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Having spent a long and cold winter in Denmark thinking of last year’s experiences in the Greek islands of Patmos, Tilos, Nisyros, and Kos, it was time to plan for new adventures to come.

An important change from the previous year was that this time we knew a lot more about how everything worked with ferries, transport, car rental, etc.

We knew for certain that we wanted to return to Patmos and Psili Amos, our paradise beach, where we had only spent a few days in 2011. Also, we knew that we wanted to limit our ferry travel as it was such a heavy burden on our budget. Furthermore, in 2011 we had made new friends who had been coming to Leros for more than 20 years every summer. This time we would go to stay with them and let them show us an island which they loved so much.

Our experiences from 2011 where we had booked a hotel through hotels4u.com and medhotels.com and been treated in an infamous manner that we would not have believed possible, had taught us not to book through these online services again, nor was it necessary at all to do so. Every time we stepped off a ferry or bus, hotel owners would be standing there with their offers and photos of their hotels or pensions.

We simply bought plane tickets through Norwegian Air from Copenhagen to Kos. Because we wanted to go back to the Dodecanese islands there was no way of avoiding flying to Kos, and so we did. Also, when you travel on a budget as we do, we arrived at 3 am in the morning. However, this time we knew our way around the airport. We went outside right away and turned left where there was a somewhat protected corner that would easily fit our four sleeping mats. When we woke up a few hours later, we bought coffee in the departure hall and got ready for another backpacking adventure in the Dodecanese islands.

The first bus leaves at about 8 am from right outside the airport and takes you right into Kos town. It takes about half an hour and costs 3.90 per person. You may take a little nap as you don’t miss out on much on this bus ride. When you get to the Kos town bus stop you need to walk to the port to catch the catamaran which comes in on the outer part of the port and you have to pass the crusaders’ castle to get there.

Ferrysign showing all the destinations from Kos to Patmos, Leros, etc.

Ferrysign showing all the destinations from Kos to Patmos, Leros, etc.

On your way there you pass the indoor market and a small pedestrian street will lead you towards the waterfront. In this small street you can buy your tickets from one of the travel agents for the catamaran for Patmos and everywhere else, and it is by far more convenient than buying it from the small ticket booth next to where the catamaran departs. Last year that was just what we did as we thought the tickets would be less expensive here, but they weren’t, and instead we were frying in the sun for an hour. Never again!

By the way, tickets to Patmos with the catamaran were 29 Euros per person. Usually the catamaran is about twice the price of the a ticket from Blue Star ferries, which is much more comfortable to travel with, but it only leaves a couple of times a week and at very inconvenient hours of the day – or rather during the  night. The catamaran from the Dodecanese Seaways leaves for Patmos at 11 am.  Click for timetable for Dodecanese Seaways  can be seen here. And off we were to Patmos.

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Clearly, finding a beach in Kos without parasols and deckchairs proved a challenge in such a touristy place, but we set out to do so and succeeded in finding a nice beach with no one else there during most of the day. Well, may be because there were no bars or other facilities, just the beach and the lovely clear water. Also, it was quite windy with waves and therefore not a place to go swimming with small children or suitable for snorkelling. However, we could sun bade wearing nothing and thus soak up some sun before heading back to Denmark where you can never be sure of the sun in the summertime. This beach is situated on the south-western part of Kos and features no tavernas or the like, but lots of goats.

Beautiful beach on Kos without deckchairs, parasols and people - only company was goats

Beautiful beach on Kos without deckchairs, parasols and people – only company was goats

It made a wonderful contrast to an awful place we went to the day before. I don’t know if you can call it a tourist trap as we didn’t pay to get there. It is one of these places that would be interesting if no one else were there, but – everybody was there. I am talking about the hot springs in Therma Loutra. Big stones sort of form a pool around the centre of the springs and the closer you get to the springs, the hotter the water is. But – be prepared to share this experience with literally hundreds of people, crowding together in the pool and surrounding area, all looking like boiled something. We thought this was too awful a place to stay there, so we took a quick dip and left again.

Therma Loutra Kos - hot springs with too many people to make it an enjoyable experience

Therma Loutra Kos – hot springs with too many people to make it an enjoyable experience

We found one nice restaurant in the old part of Kefalos town. She served us stuffed zucchini flowers which were really nice. No, they were not on the menu, but that’s what happens when you get to talk to people. They turn out to be very friendly and this woman’s teenage sons loved her stuffed zucchini flowers so she wanted to see what our teenage sons would think of them. They loved them and so did their parents.

One place that we can recommend in Kos is the old crusaders’ castle at Antimáhia. It is located high up in a desolate landscape with a beautiful view to far away. We spent a couple of hours there till just before the sun set and it was really interesting to see all the remains from that period. Some places it looks as if the authorities have wanted to do some renovation or installing various facilities, but gave up half way. Whether the lack of facilities is the reason that no one seems to visit the crusaders’ castle, I don’t know, but it is definitely worth a visit. We probable saw 5 other people while we were there.

