People in Turkey say that Pamukkale is the eighth wonder of the world. Although, other than Turks, Ukrainians, and Russians, not many people have even heard about this place. And if with Turkish people it is understandable, for Ukrainians and Russians I need to give a small explanation. It is quite simple that for my country, which is Ukraine, Turkey is one of the most popular spots to vacation. It is warm, beautiful, the flight is short, and most importantly it is cheap. In my opinion the best way to visit Pamukkale is by yourself, not with a large tour group.
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Now, for those who have never been or even heard of this place, in this article I will explain what it is, why I recommend visiting this location (and I do strongly recommend it). And most importantly I will tell you the best way to visit Pamukkale to avoid the crowds and get the most out of your time.
Pamukkale is a town that is located in the west of Turkey. What makes it so special? Well, there are a few things really. First of all is the mineral-rich thermal water flowing down the travertine terraces. Second, the ancient city of Hierapolis that was built in 190 B.C. to be a spa city on the top of the hill with the travertine terraces. And the third reason is the Cleopatra pool. And now I will tell you a little about all the things to do in Pamukkale.
Hierapolis is an ancient Roman city, a spa city. Which may sound weird for that time, but it was the actual reason for creating a huge city with many buildings, infrastructure, a theater and many other things.
Hierapolis was built on top of the hill with the travertine terraces and pools of mineral water. It was a favorite place of recreation and vacation for many wealthy people. And I definitely can see why, the warm mineral water that comes from the ground is said to affect bodies in a healing way.
The first thing that you will see entering the main upper gate will be the city of Hierapolis. Of course, not much was preserved since it was built, but one thing stands now in a very good shape. The ancient theater of Hierapolis is majestic and quite well preserved. You will see it on your right. To see the beauty of this theater you would need to walk around it so that you will be able to see the stage.
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Pamukkale is most famous due to the travertine terraces and warm mineral water. I would tell you though, what I saw was not what I was expecting (in a bad and in a good way). First, the travertine terraces are way bigger than I expected, in fact, the whole hill is covered in travertine and it looks like a snowy mountain. Then there is the water temperature. Only some pools had the warm water, the others were cold or completely empty.
To not ruin travertine people are asked to take their shoes off and walk barefoot, which is not painful, although it can be slippery, so watch where you are going.
There is a legend that Cleopatra bathed in the water from this pool, although there is no explanation if she came to the pool or the water was taken to her. But that is how this particular pool got the name “Cleopatra pool”.
This actually was my favorite part. The Cleopatra pool is quite big (proper) pool (not at all like travertine terrace pools) and very warm. Cody and I visited Pamukkale in September when the weather was very pleasant and warm, but the water in the pool was way warmer (felt like a hot tea). But this is not even the best part. The best part is that a long time ago there was an earthquake and many Roman columns fell in the bottom of the pool and now you can swim over these columns. Silly, but I felt like Lara Croft or Indiana Jones exploring hidden ruins of the ancient city.
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Now that you might want to go and see all of these yourself I will tell you the best way to visit Pamukkale.
Many tourists (mostly from Ukraine, Russia, Poland, and Belarus) are coming to visit Pamukkale in big tour groups from Antalya, Alanya, Kemer and so on. And believe me when I tell you that you will want to avoid these types of crowds in this place. For this I would recommend coming to Pamukkale town a day before, getting a hotel or bed and breakfast overnight, and going to the travertine terraces very early in the morning.
To get to Pamukkale you can go by bus pretty much from any big city in Turkey. We got to Pamukkale (Denizli) from Kusadasi (after visiting Ephesus and the temple of Artemis). It took us around 5 hours (due to traffic) and 44 TL ($5,5) per person. Or you can fly directly to Denizli airport from Istanbul daily.
Since we didn’t want to be in a hurry, Cody and I decided to stay for two nights close to the travertine terraces at the Venus Suites Hotel (click here to read my review). From the bus station (in Denizli) to our hotel it took us 20 minutes by taxi and 70 TL ($8,7).
Since our hotel offered a shuttle bus to the upper entrance to Pamukkale for free we woke up to get on the first one which was at 8 in the morning. However, if you want the whole place to yourself I do recommend going there as early as 6 AM.
At the upper gate you can buy a ticket to the travertine terraces and Hierapolis. The ticket costs 80 TL ($10). Your walk will start from exploring Hierapolis. The travertine terraces will be on the left from the end of the main walking path through Hierapolis. And on the right will be an ancient theater which you should visit before visiting the travertine terraces (before getting wet).
After exploring Hierapolis you will want to see the travertine terraces and the pools with mineral water. And I know that you expect warm nice water, but unfortunately not all the pools will be warm. This is a bit disappointing, but other than that and the crowd (if you will come too late), the white hill looks fantastic and you can have a nice walk along the travertine pools.
Behind the travertine terraces you will see one more entrance\exit which you can take after you are finished with the Cleopatra Pool.
To get to Cleopatra pool you will need to go up the white hill (travertine hill) and walk back a bit. There you will see Hierapolis Archeology Museum and Cleopatra pools.
To see the pool you won’t need to buy an additional ticket, but to swim in it the ticket will be needed. It is a bit pricey at 100 TL ($12,5) per person. And even so I do recommend going for a swim. If Cody would not make me get out of the pool eventually, I could easily spend there a whole day, that is how relaxing and pleasing, and interesting this place is.
Flip-flops: You are not allowed to wear shoes while walking on the travertine, so flipflops will be a convenient choice to easily slip in and out of.
Sunglasses: Travertine is white and reflects the sun very well. Do not forget to bring sunglasses so that your eyes will not hurt
Cap or a Summer hat: It is really easy not to notice how hot it is when you are walking in the water and get sunstroke
Towel: You will get wet no matter if it is at the travertine terraces or the Cleopatra pool
Bathing suit: There are changing rooms on the territory if you don’t want to wear it from the hotel
Water: Remember to stay hydrated
Camera, Phone: Pamukkale is an amazing place and you will want to get at last a few pictures. I do recommend bringing GoPro as well if you have it