Second only to Cappadocia, I was really looking forward to visiting the snow-white travertines of Pamukkale, the most visited tourist attraction in Turkey, and our base in Selcuk meant that Pamukkale made for an easy day trip. Pamukkale literally means “Cotton Castle” in Turkish and if you’ve ever seen images of what is just another one of otherworldly landscapes in the country that cannot be found elsewhere on the planet, the name makes perfect sense. The white terraced travertines hold pools of clear mineral rich water that you can actually take a dip in. Pamukkale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is located at the site of Hierapolis, a Greek-Roman spa city that was built there due to its proximity to a hot spring.
How did these geological features form?
Hot calcium-rich waters cascading over the cliffs harden after cooling down to form the terraced travertines that hold pools of water. Imagine this process at work over several centuries and you begin to have real sense of appreciation for the way nature works to create its masterpieces.
What to do in Pamukkale?
Apart from taking a dip in the terraced pools or dipping your toes in the hot spring, you can also visit the ruins of Hierapolis. You can pay extra to spend some time in the Antique Pool, a beautiful warm mineral-rich public pool.
Day-trip or Overnight?
The village itself can be very touristy with not much to do in terms of things to see. If you’re on a schedule, then a day-trip is good enough time to see the travertines and the ruins of Hierapolis. If you’re not on a rushed schedule, it is a better idea to spend a night in the village just so you can make your way to the travertines earlier in the day and avoid the afternoon crowds, especially in the peak season. I visited in the afternoon and though it wasn’t as crowded, with it being off-peak season, I can imagine I would have enjoyed the experience way more had I visited earlier.
How to get to Pamukkale?
If you want to visit on a day trip, then stay in one of the towns of Selcuk, Kusadasi (good bases for visiting Ephesus as well), Antalya or Marmaris. You can then either drive to Pamukkale (3-4 hours) or take the inter-city coach to Denizli, the nearest city and then a 40-minute bus to Pamukkale. Alternatively, you can visit with a tour after shopping around at the many operators running daytrips from each of these towns.
A little overrated maybe?
After having seen Cappadocia, Pamukkale simply did not wow me as much and maybe this was in part due to the fact that my visit felt rushed. And I know I’m not even comparing apples to apples because Pamukkale is just one attraction and Cappadocia is an entire region. But Pamukkale is the most visited tourist attraction in Turkey and I don’t see why, considering the country is home to Ephesus, where walking around the ruins felt like an engaging history lesson complete with goosebumps. Still, it’s definitely worth a visit.
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Tips for visiting Pamukkale
- Wear your swimsuit underneath so you can take a dip in the travertine pools.
- To get to the travertines, you will need to walk barefoot on the path towards the terraces, so carry a daypack and an extra bag to put your shoes in while you tread on the travertines.
- If you’re visiting in winter, wear layers that you can peel off. The water in the pools is warm and you’ll want to take a few layers off when walking around the terraces.
- There are certain spots that are off-limits to tourists and there are security guards patrolling the area to ensure that the not-so-odd selfie-obsessed tourist does not venture there. Do them a favor and don’t be that annoying person who gets whistled or yelled at.
- The additional entry fee for the Antique Pool can seem a tad expensive but if you have enough time then it’s totally worth it.
Hierapolis and Pamukkale: November to March 6am-6.30pm and April-October 6am-midnight for 25TL (at the time of writing).
Antique Pool: November to March 8am-5.30pm and April-October 8am-7.30pm for 32TL.
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Here are some more photos of Pamukkale:
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