Crusaders' castle on Kos - well worth a visit and you won't be bothered by crowds of people

Crusaders’ castle on Kos – well worth a visit and you won’t be bothered by crowds of people

Our last night in Kos and on the Greek Islands before leaving Greece this summer we spent in Zia high up in the hills/mountains. Apparently you can go there by bus from Kos town, but we went by car. It is very very touristy, but a must if you have the chance to go. You go there for one reason only – to see the amazingly beautiful sunset over the islands. But be prepared to leave your car at a parking lot when entering the town and then walk through the worst kind of tourist markets that you can imagine. Then find yourself a restaurant with a view of the islands and have your dinner there. Take your time and enjoy the scenery. In such a spot even Kos offers its advantages.

Blogger and husband at Zia - enjoying the beautiful sunset over the Greek islands

Blogger and husband at Zia – enjoying the beautiful sunset over the Greek islands

I hope that I have been able to pass on some of the information and experiences that we had on this first Greek Island Hopping trip of ours. Time to start planning our next backpacking trip to the Greek Islands.

Kos will never be my favourite Greek island – well, there it is. However, we were to spend 3 days on this very touristy island – and the least friendly island we had come across. It is usually the way it is – the more touristy a place is, not just in Greece, but all over the world, the less friendly its people is. I guess it has to do with the locals getting fed up after a while, and I really can’t blame them. The behaviour of young people we saw in the streets in Kos town in a state of anything but sober was – how should I put it – not so pleasant.

Ancient Roman road near Kos town

Ancient Roman road near Kos town – it makes the past feel very real

We were deported to Kefalos on the southern part of Kos, and it was a horrible place. The beach was about 2 m wide; one restaurant lay next to the other, screaming at us to stay far away as there was absolutely none of the atmosphere that we had experienced elsewhere while backpacking in the wonderful Greek islands. And, behind all the restaurants lay the hotels, again one more dismal than the next. Our place was up somewhere in between all that. We came there late at night to sleep and we left as soon as we could get out of there in the morning.

Casa Romana ruins - unlimited access to the ruins - here a beautifully carved stone - Kos town

Casa Romana ruins – where there is unlimited access to the ruins – here a beautifully carved stone – Kos town

Well, to do so we had to rent a car for the remainder of our stay on Kos, so we did. The car rental people were actually really nice – and let us have a small car for 114 Euros for 3 days and allowed us to leave it at the airport when we left. Still, located in a place where we had no wish to be meant a lot of time on the road, going back and forth between Kos town and Kefalos.

Casa Romana ruins Kos town

Casa Romana ruins Kos town

On the outskirts of Kos town we spent a lot of time visiting the antique Roman ruins and the Casa Romana, a villa that has been heavily renovated or should I say rebuilt. It offers a fantastic glimpse into the lives of the wealthy Romans of those times. What is really amazing is the easy access you have to the ruins. There is no one to tell you where to go and not to go, you can touch everything, and in some places you actually walk on the ancient mosaics and so on. That would never do in Denmark where some attendant would ask you politely not to touch and step on the ruins J

Roman mosaics in the ruins near Kos town

Roman mosaics in the ruins near Kos town – apparently no one cares to look after them

If you are staying in Kos town the way to go to the Roman ruins is to rent a bicycle. There are special bicycle paths everywhere in and out of Kos town and it is just such a convenient way to get around. We had planned to do so. Being from Denmark as we are – the country where everybody rides bicycles from the age of 3 till we drop – almost. But, it was the only place where we saw a bicycle path system in Greece.

If you would never contemplate booking a hotel online, you don’t have to read this post. We have done so for the last time, at least through hotels4u.com and medhotels.com.

Kos was a terrible experience in so many ways, so very different an experience from Patmos, Tilos, and Nissiros.

Before leaving for this trip my husband asked me to at least book a hotel for the last couple of days before leaving Greece again. My experience tells me that it is not necessary to book hotels unless you completely sure that everything is booked and you want something very special.

Anyway, I started looking on the Internet to find something suitable in Kos town where we wanted to stay. We intended to spend a great deal of time around the antique ruins which is one of the few attractions of the island of Kos, at least in our view.

In no time I found a great offer from hotels4u.com and medhotels.com – a small hotel apartment in a four star hotel called Sophia Beach Aparthotel. I booked it and paid for it right away and thus put my husband’s mind at ease. Also, later on when we were roughing it in Patmos and Tilos, my youngest son had this as a carrot – an apartment next to a nice swimming pool. In that respect he is quite different from the rest of the family.

When we left our hotel in Nissiros the manager asked us whether we had booked accommodation in Kos. If not, his friend had a hotel in Kos town which he, naturally, would recommend. When we got off the ferry in Kos we were met by the usual crowd of people who wanted us to come and stay at their hotel or pension. No thank you. We had a booking….

