The ancient city of Pamukkale, Turkey and its attractions

Pamukkale

Pamukkale is an area in Turkey with geothermal springs which have no analogues anywhere in the world. The unique resort and a stunning natural site is located in the south-west of the country, 20 km from the town of Denizli. The complex of 17 mineral springs, known since ancient times, is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is the edge of an ancient volcanic plateau, which rises 100 meters above the plain.

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Video: Pamukkale

Highlights

Mineral water, heated to +30 … +100 °C by the earth’s interior, has flowed down the slopes of the plateau for thousands of years, forming travertines – small natural pools of quirky shapes with limestone rims. The springs, oversaturated with calcium bicarbonate, form a precipitate of pure snow-white color on the surface. Besides calcium, the water is rich in other chemical elements and compounds: magnesium, hydrocarbon, sodium sulfate. Over the centuries, this white blanket has covered the entire slope of the plateau, and today Pamukkale, which in Turkish means “Cotton Castle”, really looks like a huge mountain of cotton, laid out by mythical giants to dry. In fact, the natural phenomenon was formed by powerful earthquakes that moved the rocks and created fractures through which groundwater rushed to the surface.

In the II century, the Romans built near the travertine city of Hierapolis, which later became a resort. For many decades, excavations have been conducted in the vicinity of the springs, shedding light on the history of the ancient settlement. In 2012, archaeologists found the tomb of the Basilica of St. Philip, and a year later discovered the cave of Pluto – a place considered in ancient times as the entrance to the Underworld.

Ancient Hierapolis Amphitheater in Hierapolis

Not so long ago in Pamukkale could be visited only for a day trip, but with the advent of hotels and health centers on its territory the flow of tourists rushed here. All hotels offer spa saloons with revitalizing sessions performed by high-class medical professionals.

Entrance to Pamukkale

Around Pamukkale are full of stalls with souvenirs, the atmosphere is always festive. But the popularity has a downside: the influx of visitors is too great, many tend to swim in the springs without washing off their suntan oil; all this leads to pollution and the destruction of a unique natural complex.

Nowadays, only a narrow passageway is left for visitors to see all the beauties up close. But to walk is allowed only barefoot, and it is not an easy test – your feet are slippery. Bathing is also allowed only in the specially designated area. Water again flows down the terraces, ponds and gradually their former whiteness returns.

Tourists in Pamukkale

Why to go

The thermal springs of Pamukkale are visited not only to see and capture the fantastic beauty of this unique place, but also to recover in the healing water, the baths of which, according to legend, Cleopatra herself took. Also, recovery courses including mud treatment, taking mineral water and rejuvenation procedures are organized at the resort. The water from the springs is of three types, each of which helps in treating certain ailments: rickets, rheumatism, cardio-vascular and gastrointestinal diseases, psoriasis, eczema, and relieves fatigue and stress.

If you want to enjoy the unreal splendor of the plateau, try to come here at sunrise or sunset, then you will not see it snow-white, but pink.

The main gate to Hierapolis

Attractions

A short distance separates the resort from the ancient monument, the city of Hierapolis, founded over 4000 years ago. There are several interesting objects on its territory:

  • An amphitheater that can accommodate 15,000 people;
  • Necropolis with various types of burials – crypts, tombs and sarcophagi;
  • The Temple of Apollo, built in 206. The history of these cult constructions dedicated to the God of Light is curious: they were always built in seismically active places, where poisonous vapors emerged from a break in the earth’s crust. The priests, to whom the faithful called for help, let the bird fly into the temple and invoke Apollo to kill it, as proof of their connection with God. The bird died of gas poisoning, proving the power of the priest.
  • The temple of St. Philip was built in the 4th century. It is believed that the tomb of the apostle is located near the shrine, but so far it has not been found. Hierapolis Museum with beautiful antique statues and bas-reliefs, sarcophagi and a collection of ancient coins.
  • Sanctuary of Pluto.
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Archaeological research is still going on in the ancient polis.

Cleopatra’s Pool has been welcoming the sufferers since Roman times. The origin of the open-air Jacuzzi is man-made; at the bottom of the pool there are still marble fragments of Roman thermae. Today’s appearance of the pool was recreated in the 1960s. The pool is divided by a rope into two halves – deep and shallow. The maximum depth of the pool – 3 meters, the water temperature – +34 … +36 °. In the shallow water you can relax sitting on the large stones. For the comfort of visitors the pool is equipped with ropes, on which it is nice to hang and relax.

