Kos to Therma
The main road along the shoreline to the southeast of Kos passes a long, gently curving bay, lined with eucalyptus trees, which has witnessed much of the island’s tourist development over the last decade. Shortly after the New Yacht Marina, to the right of the road (at 2.2km from the port) can be seen recent excavations which have revealed the outlines of a major Archaic temple and large altar of the 6th century bc, and brought to light a wide array of votive offerings: Egyptian scarabs, Corinthian aryballoi, swords, and figurines of female deities. Little had previously come to light from this early period on Kos, and these important excavations are helping to fill gaps in the understanding of the continuity of the island’s history. One hundred metres further east, on the right at a small junction in the road, are the remains of the Early Christian basilica of the Archangel Gabriel. As often with Early Christian sites, the church was built, unprotected, right on the shore: the position recalls that of Aghia Photini in the wide bay of Pigadia on Karpathos. The earliest construction here was at the east end of the remains, where, on top of a grave of the 2nd or 3rd centuries ad, a small martyrion was erected in the 4th century: later, in the 5th century, this became the tri-conch apse of a basilica whose ruins are seen today. The basilica covered a large additional area and possessed a narthex and exo-narthex to the west. It was the centre of a complex of other buildings, attesting the importance of the cult here: a baptistery with cruciform font is visible at the southwest corner, and a further chapel on the south side, just east of the baptistery. Further to the southwest are the remains of a curious building thought by some to be a small complex of thermal baths: no hypocaust is visible, but the walls possess an inner shell in terracotta tiles, typical of such buildings. A few of the fragmentary columns of the basilica’s nave, in Rhodian marble—one diagonally fluted—have been provisionally re-erected at random points on the site.
The road continues round the eastern extremity of the island, marked (north) by Cape Louros and (south) Aghios Phokas. South of Cape Louros is a small brackish lagoon, Lake Psalidi, with reed-beds which constitute an important breeding area for birds (Little bittern, Ruddy shelduck, and Black-winged stilt), and are particularly rich in passage migrants in season. As the road turns south and west, the landscape becomes dramatically more arid along the tree-less southern slopes of the Horomedon massif. Wide views of the Cnidos peninsular and Nisyros open out. At 11km the asphalt finishes and a track (beside a refreshments stall) heads steeply down to the shore below, leading (600m) to a narrow strand of shingle between the cliffs and the sea: at its western end, a spring of hot sulphurous water, known as Empros Thermi (or often just ‘Therma’), emerges at just under 50Β°C, flows directly into the sea from under the cliff, and mixes to a pleasant temperature with the sea-water in an area roughly enclosed by a wide ring of boulders, where further small jets rise underwater. The first severe storms of the autumn bury the spring under sand; it is then dug out once again at the end of each winter. The consequent warmth in the surrounding sea attracts octopus in large numbers—some of which inevitably find their way onto the tables of the fish-tavern, which occupies the only building on the shore.
Four kilometres beyond Therma to the west along the wild and deserted south coast are the hot springs at Aghia Irini. These are best reached by arranging at the Therma taverna for a caique to take you there. The alternative is a two-hour hike across rough terrain from bay to bay along the coast: the path is not marked and at several points it is necessary to wade through the water in order to pass. The waters, which are slightly hotter and more sulphurous than those at Empros Thermi, rise on the shore directly beyond the modern chapel of Aghia Irini. Nothing disturbs the peace here except for the often capricious winds.
Kos Island is part of the Dodecanese Island group
The Asklepeion and the East of the Island. Kos to Therma.