Pamukkale, which means ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish, is one of the most extraordinary natural wonders in Turkey and one of the most famous attractions. This fairyland was formed by the underground volcanic activity where hot thermal water springs pouring down the hillside deposit calcium carbonate minerals, which solidifies as fantastic concretions on the travertine structures.
The area is covered with 17 hot water springs with a temperature of 35 °C to 100 °C. This hot waters are carried 300 meters up to the head of the travertine terraces by the underground pressures. Once reached the top, the water starts to travel the terrace and leaves the calcium carbonate minerals in the sections. The resulting effect is spectacular: these mineral-rich waters have dripped down over a series of terraced levels designing bizarre solidified cascades, dazzling in their radiance and changing their color when the sunlight strikes them with its warm rays.
Part of the travertines are restricted to preserve them but there is an area where you can walk on the terraces through the mineral water and down all the way to the bottom of the hill. With no doubt , walking down on the path while 35ºC Spring water flowing around your feet and looking at the sunset while bathing in the pools is a thing not to be missed.
This unique natural site embraces the ancient Roman city called Hierapolis which has the largest known graveyard of the antiquity that gives this site another unique character. Hierapolis, World Heritage site since 1988 with Pamukkale, means ‘’sacred city’’, and it was founded on this site in the 2nd century B. C. by Pergamon kingdom and reached the height of its development as a Roman thermal bath center between the 2nd and 3rd centuries.
It differs from all other ancient cities because is not located not on earth or rock, but on solid limestone layers formed by limestone water that flowed for centuries over this raised level plateau.Strolling along the walking path, Hierapolis has such extensive ruins which is suggested: the city walls, a main street which is 1500 meters long, the octagonal Martyrium of St. Philip, the 2nd century theater with a capacity of 15.000 people, Temple of Apollo, a 4th century basilica, a necropolis with over 1200 graves, then the ancient thermal baths which have been restored and converted into an archaeological museum.
Getting there: the best way is to rent a car. Driving around Turkey is very easy and all the roads are in a good conditions. If you are coming from Cappadocia, you should have an overnight in Konya (about 400 km) unless you want to go straight (650 km). Pamukkale is about a 4-hour drive from Bodrum and a 3-hour drive from Izmir. Other option take the bus to Denizli, a big city just 16 km from Pamukkale. There are buses to Denizli from Cappadocia (9 hrs ride) and Bodrum ( 5 hrs ride ), then here in Denizli take a local bus to Pamukkale. You’ll find also buses to – from Izmir (4 hrs ride), Istanbul (14 hrs ride) and Ankara (7 hrs ride). Website: https://www.kamilkoc.com.tr/
Where to sleep: around the sites there is a wide range of accommodations. Most of the hotels have the thermal pool. The best place is Pamukkale town, located at the base of the travertine hill and next to the Pamukkale site gate . The Sahin Hotel, Mustafa Hotel, Alida Hotel and Ozen turku Pension are just few minutes walk from the entrance and offer a good price. I slept in Karahayit town, 3 km from Hierapolis- Pamukkale north gate entrance, at Pamukkale Herakles Hotel. Here, along Ataturk street you’ll also find a night market and restaurants.
Entrance fee: there are three different entrances for Pamukkale Hierapolis: Pamukkale town entrance, North entrance and South entrance. These entrances grant you access to the Pamukkale travertine thermal pools and Hierapolis ancient city. Opening times are between 08:00 to 21:00 in the summer (8.30 – 17.00 winter) for an entrance fee of 35 Turkish Lira. Paying a separate ticket fee of 32 TL you can also bathe inside the Antique Pool ( close to the Museum), a modern spa complex with a thermal pool that is open to the public ( bring your own towel). The pool is surrounded by lush greenery and in it are marble columns, capitals and plinths that are believed to have fallen from the nearby Temple of Apollo during an earthquake, making this a sacred pool.The best entrance to visit the whole site is the north gate. By cab or car you can drive from Pamukkale Town toward Karahayıt for about 2 kilometers to reach the car park. Pay the parking and admission fees, then walk for 20 to 30 minute through the vast North Necropolis to the top of the travertines, Antique Pool, Archeological Museum, and ruins of Hierapolis. Once out from the Pamukkale town gate, if u parked your car at the north entrance gate, take a cab to get there.