We’ve all seen the photos – the the most photogenic streets, winding past whitewashed houses built into the cliffs and leading down to crystal clear waters. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to go to Santorini? Personally, I think it looks like heaven, but unfortunately, if like me you don’t have a massive budget this beautiful destination is going to be off-limits. But you still want to explore Greece in a more budget friendly fashion – so why not look into the island of Kos instead?
My boyfriend and I decided to stay in Kefalos: the western-most town on the Greek Island of Kos, where we paid just £209 (roughly US $275) for a week at a basic self-catered accommodation. The town itself is your typical ‘Brits Abroad’ resort with all the restaurants serving traditional Greek food and a side of chips! Not quite what I had pictured for my Greek getaway, but there is so much more to Kos to explore!
The old town of Kefalos sits at the top of a large hill, where you can get spectacular views across the bay from the castle. There isn’t much going on up there but if you fancy a change from the more traditional seafront restaurants, you can pay a visit to the converted windmill, Mylotopi, to enjoy a delicious burger in modern and trendy surroundings.
The beach resort below is a bit run-down in parts, with some establishments closed down and a few half-built hotels. Don’t get me wrong though as there were still loads of places to eat and drink, Mythos Lounge Bar being my favorite. Choose from Greek or Italian small plates of deliciousness accompanied by a carafe of the locally made wine. Also, not forgetting Mr. Gelato, which I frequented on several evenings, the Bueno flavour being my go-to choice.
The sprawling beach in Kefalos is great for a bit of sunbathing and a cool dip in the sea. Instead of paying to use a sun lounger, why not order a delicious fresh juice (I recommend the watermelon juice) from one of the beachfront restaurants and enjoy theirs for free. You can take a long stroll down by the water’s edge, where you will find certain areas of the beach are pebbly and others sandy. At the end nearest to the harbour you will find the water is really shallow for quite a long way out, whereas at the other end the water gets deep very quickly. The beach has a lot to offer, so you don’t have to venture too far to get a different experience from day to day.
My favourite activity to do whilst abroad is exploring the less touristy places, which we definitely achieved in Kos. One night going out for a run we ended up having to climb a nearly vertical sandy hill at the back of our apartment and having quite the scare when nearly stepped on a snake! I think the locals thought we were mad, we even got a few beeps by passing cars. We also enjoyed a lovely day out where we walked for an hour or so through the countryside, meeting the local chickens, bulls, and goats on the way! We ended up at Limnionas restaurant, on a much quieter side of the island. From here you have two very different beaches to choose from; one sandy beach with rented deckchairs lined up, the other a more rugged rocky cove. There is just the one restaurant here, serving the most delicious freshly caught fish.
Our most adventurous day of the holiday had to be when we decided to hire bikes for just €5 Euros each, cycling over to Kardamaina, which is quite different from Kefalos. I chose Kefalos because I didn’t want to go anywhere that was renowned for its partying, whereas Kardamaina is. The beach here was actually really lovely, with much more of an atmosphere, buzzing with people and music playing from the beachside bars. I made the mistake of ordering a long island iced tea, where it seemed the barmaid had put a shot of each alcohol in! So, I cycled home feeling pretty squiffy.
Follow Google Maps along the coastal road, we thought: picturesque leisurely cycle ride back we thought. Turns out a lot of the roads on Kos don’t actually exist! What should have taken us around one hour, ended up taking 4 hours. We got lost in the countryside where the roads on the map just seemed to magically disappear as you approached them and to make matters worse my boyfriend’s tire had a puncture. But we did get to enjoy being herded by a local farmer amidst all of his goats! Tip – if you plane to cycle around the island don’t rely solely on Google maps to plan your route -speak to locals and perhaps by a paper map.
We’ll get to the best part, shall we? My favourite day of the whole trip was when we visited the volcanic island of Nisyros. You can book a day trip with any of the local travel agents for around €18 Euros each. I believe there are just two trips a week, so make sure to plan ahead as this is something you will not want to miss. The ferry journey over takes about one hour and on arrival, you can either pay extra to take a coach up to see the active volcano or like us, walk into Mandraki to start exploring.
Although boatloads of tourist arrive at the same time, the crowd of people seemed to peter off and eventually, you are left alone to enjoy looking around the winding streets of this lovely hillside town. Whilst you enjoy getting lost in the cobbled streets surrounded by the whitewashed houses why not try the tomato ice cream from Piccolo Café? Sounds quite strange but trust me it is amazing!
If you are an animal lover then you will love that around every corner there is a new cat to pet and if you are lucky you will even discover some cute kittens sleeping in a bush!
Make your way up to the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani with views to rival that of Santorini. From here you can really experience the islands’ wild beauty as it was formed by volcanic eruptions 24,000 years ago. Ruggedly stunning landscape contrasted with quaint traditional Greek buildings and furry friends – what more could you want from a day trip?
I hope this article has inspired you to visit Kos on your next trip to Greece. The island may not have the Instagram appeal of some of the other Greek islands, but when you get there you will see it easily rivals other islands – both in it’s natural, wild beauty and it’s postcard pretty towns.
Have you been to Kos? If you have any additional tips for our readers or questions please leave these in the comments below.
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