Kos: A secret agent's guide

Trail of the Unexpected

What is the correct collective noun for travel agents? An exaggeration? A platitude? A duplicity? The people of the Greek island of Kos will be waking up this morning with their own ideas. An agglomeration of British travel agents has descended on the fragment of land off the coast of Turkey for the annual Abta convention, which begins today. The agents should have the best information on what to expect; we had to rely on what they promised us when we took our break on the island this summer. The Priceright brochure gushed with the attractions of a holiday on Kos: the archaeological sites and pulsating night-life, golden shores and mountain villages. It promises "an attractive mix of sand and sights in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean", and it wasn't far wrong.

What is the correct collective noun for travel agents? An exaggeration? A platitude? A duplicity? The people of the Greek island of Kos will be waking up this morning with their own ideas. An agglomeration of British travel agents has descended on the fragment of land off the coast of Turkey for the annual Abta convention, which begins today. The agents should have the best information on what to expect; we had to rely on what they promised us when we took our break on the island this summer. The Priceright brochure gushed with the attractions of a holiday on Kos: the archaeological sites and pulsating night-life, golden shores and mountain villages. It promises "an attractive mix of sand and sights in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean", and it wasn't far wrong.

The hotel

The most unhelpful information was the brochure description of the hotel: "This large and friendly property [yes] is set on the beach [a stony strip, nearly half a mile away], in peaceful surroundings [the hotel next door plays a Dambusters' tune each morning and dance music each evening] in the Psalidi area of Kos Town [it's three miles down the coast]." We should have inferred the distance from the giveaway line in the brochure that suggested "take a taxi into Kos Town for a night out". In fact, the buses proved cheap and reliable. And the hotel pool was gorgeous.

The excursion

I was taken by the idea of the three-island boat trip with sponge-factory visit and the prospect of diving into the sea off the boat at a point along the way. Bad move. Every boat trip operator on Kos offers a similar itinerary. Some do it better. We were on a large ferry-boat with 250 other people. The sponge "factory" was in fact a small workshop and the whole party had to troop through the streets en masse to a small, family-run taverna for the lunch that was included. Unsurprisingly, the restaurant couldn't cope and this was the only bad meal we had during the whole holiday. Other tours go on much smaller wooden boats and barbecue fish on board, returning from the final island under sail. Better to look round before signing up for any trip.

The car

The same advice applies to car rental; the tour operator and holiday rep often have a "special arrangement" with a particular company and the amount you pay will be inflated by their commission. Car hire will almost certainly be cheaper elsewhere, but check the conditions include comprehensive insurance. Kos is a good place to drive around - it's only 40 miles from one end to the other and one day's car hire gives you a chance to visit both beach and mountains. Expect to pay £30 a day for a tiny car or £40 for a jeep. The roads are tolerable but the signposting is terrible. Also worth trying is cycle hire (£2 a day), much more sensible than renting a moped.

The beach

Swim at Paradise Beach and you find yourself looking through a gauzy birch forest, slim silvery trees waving gently against a blue sky. But the shining columns are actually trails of bubbles, released from fault lines under the sea bed. As you swim over the fissures, the bubbles pulse up your body; if you float on the surface there's the extra buoyancy of thousands of little capsules of volcanic gas. This is the beach described in the brochure as "nature's jacuzzi". It's not a bad description and this phenomenon is found to a lesser extent at other spots around the island's coast. You can make out the bubbles from above the surface, but it's much better to enjoy a clear view from beneath. As a bonus I also saw several spectacular pale-blue pipefish. Like aquatic chessmen, with their long snouts, these were among the most striking of dozens of fish we saw. If you need a break from snorkelling or bronzing, you can also try parascending (£16), water skiing (£12) or "banana boats"(£7). Paradise Beach lives up to its name.

The verdict

The family loved Kos: weather, water, restaurants and the islanders. Shopping was fun, money easy to obtain from cashpoints; we even went to Turkey for a day. It delivered what we wanted from a holiday, as promised. But we didn't have to share the place with 2,000 travel agents.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Recruitment Consultant (Trainee), Finchley Central, London

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn