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If you do a Google search for the top attractions to see in Turkey, Pamukkale will 100% appear very close to the top of this. Pamukkale is one of Turkey’s most visited spots, and it’s also one of the most gorgeous.
If weird and wonderful sights are your things, this is for you. However, this spot isn’t just a little odd and very wonderful; it’s also stunningly beautiful.
No doubt, you’ve seen Pamukkale on the TV or online. It’s blindingly white, it has terraces that run down a mountainside, and it has glassy blue water on top. Of course, Pamukkale is far more than that, but that’s the eye-watering visual you’ll get when you see a picture of it for the first time!
If you’re keen to tick Pamukkale off your Turkey bucket list, there are plenty of things you need to know, and thankfully, this guide is going to give you all the deets.
First things first, however, what on earth is Pamukkale?
What Is Pamukkale
When you see a picture of the Pamukkale landscape, you’ll be forgiven for experiencing a little confusion. It’s the middle of summer (probably), and all you’re seeing is a snowy white landscape.
Give yourself a minute to adjust because it’s not snow that you’re seeing.
Pamukkale is the site of the ancient city of Hierapolis, a Greco-Roman city that used to be bustling back in the day. This whole part of Turkey is packed with ruins from Greek times, and they’re certainly worth visiting.
Another attraction very close by, Ephesus, is a definite must-visit. However, Pamukkale is also more than just ruins. The site is characterized by white terraces, which are formed of sedimentary rock (travertine, to be exact) and have been deposited by hot spring waters over millennia. There are several sources of hot spring water in the area, and they call come together to create water that is exceptionally high in calcium carbonate. When that water hits the open air, it turns into white travertine. Not snow.
That’s your science lesson over.
Why Does Pamukkale Look Like That
This travertine is why the terraces of Pamukkale have that blinding white appearance. It’s the water that hasn’t yet solidified that gives off the brightest blue shade as it cascades over the top of the travertine.
Pamukkale is astonishing. There’s no other word for it, and it’s in such stark comparison to the rest of the landscape around the area, which is as green as green can be.
Back in the day, Pamukkale was a spa, first used in the 2nd century BC. The water is a naturally warm temperature, of around 50-100 degrees Celcius, year-round.
In Turkish, Pamukkale translates to “cotton castle,” describing exactly how the site looks.
What Can You Do A Pamukkale
Aside from standing in awe and taking plenty of Insta-worthy pictures, Pamukkale has plenty of things to see and do. You can swim in the hot spring waters, and these are reputably great for healing. You can walk over some of the travertine shelves, although do be careful – more on that below.
While at Pamukkale, don’t forget to learn more about Hierapolis. This spa city was founded in 190BC, and the ruins are notably well preserved. Visiting the Necropolis and theatre are a must, as is the Antique Pool, or Cleopatra Pool, where many a famous person bathed.
This area is something that will make your jaw drop. Here you’ll find roman columns that have submerged into the water due to a large earthquake many years ago. There are changing facilities next to the pools, for when you’re finished bathing in the crystal clear waters. There is also a nearby archaeology museum if you want to learn more.
Of course, the local area is also great for hiking and walking if you want to burn off some calories or generally soak up the local atmosphere.
How to Get To Pamukkale
Pamukkale is a short distance from the city of Denizli, located in south-western Turkey. Denizli is just 15 minutes away from Pamukkale, and there are regular local buses, or you can just take a taxi.
There are several ways to get to Pamukkale, depending upon where you are basing yourself.
- Fly from Istanbul – If you’re in Istanbul, you can fly to Denizli in one hour. You can then take the shuttle bus from the airport into the city center (about one hour) depending upon traffic and then a taxi or a short bus ride to Pamukkale.
- Train/bus/drive from Izmir – If you’re in Izmir, you can take the train, the bus, or drive to Denizli. The drive is around 3 hours, but the bus will take you anywhere up to 5 hours, depending on where it stops. The train is around a 6-hour journey, but it is super-scenic and definitely worthwhile. Again, you’ll then take the bus or taxi into Pamukkale.
- Excursion from a tourist resort – In any of the southern tourist resorts, you’ll see trips to both Pamukkale and Ephesus. Some allow you to see both and in that case, you’ll stay one or two nights with bus travel and accommodation included in the price of your trip, or you can make a day trip to Pamukkale, usually leaving very early in the morning and arriving back in the early evening. These trips include your entrance fee (usually, so double check) and are available from Marmaris, Icmeler, Bodrum, Gumbet, Dalyan, and Kusadasi. If you’re staying over in the Antalya region and want to visit Pamukkale, excursion offices will often arrange this for you, but it will undoubtedly be a two-night-long trip at least.
- Train from Selcuk (Ephesus) – If you’re visiting Ephesus first, you can quickly jump over to Pamukkale on the train from the nearest station, called Selcuk. The journey takes just over 3 hours and once you arrive in Denizli, simply get the bus or a taxi over to Pamukkale.
