I found out that Pamukkale is Turkey’s most visited attraction whilst doing my pre-trip research.. and boy, were they right!
It’s always a safe bet to arrive early to most tourist attractions but I feel a lot of my success this day was down to luck. However, I would love to share all the things I learnt about my visit so you can have a super successful visit to Pamukkale too!
What is Pamukkale?
Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, literally looks like.. well a cotton castle. Formed by a carbonate mineral left by the flowing water, Pamukkale is a series of terraced pools resting into the hillside. Although it seems people don’t seem to be completely certain as to how it was created. At the top of Pamukkale is the incredible ancient Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis, chosen to sit atop the “cotton castle” with an abundance of hot springs.
Where is Pamukkale?
Located in South West Turkey, approximately 20km from the major town of Denizli.
How do I get there?
You can arrive in Denizli by bus, train and plane. If you arrive by bus or train, you need to head to the lower level of the Denizli bus station (the two are across the road from each other), and look for the dolmus shuttle at peron (gate) 76. It’s only about a 30 minute drive to Pamukkale and you just hail for your hotel when you arrive in the town – there’s no bus station the other end.
Where to stay?
There are a number of hotels in Pamukkale, none of which are super exciting or fantastic really. The town really exists purely because of tourism and this means there’s no character to the place and it’s a bit of a run down, quiet place.
I chose to stay at the Melrose House Hotel which made a perfect base with plenty of kittens and a lovely swimming pool.
How much is entry?
A ticket costs 25TL which gives you entry to both Hierapolis and Pamukkale. To swim in the Cleopatra pools is an extra 32TL.
My top tips for a visit to Pamukkale..
1. Arrive early
It’s fairly useful advice for any tourist attraction but it’s VITAL for visiting Pamukkale. The crowds descending on the pools in their masses and it completely changed the experience.
I arrived at about 8.30am and enjoyed about 40 mins of the pools to myself and a handful of others.
2. Enter through the lower gate
Enter through the gate nearest to the town and the Gendarma (police station). It’s pedestrian only and means you come in right by the pools. It extends your time without crowds significantly as the buses arrive at the top by the upper gate. They slowly come down the path by the pools from the top but stop to take so many photos on the way down that it bides you some time at the lower pools for sure.
3. Bring a waterproof bag and wear swimwear
I was surprised to find that much of the white chalky surface was wet. There were few places to put my bag down to keep it dry. You will also definitely find yourself in your swimwear all day long, in fact, people even seemed to walk around the ruins in their swimwear – quite the sight!
Also, you will be walking barefoot, but it’s surprisingly grippy!
4. Plan to go up for the day
Once you’ve enjoyed the pools and spent your time frolicking in them, definitely make sure you climb all the way to the top as there is so much more to do.
Hierapolis is the most incredible Ancient Greek city, sprawling out above the Pamukkale pools. As another UNESCO World Heritage site and somewhat similar to Ephesus, I do feel that Hierapolis sits in its shadow. It would also be fair to say that the pools draw the crowds and the ruins are more of a sideshow – but I thought they were fantastic.
The amphitheatre was incredible and the views with the mountains behind were amazing!
Together with the ruins, you can swim in the hot springs (the Cleopatra Pools) and enjoy the sun loungers and cafes at the top – easily lose a full day up there.
The Romans once bathed in these pools, and it is quite the surreal experience to swim amongst submerged columns.
5. Take a picnic
Assuming you do chose to spend the day up there, the only food options are the tackier cafes by the Cleopatra pools. It didn’t look wildly appetising and I was grateful for the pre-prepared baguettes I had!
Interestingly though, there are ATMs up there!
So these are my top tips for visiting Pamukkale, this incredible (and popular) destination!
Have you been to Pamukkale and Hierapolis?? Do you have any other tips for visitors to this amazing place? I’d love to hear if so – drop a comment below!
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