Before entering the pond, it is advisable to visit the showers, which are located near the water and have lockers for clothing.

About 13 km from Pamukkale are the ruins of Laodikia, an ancient town founded in the 3rd century B.C. Frequent earthquakes destroyed the city, and now the ruins of the Temple of Nymphs, thermae, a stadium and two theaters can be seen on its site.

Infrastructure

The resort is home to the large Pamukkale Thermal Baths, open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., admission costs $6.50.

At the top of the slope is another health center Karhait, very popular with tourists, because the healing procedures here use water from three different composition of springs.

View of Pamukkale and surroundings Pamukkale Museum

Pamukkale Museum, located in the complex of ancient thermae, is open all days except Monday from 08.00 to 20.00, the entrance fee is about $ 1.

In Pamukkale you can choose a hotel of any category available to you: from budget hostels to luxury hotels.

Some hotels in Pamukkale:

    – large comfortable hotel with its own thermal pool and wellness center. Price from $60 per room. – Spacious panoramic pool; national and vegetarian cuisine; services of a massage therapist. Room rates from $35. – 700 meters from the springs, price from $45 per room. – Great views of the travertines; Turkish, vegetarian and Asian cuisine; in-house thermal springs and pools; room rates from $50.

Find catering facilities to your liking in Pamukkale is not a problem – the town has a good selection of cafes and restaurants.

The resort has a sufficient number of souvenir stores offering products from cotton, leather, onyx and ceramics.

Spa town by the springs

Useful information

Travertines are formed from fragile limestone, which can easily disintegrate under external influences, so swimming in them is prohibited. Walking is permitted only barefoot and only in the specially designated area. For those wishing to undergo procedures in the spring there is a separate place at the base of the plateau – the so-called Cleopatra Pool.

Entrance to the travertine is available round the clock and costs 25 liras (about $9), bathing in the spring – 30 liras (about $11) for adults, and 13 liras ($4.5) for children from 6 to 12 years. Young tourists under the age of 6 are admitted free of charge. Tickets can also be purchased in advance on the resort’s official website, www.pamukkale.com.tr. The entrance fee is charged only during daylight hours.

There are two ways to get to the springs: by climbing up the mountain from Pamukkale near the lake or by going through the entrance next to the northern necropolis of Hierapolis. In the first case, visitors take off their shoes immediately (this is controlled by a strict guard), and in the second case you have to take off your shoes right next to the travertine, which will take a long walk through the ruins of the ancient city.

If you decide to go to Pamukkale in an organized group, you should know that the cost of excursions offered by the hotel guide will be 2, and even 3 times more expensive than similar proposals in the street agency. Remember that the health insurance you bought not from the tour operator, but from an insurance company, and it is valid throughout the country. If your hotel guide insists that in case of an accident during the excursion with a third-party travel agency, you will be deprived of medical care, he is lying, and simply does not want to lose his commission.

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Be prepared for the fact that during any tour you will certainly be taken to the factories and stores, where the proposed products are sold at much higher prices than in other places. On the way back there will be obligatory stops at wineries, so you will not have much time for the tour itself, although you will pay a pretty penny ($80-120) for visiting the resort. In addition, you will come to the site at lunch time, when there are concentrated tourist flows, and it is quite difficult to appreciate all the beauty of this place. So it is better to buy excursions only with a visit to Pamukkale or go there by yourself early in the morning.

Going to the resort, be sure to take sunglasses, because the snow-white coating of the slope reflects the sunlight, tangibly irritating to the eyes, a bag for shoes, a towel, otherwise, if you swim in the pool of the Egyptian queen, you will have to buy it at the local shop at a fabulous price, swimsuit, a cape from the sun, drinking water.

The best time to visit the springs is spring or early fall, when there are no crowds of tourists and it is not so hot.

In Pamukkale, Denizli and Buldan (30 km from the resort) you can buy fine cotton products such as hats, tablecloths, clothes, curtains, stoles.

