beaches to choose from. The gamut, as I noted in Crete, runs from family-friendly to textile to topless to naturist. Beaches that we particularly liked were Kardamena beach and the Kefalos Bay beaches like Magic beach, Exotic beach, and Paradise Beach. Beach beds and umbrellas are typically available for rent at all of these sites for a few euros.
Agios Stefanos beach in Kefalos was particularly interesting and unique because it lies adjacent to the ruins of an Ancient Byzantine Basilica and just across from an adorable rocky island, named Kastri, which houses a picturesque white-and-blue Orthodox church ... the chapel of St. Nicholas. Hence, Agios Stefanos combines the beauty of nature with an important historical site. The Basilica, an early Christian Church, was estimated to have been built between 469-554 AD. The latter date marks the year of a major destructive earthquake that hit the island and destroyed the monument.
Aside from a lovely climate and the many inviting beaches, Kos is most known for being the home to Hippocrates, as well as the Hellenistic late 4th c. BC Asklepion which housed the Temple of Asklepios (the god of healing), the first medical school, and a renowned medical center and sanctuary for healing. While the total number of Asklepions (healing sanctuaries) in the world was over 300, the Asklepion on Kos was one of the LARGEST and best known. It was built around the original Altar of Asklepios where Hippocrates is said to have taught the art of healing to his students. This was without question the HIGHLIGHT of my trip to this island.
Hippocrates, born on Kos in 460 BC (died in 375 BC), was the first holistic healer and the "father of modern medicine". Although he learned medicine from his father and grandfather, Hippocrates was actually the first physician to classify diseases and introduce methods of diagnosis and treatment. He actually taught students on Kos BEFORE the Asklepion was ever established. During his time, only the Altar of Asklepios existed. He also wrote the Hippocratic Oath, which is held sacred by physicians and sworn by ALL medical students to this day, promising to treat the sick to the best of one's ability, to do no harm and to preserve the patient's confidentiality. It is very cool that principles so important and relevant to medicine TODAY, started on this remote little island!!
The Asklepion had three levels or terraces. The lowest terrace had a Greek Hellenistic porch (Stoa), the medical school, and 1st c. AD Roman thermal baths. The middle terrace had the 4th c. BC original Altar of Asklepios and a Roman Temple of Apollo with Corinthian columns. The third and highest terrace had the Doric Temple of Asklepios from the 2nd c. BC. This medical center, located atop a hill with forests surrounding the facility, was visited by MANY for rest and recuperation. The thermal baths together with the breathtaking views from the sanctuary offered an air of tranquility. While natural disasters have destroyed much of the Asklepion, the remaining ruins still capture the imagination of that magnificent past.
In addition to the Hellenistic-era Asklepion, another interesting place to visit on Kos is the Casa Romana ... the Roman-era Villa. This is a historical landmark and excavation site in Kos Town. The house shows the architectural style that dominated the island during Roman times in the 2nd c. AD. Casa Romana is a beautiful mansion, ripe with atria and fountains, similar to those that have been excavated in Pompeii. The house is adorned with many beautiful frescoes, statues, and mosaics. The place feels less like ruins and more like walking through an old house. Near this site was the Cardo, the main street, typically colonnaded with Corinthian columns. An Odeon, or Roman theater, is also present and beautifully excavated on Kos. It is still used as a venue for outdoor events and concerts. Kos was a wealthy island during Roman times secondary to it being a main trading center along the Mediterranean Sea route to Rome.
Of course, a visit to ANY Greek island is far MORE than just archaeological sites. The SIMPLE pleasures of sunrises, sunsets, and deliciously fresh cuisine make those trips all the more memorable. So pack your sunscreen and your sunglasses and when Greece FINALLY opens up, and I mean REALLY OPENS UP, then be sure to go and see these amazing historic sites!