This summer, head to the Greek island of Kos for a holiday to remember
The epitome of laid-back luxury
It was time to put my money where my mouth was and cut off in a big way. I’d heard of a little island in the Aegean Sea with sand dunes trickling onto untouched beaches. Kos, a Greek island in the Dodecanese, beckoned, so I gave in to persuasion (from myself) and booked a ticket. One ticket. That’s right, no husband, no toddlers, just me, myself and my camera. I was in search of that off-the-beaten-track experience and I admit, lots of pampering, so I booked a room at Casa Cook Kos and announced this was Momma time. Sitting on the plane, I gave mindfulness a go, gazing at the little islands below. The island is full of contrasts, like ancient columns serving as sunbathing spots for local beachgoers. The economy has not been kind to the country, yet here on Kos there is a strong pride for local culture (this is the home of Hippocrates—enough said).
When I get to the hotel—I’d dreamt about the private pool of my junior suite in-between my children’s temper tantrums, I admit—the late afternoon sun is preparing another perfect Aegean sunset. A friendly staffer drives my bags and me to my room in a golf cart. I’ll settle in later I tell myself, as I wink at the private pool and notice the perfect decoration (hello Marshall speakers, we’ll groove later). I head to the beach for the most delectable sundowner, ever. The next morning I hop into a white 4×4, my panama hat, shades and SPF 50 in check (I don’t play around) for a tour of the island. I’m driven along the main road that stretches from one end of the island to the other—it’s hard to get lost here, Kos is 40 kilometers long and only 8 kilometers wide.
Shady days under the warm Greek sun. Even the palm trees know which way to sway
THE PERFECT INSTA-OP
We head to the southwestern edge of the island for some more surprises. The ancient clifftop village of Kefalos overlooks a glimmering bay from high up on a hill. We manoeuvre up some very, very windy roads (my vertigo won’t get in the way of me and hidden beaches), then veer off the paved part and onto a little dirt stretch barely wide enough for one car. Strolling or sleeping on the side of the road are what turn out to be my favorite island mascot—goats with bells on their collars (I decide to call them ‘jingle goats’). Then all of a sudden a tiny white church with a blue roof perched high up on the hill comes into view. This is Agios Mamas, and it’s photo-op central. A sense of calm envelops me, and with the hum of the wind, the deep blue sea and the infinite sky in front of me, I confirm that this is mindfulness served on a silver platter. After bumping along another dirt road, I begin to spot handwritten signs for Kavo Paradiso at intersecting dirt roads. Then the ‘ah’ moment, when I see the coast below and the sandy beach beckoning with that sexy golden glow of a late afternoon sun. The name says it all: a natural cave in paradise—or to be precise, a secluded surfer’s paradise. Locals and a handful of in-the-know tourists come here to enjoy being far from it all on a gorgeous, hidden beach. I run my fingers through the silky sand, dozing off on my beach blanket. No islands in sight from this vantage point, it feels a bit like the edge of the world.
Handmade Greek leather sandals from Elli-Kos are a must-have from the island
SO MUCH TO DO, SO LITTLE TIME
Over a quinoa salad and a green juice of apple, kale, celery, cucumber, lemon and ginger—aka, the Summer Detox, I delve into my to-do list at the hotel restaurant overlooking that sea and those dunes. Local shopping, holistic massages, fresh food and total disconnection are my priorities today (I contemplate making them my priorities every day—I’m convinced there is a way). I head to Kos Town to find out what goodies I must not leave the island without: mastic soap, a good pumice stone, a natural sponge, handmade leather sandals and of course, a statue of Hippocrates. This is his island after all, where his descendants built one of the oldest hospitals and medical schools in the world during the 4th century BC.
