Back in January when Easyjet had a sale on I randomly booked flights to Kos in Greece. I had always wanted to visit Greece and they were cheap; however I had absolutely no idea where in Greece Kos was. I had done no research about the destination before booking flights I was just hoping for the best. In the weeks leading up to the holiday I did do some research on the island and soon realised it was closer to mainland Turkey than Greece. Apart from that I really didn’t know what to expect when I arrived.
We were on the first ever Glasgow to Kos Easyjet flight, not only that but it was one of the first flights of the season to be landing in Kos. You see Kos is an island that lives and breathes off tourism – for six months of the year it lives and for six months it sleeps. We arrived on the last week of winter/first week of summer; it was a transition period for the island where slowly everything was waking up. It felt very special to visit at this time, to understand a bit about the way the island works and the reality of what it is like to live and own a business here. For many locals they only earn income for six months of the year on the island – many people go off in the winter to travel and work away. The first few days of our island holiday were quiet – most of the shops shut, few restaurants open and not so many tourists. By the end of the week most shops were open, more restaurants had started setting up and more tourists were arriving.
Our holiday to Kos was also something new for us, as a couple and as travellers we have spent the last few years ‘travelling’, not taking holidays. I don’t remember the last time my boyfriend and I flew off to a destination for a week’s holiday – in the same place! Sure we have spent months travelling and being ‘on holiday’ but in all that time we’ve never spent a week in one place (except of course if we were working there). I was so excited to be going to Greece that when we first booked the trip I thought we would visit a few islands and Turkey, but instead we stayed on Kos for the whole time – except for a day trip to Turkey. Every night was spent in the same apartment, we got to return to our favourite restaurants and really explore our surroundings.
While in Kos we had our first Airbnb experience – staying in an apartment with the most welcoming family gave us a chance to get local recommendations but also gave us a chance to hear more about the island. We also spoke to a lot of restaurant owners who said the same… In the shoulder seasons (April – May and September – October) the weather is pleasant, the island is quiet, prices are cheaper but not everywhere is open. In the summer (June – August) the island is very busy – too busy, one man told us – a lot of British tourists drinking too much (especially in Kardamena), beaches are crowded and prices are higher. On the final day of our holiday several of the beaches had started laying out sun loungers and umbrellas, making it feel some kind of tacky tourist resort. Not only that but suddenly there was a big group of teenagers/early twenties drinking round the clock and being very loud. I was very pleased to have chosen to visit in the shoulder season, the all-round vibe was so much better than the tacky tourist place I imagine it to be in the summer.
The island is around 40km long and offers plenty to explore, from the sandy beaches in Kefalos Bay to Mt Dikeos, the highest peak on Kos. The east of the island is flat and it’s relatively easy to cycle around Kos Town and out to Tigaki and Mamari. If you want to explore further or aren’t located in Kos Town then you will need to hire a car or scooter – we hired a car for one day to explore the island at a cheap €30! I would recommend a car over a scooter if you want to get up to any of the mountain areas and trust me it’s worth it for the views. I enjoyed visiting Kardamena in the shoulder season as the town is so cute with the mountains towering in the background. However in the summer this is the party hub and best avoided unless you want to party. A few km from Kos Town on a dead end road is an awesome little beach which has hot springs heating the water – it’s hard to find but totally worth it! Kos Town and Platani have a very strong influence from Turkey just 5km away – so expect a mix of west meets east especially when it comes to food.
It was such a novelty to travel for a holiday in one place instead of trying to see of much as possible of a country in a short space of time. I had amazing times seeing New Zealand in just three weeks but it is exhausting travelling like that. Being able to stay in the same place and become familiar with everything was certainly a welcome change.
I had no idea what to expect when we touched down on our first night but I really enjoyed my time on the island of Kos. I loved the mix of western Europe come eastern Europe – there were some moments I was instantly transported back to South East Asia and others where I was sure I was in Europe. The mix of culture was such a lovely experience; I was so grateful the island was not all perfect tourist resorts. Visiting in the shoulder season certainly made it feel like you had to go out and explore the island. It meant you could have an entire beach to yourself or chat to the restaurant owners because they weren’t rushed of their feet. Even in the shoulder season the weather is still delightful – especially if you’re British – but the sea is too cold to venture in! I certainly feel like I had a different experience to anyone visiting in the height of summer. Kos gave me a taste of Greece: beautiful architecture, amazing food and the clearest sea I’ve ever seen! I cannot wait to explore more of Greece one day.