The island of Kos, just off the coast of Turkey, 200 mi/320 km southeast of Athens, was the birthplace of Hippocrates, father of modern medicine. Byzantine and Hellenistic buildings and ruins, nice beaches and natural beauty make this Dodecanese island a favorite of anyone who visits. The sights can be seen in about two days, but beach lovers could easily stay a week.

Visit the fairly well-preserved Asklepeion Sanctuary, 4 mi/6 km west of the Kos Town, the capital. The guide may tell you Hippocrates practiced there, but it was built in 357 BC, 20 years after he died. (Plan an hour to tour the site.) See the Casa Romana (mosaics), temples of Aphrodite and Dionysus, and the Palace of the Knights of Rhodes (an impressive medieval structure with double walls and a moat—it's also called St. John's). Other attractions include a museum, Turkish mosques, the Roman Odeon and fountains, Roman baths and the enormous Plane Tree—some say it was planted by Hippocrates, but it is at least 2,000 years younger than the doctor.

If time permits, visit the ruined Byzantine fortress and 14th-century church in Palio Pili (14 mi/22 km from Kos Town) as well as the medieval castle at Antimahia (about 19 mi/30 km from Kos Town); shop for pottery or swim at Kardamena (on the coast about 22 mi/35 km from Kos Town); or relax in the hot springs at Thermes (7 mi/12 km from Kos Town). The island can be reached by boat from Rhodes or by plane (daily) or ferry from Athens.

The nearby island of Kalymnos is known for its history of sponge-fishing, which is still practiced (although thanks to synthetic sponges, it is no longer as profitable).

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