Sophia Beach Aparthotel, Kos - it wasn't really that exciting a place except that I had promised my boys a hotel with a pool for the last few days in Greece

Sophia Beach Aparthotel, Kos – it wasn’t really that exciting a place except that I had promised my boys a hotel with a pool for the last few days in Greece

We walked for half an hour and found Sophia Beach Aparthotel. It looked like it was just what the boys needed, a hotel with a big pool, and we would be able to go where we wanted on foot, bicycle or by bus. But – when I handed the guy at the reception my hotel receipt, he just looked at me and said that he had no rooms available. Actually, he said that hotels4u.com had made no booking with him for a room for us. He said that the booking agent was lying. He called the booking agent and told him that there was no room. The booking agent said that we would then be moved to a hotel in Kefalos at the south end of the island called Mimis. Apparently it was the last available room in Kos! He also said that the hotel manager of Sophia Beach Aparthotel was a liar and had lied repeatedly about overbooking his hotel. The agent said that the hotel in Kefalos was very nice (had he ever been there himself, I wonder?) and told the hotel manager – the guy at the reception desk – to get us a taxi to take us there. We waited 2 hours and eventually got a taxi that was ordered by someone else. The hotel manager never bothered to get us a taxi. The taxi driver told us that the taxi had been called 10 minutes earlier by someone else. We were caught in lies between the hotel manager of Sophia Beach Aparthotel and hotels4u.com / medhotels.com.

At 2 pm we arrived at Mimis in Kefalos. Where we had paid for a four star hotel with a big pool for our children, we now got a room in a ‘hotel’ without stars whatsoever. The room was hot and clearly for 2 people only, 2 beds, 2 chairs, 2 plates etc. To accommodate 4 people the manager of the place had put in a foldout chair and a bed-setter. Our boys were 180 cm and 192 cm (14 and 17 years)! The bathroom was so tiny that we could only close the door when standing in the shower. It was far away from everything.

My bed at Mimis, Kefalos, Kos - not  what I had expected having booked and paid for a four star hotel via hotels4u.com from home

My bed at Mimis, Kefalos, Kos – not what I had expected having booked and paid for a four star hotel via hotels4u.com from home

The manager of the place turned out to be very unpleasant. She came into our room with the agent from medhotels.com and removed the remote control for the air condition without telling us. We spent half an hour looking for it in the room till we realised that she had probably taken it. And she had taken it and she demanded an extra 5 Euros per day to let us use the air condition. This situation kept getting more ridiculous all the time.

The medhotels.com agent said that there was nothing he could do and that it was our problem that we would have to take to hotels4u.com when we got home. I told him that we needed a car desperately to get away from the place as we had planned our 3-day holiday in Kos to be in Kos town without a car, but stuck out there in the middle of nowhere we were forced to rent one. More expenses and a bad hotel with an unpleasant manager!

What else can I tell you – we had at no point of time anything but cold water, the bucket for dirty toilet paper was never emptied and the smell was awful as we couldn’t open the window in the bathroom. At 11 pm she came into our room and wanted our passports. We refused to give them to her and said that my husband would go see her the next morning before we left. Then she could copy whatever she needed to copy from them.

When we got home we wasted a lot of time trying to make hotels4u.com compensate us for our expenses, but they refused and ended up being rather impolite.

We made ourselves a solemn promise – never never never again make an online hotel booking through neither hotels4u.com nor through medhotels.com.

The ferry calls into port and the whole island is wide awake for a little whileHaving bought our tickets for the ferry to Patmos we got in line for the catamaran which arrived soon after. When you get on board, the staff asks you which island you are going to. The catamaran stops at several islands and therefore it is practical to divide the luggage into piles for each island to avoid chaos when getting off the ferry.

As coffee is sort of what you can buy on the ferry, it is a good idea to bring your own food for the ride. Make sure to buy it in Kos Town before you head out towards the catamaran as there is only a small coffee place where the catamaran leaves.

It is such a blast to sit on deck and watch when the ferry enters a port. There are people everywhere saying hello or good-bye to friends and family and there are hotel or house owners looking for potential guests to occupy a house or a room for a few days. The islands are dependent on the ferry to bring them supplies; some of the islands do not have their own water and need to have it brought from e.g. Kos.  Leaving Port - Dodecanes Islands

It is obvious that the arrival of the catamaran or ferry is the main event of the day. When it has left again the place quietens down and settles into its usual slow rhythm.

The ferry ride is a great way to see the Dodecanese islands from the outside. You really get an idea of how sparsely populated they are. In some instances there is only the one town where the ferry calls into.

On the ferry itself you can sit on deck and work on your tan – remember a good sunscreen – or sit in the shade indoor. In the case of the catamaran it was fun to stand or sit up front on the deck and almost get blown away by the wind.