Pamukkale at peak hours Tourist Bus

How to get there

By air – Istanbul and Denizli are connected by direct flights, flight time is 1 hour and 10 minutes, flights are made twice a day. The ticket costs from 40 to 120 liras, depending on the airline. The flights arrive in Ciardak airport, 65 km from Denizli, from where you can take a shuttle (10 lira) and a cab (70 lira, the price goes up by 50% at night) to Pamukkale. Better use the order of a cab online, for example, in KiwiTaxi – you will know the exact fare and can cooperate with fellow travelers.

By bus – From Antalya’s central bus station Otogar there are buses going via Denizli every half an hour from 07:30 to 01:30. The bus covers the distance of 224 kilometers in 3-4 hours. If you got a direct ticket to Pamukkale, the bus will take you to Denizli bus station and you will not have to pay anything else. If you have paid only to Denizli then from there you have to take a direct bus to Pamukkale.

A bus connection connects Denizli with many resort towns in Turkey as well – Kemer, Alanya, Marmaris and others.

If you are traveling by car, you should take the D350/E87 and D585 highways. From Denizli you need to turn left onto the D320 and follow the signs to Hierapolis and Pamukkale.

Pamukkale, Turkey: The 4 main sights

Pamukkale in Turkey is a unique natural site located in the southwest part of the country 16 km away from the town of Denizli. The uniqueness of the place lies in its geothermal springs formed among the travertine deposits. In Turkish Pamukkale means ‘Cotton Castle’ and the name perfectly reflects the appearance of the site. The object, which has no analogues in the world, is under the protection of UNESCO and annually attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists vacationing in the resorts of Turkey.

Pamukkale, Turkey

To appreciate the beauty of the site, just look at photos of Pamukkale. The object existed already in ancient times: it is known that in the 2nd century BC King Eumenes II of Pergamon erected the city of Hierapolis near the area. But how did the natural complex itself form?

For thousands of years, thermal waters with temperatures ranging from 30 to 100 ° C washed the surface of the plateau. Over time, miniature mineral pools began to form here, framed by travertine and descending in a fanciful cascade down the slope. Due to the high concentration of calcium bicarbonate in the water over the centuries, the mountain surface was covered with snow-white sediments.

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Huge flows of foreigners.

Today the area where Pamukkale is located has 17 full-fledged mineral springs rich in useful chemical elements. A huge flow of foreigners wanting to see the unique attraction and swim in its thermal pools, gave impetus to the development of tourism infrastructure. In Pamukkale appeared hotels and restaurants, stores and souvenir shops, which allowed tourists to stay here for long periods. A single day at the Cotton Castle is clearly not enough: in addition to the natural complex itself, there are several interesting historical monuments near the site, which it would be a great omission not to get acquainted with.

Sightseeing in the vicinity

Photos of Pamukkale in Turkey have managed to fascinate millions of travelers and continue to attract more and more inquisitive travelers to the site each year. The intricate natural complex combined with ancient buildings becomes a real tourist treasure. What historical monuments can be seen near the thermal resort?

Among the attractions of Pamukkale in Turkey, first of all stands out an ancient amphitheater, which is one of the largest in the country. Over the centuries, the structure has been seriously damaged, mostly due to powerful earthquakes. The theater was restored several times, but the structure was repeatedly exposed to the elements. In the 11th century, the structure survived its final decline and began to be used for domestic needs. The last reconstruction of the amphitheater took more than 50 years and ended only in 2013.

The Ancient Amphitheater

Hierapolis, situated near the thermal springs, was very popular with the Romans, who could not imagine their leisure time without spectacular performances. The amphitheatre with a seating capacity of 15,000 people served for a long time as a stage for gladiatorial fights. Until now the building is in good condition, thanks to the long restoration work. The acoustics inside are excellent even today. There are also spectator seats opposite the stage that were meant for the high-ranking visitors.

Pamukkale attractions are also represented by the ruins of ancient temples of Hierapolis. At the beginning of the 3rd century a temple dedicated to Apollo, the ancient Greek god of light and art, was built on the territory of the ancient city. The shrine became the largest religious structure in Hierapolis, but over the centuries, like the amphitheatre, it was destroyed by numerous earthquakes.

