Pamukkale. “Cotton Castle” in Turkish. Certainly a place like no other. You can understand where the name comes from. It really feels like a majestic castle. A surreal location. An optical illusion of snow colored rocks and turquoise water.
The shimmering terraces that look like white snow banks are actually limestone. The beautiful blue waters that collect all up the mountainside are mineral rich, specifically in calcium. Is there any better combination than amazingly beautiful AND healing resort?
Pamukkale and Hierapolis have a long ancient history dating back to the 7th century BCE! Would you believe that Hierapolis is an ancient resort city with thermal spas dating back to 2nd century BCE!!! It was an ancient healing center and doctors would use the thermal waters for treatments. Isn’t it incredible to think that the exact same thing that draws modern tourists to this awesome place has been drawing tourists for thousands of years???
When to Visit
The best time to visit Pamukkale is definitely Spring. Mild temperatures, low chance of rain. Summer can get EXTREMELY hot (we went in July and it was 42 C even around 4:00 PM). Winter can even see snow! Of course, however, it can be beautiful and enjoyable in all seasons.
Regardless of the season you go, GET THERE EARLY. Pamukkale is Turkey’s most visited tourist attraction (per ticket sales) and there are ALWAYS TONS OF PEOPLE. Seriously, so many people. The first day we went was on a weekday, in the afternoon, around 3:00 PM (big mistake). It was hard to find a place where there were no people or even a small amount of people. Around sunset time the people begin to clear out and it is more enjoyable. Also early in the morning, right when they open, is ideal.
When we visited, the opening hours were between 8:00 to 9:00 PM. The entrance ticket includes the travertines and also Hierapolis (the ancient Greco-Roman city)
Pamukkale in the Morning
There is little more amazing than the feeling of being totally alone at this stunning location. Early in the morning before the crowds pour in. Just sunshine, turquoise waters, and snow like terraces.
The beauty was even more remarkable with no distractions from any people. Truly a once in a lifetime experience. Just blue and white as far as the eye can see.
This teal maxi dress that I’m wearing was handmade SPECIFICALLY for my trip to Turkey. I saw the magnificence of this place and just had to make something beautiful just for the occasion.
Pamukkale at Sunset
I honestly wasn’t expecting to visit the terraces more than once, but the sunset while swimming in these amazing waters was just something that couldn’t be missed!
The pure blue and white transforms into a magical array of pinks, purples, and pastels of all sorts. The city lights up below. A fairy tale.
How to Get There
Some say a day trip is enough. You can leave from Istanbul, the beach cities around Antalya, and a variety of other locations. However, I think it is worth it to spend the night. It is quite out of the way, the drive can be 3+ hours each way on some occasions, and it only allows for a short visit to this awesome place. We spent one night there, enabling us to visit twice…at sunset and early morning. Regardless of how long you stay, there are multiple ways to get there.
Flight – Pamukkale is right next to the big city of Denizli. Like just about all Turkish cities, there is an airport. Domestic flights are very cheap in Turkey, costing between $20-$40. You can then take a taxi or shuttle to the Pamukkale which will take about 50 minutes as the airport is a bit outside of the main part of the city.
Bus – We traveled to Pamukkale by bus. Turkey has a wonderful bus system with very high quality coaches (sometimes they even offer ice cream during your ride). The tickets are very reasonably priced (around 70-80 Tl) and will usually take you to Denizli central station. For about 5 Tl you can then take a 20 minute shuttle to Pamukkale.
Car – Car is certainly the fastest way to get there. However, depending on where you are coming from, the fee for dropping off the car in a city different than where you picked it up can be very high.
Where to Stay
As Pamukkale itself is a pretty small village, there aren’t too many hotels to chose from. During the 1960s there was also a “hotel boom” per say that almost led to the destruction of the site. The hotels drained the water from the terraces, muddied the pristine white limestone, and almost lead to complete destruction. Since then, it has been declared a World Heritage Site and now there are must stricter rules. Less hotels and farther away from the actually travertines.
We stayed at the Pamukkale Melrose Viewpoint Hotel. It was about a 10 minute walk from the actual site, in a quiet area of the town. A mom and pop hotel, all the staff were very helpful and friendly.
COST– 80 Tl (as of July 2020) per person per visit. The tickets are single entry so if you are planning on going twice like we did, you’ll have to pay the full fee twice. If you are spending at least 7 days in Turkey, I would definitely recommend buying a Museum Pass. You’ll definitely save in the long run.
SHOES – Or perhaps more appropriately, the required lack of…is a very important thing to keep in mind. No shoes are allowed to be worn while walking up the limestone travertines, in order to preserve them. Sandals, or other easily removable shoes, are the most recommended. Also, the travertines are not particularly soft and there can be some pointy formations so imagine walking on pebbles.
DON’T FORGET – sunglasses and a bathing suit. The reflection of the white limestone is VERY BRIGHT. Like the sun glare of snow. Definitely also bring a bathing suit, preferably worn underneath your clothes as there isn’t really a place to change along the way.
BE READY FOR A CLIMB – Unless you come on a tour bus, which is likely to drive you to the top of the travertines, be ready for a climb. It is not a hard or particularly steep climb, but a climb nonetheless.
FOOD and WATER – There is a small cafe at the top, but obviously a bit expensive considering the location. The restaurants and cafes in the actual town of Pamukkale is far more reasonably priced with far better options.
EXPLORE – There is more to see than just the travertines. Just a short walk away there is an extremely impressive ancient Amphitheater. There is also the Hierapolis Archaeology Museum. The Antique Pools, also known as Cleopatra’s Pools (an extra cost) are also a great place to explore if you want to swim among ancient ruins in a centuries old “spa” pool. They also offer hot air balloon rides and paragliding for the most adventurous!
Any other questions about Pamukkale? About Turkey in general? We’d be more than happy to answer them all!
Lots of love and safe travels,
xoxoxoxo Danielle and Brooke, Colorful Sisters