Turkey is one of those countries that delights its visitors with a diverse range of places to see. One of those places that should top everyone’s Turkish itinerary is the brilliant town of Pamukkale.
Located in Western Turkey, Pamukkale is known for its mineral-rich white limestone terraces. It is also home to the ancient Roman spa city of Hierapolis as well as its therapeutic hot springs.
How to get to Pamukkale, Turkey
There are a variety of ways that you can get to Pamukkale, Turkey, however the two easiest are either by plane or bus. Because there is no airport in Pamukkale itself, the nearest city to fly into would be Denizli.
Denizli is approximately 12 miles from Pamukkale and is about a 20 minute drive. Once you land you can catch a shuttle bus that is located on the lower level of gate 76, which leaves every 15 to 20 minutes all day long.
If you are looking for an even easier journey catching a taxi costs approximately $14 US.
One of the great things about Turkey is its well-organized inter-city bus connections. You can find a bus connection from every major city that runs to Denizli and from there just hop on a shuttle. The buses are clean and roomy and make for easy travel for backpackers.
Best time to visit
Pamukkale can get quite hot and dry in the summer months and cold in the winter. Because most of the desired activities that you’d want to experience would require you getting in water avoiding the winter months would be recommended.
Where to Stay near Pamukkale
Ideally it would be best to have two full days in Pamukkale, Turkey. Packing everything into one day is definitely possible, however I would say that it would be fairly overwhelming and tiring.
Not only that, Pamukkale has such an incredible landscape and history that it would be a shame if you weren’t able to truly take it all in and appreciate all that it has to offer.
With it’s popularity in Turkey, there are plenty of accommodation options close by to rest your head between and after explorations of the area.
If you’re looking for some luxury and a place to truly relax after your sightseeing, the Doga Thermal Health & Spa is a 5-star hotel that includes a Turkish steam bath, an indoor pool and free Wi-Fi.
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Things to do in Pamukkale, Turkey
Visit the Cotton Castle of Turkey
Known by many as the Cotton Castle of Turkey, the cascading white travertine terraces truly are a natural wonder with so much beauty. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these iconic shallow pools have been used for spa-like activity for hundreds of years.
The travertine pools were formed the same way stalactites and stalagmites are formed in caves. For nearly a thousand years mineral rich water has flowed over the cliffs creating calcium deposits on the steep slopes.
Vibrant blue pools have collected within the deposits and geothermal activity has created the hot pools. There are 5 thermal springs with temperatures around 96 degrees Fahrenheit.
These travertine deposits span nearly 9000 feet long and 500 feet high. With its brilliant white color it can be seen all the way from Denizli.
Entrance into the Park is 35 TL which is about $6 US. There is an additional cost of 50 TL to get into Cleopatra’s Pool. The travertine pools are open at all hours but there is a debate as to when the best time to visit the pools would be.
Most people say that being at the pools during sunset is the best because of the way the light hits the snow-like cliffs. Because this time is so popular however you might be better off to get there early in the morning so that you can watch the sun rise and snap pictures without having other people in the background.
Mid day is definitely the busiest as tour buses tend to bring large groups. The buses can only park at the top of the travertines so starting from the bottom and working your way up is a nice way to avoid the masses.
I highly suggest bringing a small day bag to carry your shoes, towel and water. You aren’t allowed to wear shoes while walking up the travertines because the surface can get very slippery.
There is an area at the top where you can rest and have something to eat and drink, but it is so wonderful to stop along the way and take in nature’s incredible beauty.
Hierapolis was founded by the Attalid Kings of Pergamom at the end of the 2nd century B.C. It became a Hellenistic spa town and reached its peak of importance in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. In 60 A.D an earthquake destroyed Hierapolis, however much was rebuilt.
Sadly another earthquake hit in 1334 and that was when the city was abandoned. Today you can still see the remains of baths, temple ruins, a monumental arch, a nymphaeum, a necropolis and a fabulous theater.
It is said that wealthy people came from far to spend their last years in the healing spas of Hierapolis. Because of this the Necropolis is full of monumental tombs decorated in styles from many different regions.
These remains of the Greco-Roman period lay perched above the extraordinary travertines, making this important historical site a unique and memorable place to discover.
Theater of Hierapolis
The Theater of Hierapolis is a site that you just can’t miss. Located in the middle of Hierapolis, this massive open air theater has been preserved to showcase its grande splendor.
It was built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian in 2nd century A.D. and then restored by Emperor Severus using the remains of the old theater. The amphitheater sits on a slope above the rest of Hierapolis so the views from the top are absolutely breathtaking.
Although getting to the top of this Roman theater may be challenging during the heat of the day, it truly is the best place for the most spectacular views of all of Pamukkale, Turkey.
One of the biggest buildings in the ancient town of Hierapolis was the Roman Baths. Today it serves as the Archaeological Museum. The museum’s exhibition consists of three closed areas of the bath and an open area on the eastern side which are known to have been the library and the gymnasium.
Along with the works of art that have been excavated from Hierapolis, there are findings from Laodicea, Colossae, Tripolis and other towns in the Lycus Valley. Entrance into the Museum is an extra cost of a mere 5 TL for adults and children are free.
Museum hours are from 8:30 am to 6:45 pm from April to October and 8 am to 4:45 pm during the rest of the year.
Another highlight within the Park that is Cleopatra’s Pool which is also known as the Pamukkale Antique Pool. This is not a travertine, but a pool that was man-made and said to have been one of the most famous gifts from Marc Anthony to Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt.
This geothermal pool is unique in that the minerality has a champagne bubble effect within the waters. At one point in time it is said that the pool was surmounted by a Roman Temple to Apollo with an ornate roof held up with Doric Columns.
In the 7th century an earthquake toppled the surrounding buildings and the marble Doric columns fell into the pool. Today they rest at the bottom and you can actually swim among these relics!
There is an extra cost of 50 TL (for adults) and 13 TL (for children) to swim in Cleopatra’s Pool and it is only open during the summer months between 8 am to 9 pm daily. There are change rooms at this complex but do remember to bring your own towel.
Like most places where tourists flock, if you want to avoid crowds it is best to go either earlier in the morning or in the evening. I suggest avoiding the rush between 11:30 am-4:30 pm.
Paragliding over Pamukkale
One way to really get a bird’s eye view of the magnificent landscape is to tandem paraglide. Paragliding has become increasingly popular in Turkey and instructors are put through rigorous training.
You can paraglide all year round and companies fly between 3-6 times per day. The entire activity from pickup to drop off lasts between 1 to 3 hours but the flying time itself ranges from 10 minutes to 35 minutes depending on the wind conditions.
A reputable company to book with is called Paragliding Pamukkale.
Experience a Whirling Dervish Show
You can’t leave Turkey without experiencing the dance of a Whirling Dervish. The Mevlevi Order was founded in 1273 by Rumi followers after his death. The Mevlevi believe in performing their dance and musical ceremony known as the Sama.
The Sama represents the spiritual journey of a man’s ascent to find love and truth by deserting the ego and arriving at a spiritual perfection.
The Pamukkale Dervish Ceremony takes place in the village of Karahayit which is not far from the center of Pamukkale. The show itself is about 1 hour and will take you on a mystical journey of a unique culture leaving you with a sense of peace and serenity.
More on Turkey:
- 11 Unmissable Things to do in Istanbul
- Cappadocia, Turkey: 10 Things to Know Before You Go
- 9 Reasons to Visit Selcuk Turkey (Including Ephesus!)
- What to Wear in Turkey