Ready to test the inspirations of Hippocrates’ healing first hand, I make my way back to the hotel’s spa for some authentic and original treatments, starting with a Casa Cook Signature Hammam and their infamous Hippocratic massage (when in Rome, right?). I was about to time travel. In the Greek hammam, I lay down on a heated stone bed. First the masseuse begins by applying a hair mask of olive oil and locally sourced essential oils. As it works its magic, buckets of warm water are gently poured over me. Next, Kasar gloves are used to soap and scrub me with Himalayan rock salt and aloe vera (bye-bye dead skin cells, hello smooth skin), followed by a body mask of essential oils and hydro salts. More water is poured over me to rinse it all off, and a special nutrient rich soap washes out the hair mask, cleansing and hydrating my scalp. I feel pampered, revived and reborn. Can it get any better than this? Apparently, yes. Next I’m led into another room for the Hippocratic Anatripsis Massage, using a blend of olive oil and other Greek herbal oils in a treatment that dates back millennia using friction and different levels of pressure over my entire body. I can literally feel my body and soul reconnect: the masseuse is my new hero. I float (I seriously don’t recall using my feet) to the hotel bar for a sundowner. With the sun setting and the cicadas singing, I am on cloud Hippocrates.
A glass of retsina to soak up the local customs at Oria Taverna on top of Mt Dikeos
THE ULTIMATE SUNDOWNER
My final adventure is a hike up to the Byzantine-era castle of Pyli perched high up on Mount Dikeos. This, I’m told, is an incredible spot to watch the sunset. I change my shoes (my lovely leather sandals won’t get me up there in one piece) and switch to my Vans, laughing at myself as I slip and slide on the smoothed, ancient rocks of the winding path. Those dear jingle goats are here too, jingling and hopping around among the well-preserved ruins of this ancient settlement. I close my eyes, trying to picture these ruins inhabited by 20,000 people at their peak in 1320. Were the jingle goats jingling back then too? The last few steps of my path take me to the humble family-owned taverna called Oria. The view here is well worth the hike, and the treat for climbing all the way up? A glass of retsina, a local dry white wine made with pine resin, accompanied by spoon sweets of sugary, pickled eggplant, grapes, rose and quince. As I order just one more spoon sweets (to get me down the path, of course), the sun begins to set on the sea, perfectly flanked by two mountains. The jingle goats jingle, the cicada bugs sing, and my meridians, my mind and my body are all aligned in one very happy place. This is me being Kos, and I love it.
The pool at Casa Cook Kos calls for a dip in the late afternoon glow
1. Casa Cook Kos
A serenely cool boutique hotel nestled on a sand dune beach with all the right touches in decor, food and service that will keep you wanting more long after you’ve checked out.
Marmari. +49 234 961 038606
A 20-year-old family run restaurant where Evdokia cooks up delicious local specialties like stuffed cabbage with minced meat or her iconic moussaka, while her son runs the rest in a friendly atmosphere.
Bouboulinas 13, Kos Town. +30 2240 28525
An award-winning restaurant with a beautiful view. Sit on the terrace under the bougainvillea and savour the oven-roasted lamb.
+30 22420 69983 Oromedon.com
Located in an old, restored watermill in Zia, this restaurant with great views is known for the best lemonade in Kos, with a 120-year-old family recipe, and a decor that is sure to charm your socks off with its rustic and eclectic style.
Zia. +30 697 229 2109
1. Ariston Café
In the centre of Kos Town lies this tiny, non-descript café that’s been serving traditional pastries and coffee to locals and tourists alike since 1952. Come here for a typical Greek breakfast while you watch the town come to life.
Platxia Kazouly 2, Kos Town. +30 2242 022258
2. Oria Tavern & Café
After a hike up the hill of Pyli Castle, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view in this charming hilltop café offering up simple, locally-sourced fare. No cars get you to the door, so make sure to call ahead for hours.
Old Pyli Castle. +30 697 440 8843
1. Elli-Kos Sandals
With over 60 years of shoemaking under their belt, this tiny family-run shop offers a variety of handmade, leather sandals. Or, design your own and have them tailor-made.
Vasileos Pavlou 9, Kos Town. +30 694 377 3670
Local gifts and original souvenirs with a rustic feel, you might need to buy an extra suitcase just to bring it all back.
Filita 3, Kos Town. +30 22420 20499
1. Erika’s Horse Farm
Erika Mastorou, the dynamic owner of this equestrian center, offers rides for adults and children on the beach, and even in the water.
Poseidonos Str, Marmari, Kos. +30 22420 68681
Hire a chauffered car or boat for a personal touch with professionalism.
Kostranfers.gr. +30 694 853 7227
A glimpe of the Greek island of Kos
PHOTOGRAPHS: GEORG ROSKE AND TRISH TRAVIESO