Pamukkale, Turkey – geological beauty and ancient history rolled into one

Just a day trip from Istanbul lies one of the most beautiful and exquisite natural wonders of the world – Pamukkale. Nearby is the two thousand year old Roman city of Hierapolis – where the Apostle Philip was purportedly martyred in the 1st century AD.

Walk through the warm thermal waters of the travertine pools of Pamukkale in your bare feet as you gaze at the beauty of this geological wonder – where hot calcium-laden waters spring from the earth and cascade over a cliff. As they cool, they form brilliantly white travertine pools – a sight like nowhere else.

Next, head to the ancient Roman city of Hierapolis (“Holy City”) and walk through the 2nd century theater, which had a capacity, back in the day, of 12 to 15K people. As you walk through the recently restored structure, enjoy the spectacular view of the city of Pamukkale below. Then visit the Temple of Apollo where Doric style marble columns, a higher quality than those on the main street, were used in its construction. Next, head to the archaeological museum, which was built in the 2nd century as a Roman bath and gymnasium.

The 2nd century Roman theater in Hierapolis

The 2nd century Roman theater in Hierapolis

For a piece of Christian history, head to the Martyrium of St. Philip – built in the 5th century AD on the purported site of Philip’s martyrdom in the 1st century AD. The eight-sided martyrium has 8 chapels and is enclosed in a rectangular building. A tomb was recently discovered of what is believed to contain St Philip the Apostle; however, the tomb has yet to be opened.

If you have time, head to the old city of Loudicea. The ruins are located one km east of the road between Denizli and Pamukkale. This is an ancient city that dates to 3,000 BC. Recent restoration work reveals a beautiful city that’s home to one of the Biblical 7 Churches of the Revelation.

When you’re finished with all the walking around, relax in an ancient Roman pool, where you’re surrounded by tumbled columns, and soak and swim in the hot, bubbly, healing waters much as the local citizens did two thousand years ago. The pool is constantly refreshed by an inflow of hot calcium-laden mineral water.

The ancient Roman pool - where people can swim like the locals did two thousand years ago

The ancient Roman pool – where people can swim like the locals did two thousand years ago

At the end of the day, relax at the top of the plateau and have a glass of wine as you watch the sun setting over one of the most incredible geological wonders on the planet. To do this, you just might need to spend the night in Pamukkale or the nearby town of Karahayit.

Sunset over the travertines is simply breathtaking

Sunset over the travertines is simply breathtaking

A little background about Pamukkale

Pamukkale (pah-MOOK-kah-leh), known as the “CottonCastle,” has a mountainous cascade of blinding white travertine pools, which are formed from hardened calcium carbonate sediments that are fed by mineral rich underground springs. Pergamum’s King Eumenes II was so seduced by the charms of the more than 17 hot springs that he established the city of Hieropolos, in the 2nd century BC, atop the summit of the travertines. Devastating earthquakes in 17 AD and 60 AD destroyed the original city. Much of what remains today is from the Roman period.

Pamukkale is located 260 km southeast of the western coastal city of Izmir (the Aegean gateway city to visiting the ancient city of Ephesus). The airport, train and bus stations of Denizli (located 18 km from Pamukkale) make it the ideal access point to see this incredible place.

Getting there

If you’re staying in Istanbul, you can catch an hour and a quarter early morning Turkish Airlines flight that arrives in Denizli a little after 7 am. A 7 pm return flight gives you almost 12 hours to enjoy the natural and ancient wonders. The round trip flight costs under $70 USD (e.g. Sunday, July 12) by booking the Economy Promotion price – which makes this an attractive day trip during your stay in Istanbul. Of course if you’d like to see the sunset, you probably should stay overnight in the area.

Another option, if you’re on the west coast of Turkey near Izmir or Selcuk (Ephesus), is to take the train. According to turkeytravelplanner.com, the earliest train of the day departs Selcuk (Ephesus) at 9 am and arrives in Denizli around 12 noon. There are a number of trains per day between these two cities. The train originates in Izmir (Bazmane station) about an hour and a quarter before Selcuk. For the return trip, a train departs Denizli at 5:15 arriving Selcuk about 8:45 pm. This makes for a little bit of a tight schedule. It might be better to stay one night in the Pamukkale area to give yourself a little more time. If you miss the train, you can probably catch a bus to Izmir. They run frequently into the evening.

Getting around

According to gopamukkale.com, Turkish Airlines provides a shuttle between the airport and Pamukkale for just 10 TL (about 4 USD).

If arriving at Denizli train station, you can walk to the nearby bus station and catch a minibus, every 15 to 20 minutes, to nearby Pamukkale and Laodicea. The trip takes about 20 minutes to Pamukkale and then another 30 up a winding road to the archaeological site.

Taxis are also an option from Denizli to the archaeological site.

Lodging

If you decide to stay overnight, there are two primary options for lodging. Pamukkale has small hotels and guesthouses. It’s oriented more towards the independent traveler as opposed to the group tour guest. Here are the top Tripadvisor locations.

  • Sinter Terasse House Hotel (about $45 USD) – amenities include large rooms, a home-cooked dinner in this family run pension
  • Venus Hotel (under $60 USD) – amenities include pool; free transfer from bus station; restaurant
  • Hal-Tur Hotel (about $80 USD) – amenities include a restaurant and views of the travertines from some rooms

The other option is Karahayit, which has larger hotels; however, they cater more to the large tour groups. The top hotel listed on Tripadvisor is:

  • Doga Thermal Health and Spa (about $125 USD) – amenities include two pools – an outdoor thermal pool and an indoor regular pool, spacious guestrooms, spa, restaurants, lounge in this relatively new hotel

If you do decide to stay overnight, check out the reviews on Tripadvisor and other hotel review sites. There are definitely some pros and cons about many of the places to stay in the area.

Food and beverage

The restaurants located in Pamukkale are simple; however, a couple of them such as the White House Restaurant & Café and the Asian Kitchen & Café get good reviews. Also, Garson Sukru, located in Denizli, gets good reviews.

When to go from a weather perspective

Spring (Apr to Jun) is the best time to visit. It’s fairly dry and the temperatures are moderate. The days are longer during this time providing more opportunities for sightseeing. The fall (late Sept through October) has moderate temperatures; however, the chance of rainfall is higher and the days have gotten shorter.

Contact MyTravelOp to help you plan your trip to Pamukkale and Hierapolis

If you’re interested in visiting Pamukkale and would like someone to plan your trip, send us a note using the Contact page on this website. We’ll enjoy working with you on your next great travel adventure.