The Temples of Hierapolis

In the 4th century another temple appeared in the city, built in honor of the Apostle Philip. About 2 millennia ago, the Romans executed the saint at Hierapolis, and until recently, no researcher could find his tomb. In 2016, Italian archaeologists, who have been excavating within the cloister for more than 30 years, still managed to find the chapel-tomb of the apostle, which caused a real furore in research circles and made the temple of Philip a truly sacred place.

The Walled Well - Sanctuary of Pluto

The temple of Pluto, the ruins of which can be found in the ancient city, also arouses interest. The myths of ancient Greece repeatedly describe a kingdom of the dead with a mysterious entrance, located somewhere under the ground. In 2013, Italian researchers have found in Pamukkale so-called Pluto’s Gate. Among the ruins under the tribunes of the temple they managed to find a deep well, at the bottom of which they found the carcasses of dead birds and a statue of Cerberus (the symbol of Pluto). The high concentration of carbon dioxide in the walls of the well, capable of killing an animal within minutes, left no doubt among the ancient inhabitants that it was in Hierapolis where the gates to the netherworld are located.

The building was erected at the beginning of the 5th century in memory of all the martyrs who gave their lives for the faith. The shrine was built on the very spot where, in 87 AD, the Romans crucified St. Philip. The shrine is of great importance in the Christian world and every year pilgrims from different countries come to its ruins to honor the memory of the apostle. The ruins of the martiry are situated on a hill and can be reached by following ancient steps. The structure itself was seriously damaged in earthquakes, and only fragments of walls and columns have survived. There are Christian symbols on the separate stones.

St. Philip's Martyrion

Cleopatra Pool has long been an integral part of Pamukkale. Built over a thermal spring from which the healing water comes, the basin was half destroyed in an earthquake in the 7th century. Parts of the columns and walls that fell into the water were not removed: they are clearly visible in the photo of Cleopatra’s Pool in Pamukkale in Turkey. There is a legend that Cleopatra herself loved to visit the spring, but reliable facts confirming the visits of the Egyptian queen have not been found.

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Cleopatra Pool

During the year, the temperature of the bubbling thermal waters remains at around 37 ° C. The deepest point of the pool reaches a depth of 3 m. Visiting the spring has a healing effect on the whole body and promises to heal skin, neurological, joint diseases, as well as ailments related to the heart, gastrointestinal tract, etc. In general, mineral waters are able to rejuvenate and tone the entire body. However, to achieve the proper effect Cleopatra swimming pool in Pamukkale in Turkey should be visited several times in a row.

Pamukkale in winter: is it worth visiting

Pamukkale Weather

Many tourists wonder if it is worth going to Pamukkale in winter. The answer to this question is not unambiguous, because such a trip has both advantages and disadvantages. The cons primarily refers to the weather: in the winter months the average air temperature during the day in Pamukkale ranges from 10 to 15 ° C. But the temperature of thermal springs remains the same as in summer (about 37 ° C). In the water itself is warm and comfortable, but when you get out of it, you can freeze very quickly. If this temperature difference is not a problem, then you can safely go to the thermal resort, and in low season, because otherwise the trip will leave only positive impressions.

Hierapolis in Pamukkale

Can you swim in Pamukkale in winter, we have already found out. Now it remains to understand what to do after the thermal procedures. As we pointed out above, in the vicinity of the natural complex of Turkey is a lot of interesting sights, which is especially convenient to visit it in the winter. First, during this period there are fewer tourists in Pamukkale. Secondly, the absence of scorching rays of sun and heat allow you to slowly and comfortably explore all the ancient monuments. In addition, local hotels in winter make good discounts, so you can also save money.

Where to stay

Room at Koray Hotel

Koray Hotel

The area of Pamukkale in Turkey offers a rich choice of hotels, both budget and luxury. If the main purpose of your trip is to visit the natural site itself and its surrounding attractions, it is wise to stay in a small village located right at the foot of the snow-white slopes. Local accommodations start at 60 TL per night per room for two. Higher-end options with a pool and complimentary breakfast charge an average of 150 TL for a double room.

Sahin Hotel

Sahin

If you are looking for a comfortable holiday in Pamukkale with its own thermal pools, you are better off looking for accommodation around the resort village of Karahayit, located 7 km north of the Cotton Castle. The price of accommodation for two in such hotels is 350-450 TL per night. The amount includes access to the on-site thermal pools and free breakfasts (some hotels include dinners as well). You can take a cab or public transportation from Karahayit to Pamukkale and the ancient sites.