- From Cappadocia – There are several ways to get from Cappadocia to Pamukkale; use this guide for all of the nitty-gritty.
A Word About Safety At Pamukkale
Don’t panic; Pamukkale is not unsafe in any particular way; it’s simply that it’s, well, a little slippery. A friend of mine was happily making her way over the travertines, enjoying the scenery and taking photos as she went, only to step on a remarkably smooth bit of calcium deposit coated with water. You can guess what happened next – broken leg.
Many people visit Pamukkale year upon year and have zero problems but simply be aware that water and rocks do create a slippery surface. If you’re too busy taking photos and not paying much attention to where you’re putting your feet, you could end up with a nasty fall.
You’re asked to take your shoes off when you walk over the travertines to avoid damaging them any further than they already are. Pamukkale is very, very old and since tourist has been in this region for many decades, the travertines have been eroded and damaged a little. Some of them are closed off to prevent further damage from occurring, but you can still walk over many of them, with small pools of water on top for ease of walking, as long as you follow the marked footpath and avoid wearing anything on your feet.
Pamukkale Entrance Fees
You can enter Pamukkale from three different points – the town center entrance, north, and south. All points have ticket offices on them, and you can choose between a few other options.
Pamukkale is open from 6.30 am until 11 pm during the summer months and opening times during winter vary slightly according to the weather, so you will need to check out times just before you visit.
The baseline entrance fee is 80TL for both adults and children. Parking is 5TL. The entrance fee doesn’t include entry into the Antique Pool, and for that, you will need to pay 50TL extra. Do be aware that the Antique Pool isn’t open during the winter.
Best Time To Go To Pamukkale
Pamukkale is open all year round, but the busiest time is obviously during the summer months. This is a combination of tourists visiting the beach resorts around this part of the country and incredible weather. However, if you want to visit during the cooler months, that’s perfectly acceptable too, and you might even get to see a snowy scene if you’re lucky! Again, remember that swimming in the Antique Pool isn’t possible during the winter months (too cold and it’s closed!)
From June until the end of September, Pamukkale is very, very busy, and July and August are stifling hot and extremely busy. Remember to wear a hat and drink plenty of water, slapping on that sunscreen too as there is no shade while out on the travertines, and even when you’re in the Antique Pool, that sun can be fierce, despite the slight shade from the trees.
From June to September, the temperatures can easily hit 40 degrees, especially in July. However, May is a wonderful time to visit Pamukkale, although the shoulder seasons can bring a little more rain than during the summer when it’s zero. May to June and September to October are more comfortable in terms of weather and crowds, with temperatures hovering around the high 20s and early 30s. Rain isn’t often unpredictable if it does come at this time, and a quick check on the forecast should tell you what’s going to occur.
If you want to visit during the winter, you’ll have Pamukkale largely to yourself, but it will be cold. In January, the weather can often hit zero, and it can rain quite unpredictably, but it can snow too! Despite that, this part of Turkey does experience many mild, sunny, winter days so you may hit the jackpot.
Best Places To Stay At Pamukkale
Pamukkale itself has a few great quality hotels and guest houses, and although their prices are higher, due to the close proximity, this will save you the drive to and from Denizli every day. If you’re visiting Pamukkale during peak season and want to stay close by, it’s certainly worth booking well ahead of time to avoid disappointment and get a good deal.
A few accommodation options you might like to look into include:
- Pamukkale Melrose Viewpoint Suites – This is a very central spot with its own swimming pool on site and breakfast included in the price. It’s literally a stone’s throw from the center of Pamukkale town, and it has an onsite restaurant and bar for evening chills.
- Bellamaritimo Hotel – This is another very close hotel, and it has a shuttle to the travertines too. This is a small hotel, so it feels family-run, but it has a swimming pool and a small restaurant that provides breakfast every morning.
- Hierapark Thermal & Spa Hotel – This one is seriously impressive, although slightly further away from Pamukkale itself. There is a shuttle that goes into town, however. The hotel has an onsite spa and a huge swimming pool.
- Venus Suite Hotel – This is a very popular hotel, and it’s a stone’s throw from the town center itself. The views from the rooms are second to none, and breakfast is included, which can be eaten al fresco during the summer.
- Lycus River Thermal Hotel – At just 2 miles away from Pamukkale itself, this hotel is a five-star choice which many people choose for the relaxing atmosphere. Breakfast and dinner are included in the price, and it’s an awe-inspiring choice for anyone who wants to chill out.
Final Thoughts On Pamukkale
Pamukkale is on many a bucket list, and with relatively easy access from major towns and cities, there’s no excuse not to go. This is one of those places that will remain with you forever, however, do remember to tread carefully and don’t end up like my friend!