The island’s most important ancient site stands on a pine-covered hill 3km southwest of Kos Town, commanding lovely views across towards Turkey. A religious sanctuary devoted to Asclepius, the god of healing, it was also a healing centre and a school of medicine. It was founded in the 3rd century BC, according to legend by Hippocrates himself, the Kos-born ‘father’ of modern medicine. He was already dead by then, though, and the training here simply followed his teachings.
Until the sanatorium was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 554, people came from far and wide for treatment.
The ruins occupy three levels, with the propylaeum (approach to the main gate), Roman-era public baths and remains of guest rooms on the first level. The second holds an altar of Kyparissios Apollo, with the 1st-century-BC Temple to Apollo to the east and the first Temple of Asclepius, built in the 4th century BC, to the west. The remains of its successor, the once-magnificent 2nd-century-BC Temple of Asclepius, are on the third level. Climb a little further, to the cool pine woods above, for the best views of all.
A small museum on the path down preserves ancient inscriptions.
Bus 3 runs hourly from Kos Town to the site. It’s also a pleasant, if uphill, bike ride.