How to get there

Pamukkale Bus

To understand how to get to Pamukkale, it is important to mark the starting point. Most tourists come to the attraction as part of a tour from the resorts of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. The distance from Pamukkale to the most popular tourist cities is about the same:

  • Antalya – 240 km,
  • Kemer – 275 km,
  • Marmaris – 210 km.

It takes approximately 3-3.5 hours to get to the site.

If you plan an independent trip to the springs, you can use the intercity bus company “Pamukkale”. There are daily flights from almost all cities in southwestern Turkey. Detailed schedules and ticket prices can be found on the company’s official website www.pamukkale.com.tr.

Pegasus Airlines

If you intend to go to Pamukkale from Istanbul (a distance of 570 km), it is easier to use the airways. The nearest airport to the natural site is in the city of Denizli. Several flights of Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines take off daily from Istanbul’s air harbor for a given destination.

  • Travel time ranges from 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes.
  • Ticket prices range from 100-170 TL.
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Excursions

Pamukkale is considered one of the most popular excursion routes, so it is not difficult to buy a tour to the natural site. You can buy tours either from the guides in the hotels, or in street travel agencies behind the hotels. As a rule, the tour in Pamukkale in Turkey comes in two varieties – one-day and two-day. The first option suits tourists who arrived on vacation for a short time and want to get acquainted with the attraction in a hurry. The second type of tour will appeal to those travelers who want to visit everywhere and for a long time.

Pamukkale Pools

If you are wondering what resort is closest to Pamukkale in Turkey, then explain that it is Marmaris. Although Antalya is not much farther from the site. Tourists traveling from Kemer and Alanya will take the longest trip.

Pamukkale Excursion

The price for a trip to Pamukkale in different resorts varies about the same range. First of all, the cost depends on the duration of the tour and the seller itself. All tourists should know that the tour guides are always more expensive than the local Turkish agencies.

  • On average, a one-day trip will cost 250 – 400 TL, two-day – 400 – 600 TL.
  • Entrance to Cleopatra Pool is always charged separately (50 TL).

Regardless of which tourist town you depart for Pamukkale, the departure for the tour will be early in the morning (around 05:00). As a rule, a one-day tour includes a ride in a comfortable bus, a Russian-speaking guide, breakfast and lunch/dinner. The cost of the two-day tour additionally includes an overnight stay in a local hotel.

Entrance to Cotton Castle

The tour of Pamukkale in Turkey begins with a tour of the ancient ruins of Hierapolis. Next, tourists go to the Cotton Castle itself, where they take off their shoes and walk around the shallow thermal springs and take pictures. Afterwards, the guide takes everyone to Cleopatra’s pool. If the tour is a one-day tour, the event is quite dynamic, but if the trip is two days, then no one rushes anyone. Absolutely all tours are accompanied by multiple stops at stores and factories both on the way to the attraction and on the way back.

Cleopatra Pool in Pamukkale

Useful tips

Bottled Water

  1. Going to Pamukkale in Turkey, be sure to take sunglasses. The white calcium deposits in Cotton Castle sharply reflect light in sunny weather, which irritates the mucous membrane of the eyes.
  2. If you plan to swim in the Cleopatra Pool, you should take care of the necessary bathing gear (towel, bathing suit, flip-flops) beforehand. There are, of course, stores in the complex, but their prices are exorbitant.
  3. We have already found out where the closest to Pamukkale in Turkey. But no matter where you leave from, in any case, you will have a long road, so be sure to stock up on bottled water.
  4. If you decide to go to Pamukkale on a tour, then be prepared for frequent stops at local factories and stores. Buying goods in such places is strictly not recommended, because the price tag in them overstated several times. There have been numerous cases of tourists being cheated at the winery, when at the tasting you are given a taste of high-quality delicious wine, but in the bottle they are sold completely different in content the drink, passing off as the original.
  5. Do not be afraid to buy a tour in Pamukkale (Turkey) in street agencies. Claims that on such trips will not work your insurance is a myth and a legend of the guides, seeking by all means not to miss potential customers.

Author: Catherine Unal

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