Do you want to visit the travertine terraces at Pamukkale? No need to look any further cause I am here to help you!
Pamukkale’s Thermal Baths, also known as the “cotton castle“, is a magical site located near Denizli in the Aegean region in the South West of Turkey.
It is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with the Hierapolis, the ancient spa city that the Romans built and that can be found behind the travertines pools.
It’s one of the most special places in Turkey and one that you should definitely pay a visit to if you have the chance!
I am not sure if any of you ever watched the movie FernGully? But I watched it over and over again when I was little. And there is this one scene in the caves and they are running and jumping through travertines filled with water. Well this place looks exactly like that, but better!
The Complete Guide to Visiting Pamukkale’s Thermal Pools
Pamukkale is a small town in the South West of Turkey, approximately 20km from the major town of Denizli.
And besides it not being one of the most known places in Turkey it still receives over 2 million visitors every single year!
These travertines terraces were formed by underground volcanic activity and the presence of hot springs. This hot water is transferred 300 meters upwards by underground pressure. From there the water cascades down, all the while depositing calcium and minerals. And that’s how these white terraces came to exist.
How to reach Pamukkale?
There are several options to reach Pamukkale. Which one is best for you will depend on your budget, the amount of time you have or if you want to have flexibility.
Direct flights leave pretty much every day from Istanbul’s main airport. The flight takes about 1 hour and will land in Denizli which is a 20km ride away from the travertines.
The airport in Denizli is super tiny and pretty straight forward. After picking up your luggage simply head outside and look for a shuttle bus (50TL) that will transfer you directly to Pamukkale in less than 40 minutes.
You can also opt for a private transfer but that costs 450TL.
BY CAR – From Cappadocia it’s a 7,5 hour drive to Pamukkale along the D300.
From Istanbul it’s a 6 hour drive if you take the O5.
The upside to traveling by car is that you have all the freedom in the world and you can plan as you go. If you have the time make sure to also pay a visit to Fethiye and Ephesus, two other beautiful destinations in the Aegean region in Turkey.
BY BUS – Both in Istanbul and Cappadocia you’ll find plenty of busses that will do an overnight trip to Pammukale and vice versa. It’s one of the cheapest ways to travel around the country.
It’s also possible to book an excursion or tour from Istanbul and Cappadocia to Pammukale. These tours usually include meals and accommodation as well!
Where to stay in Pamukkale
I stayed at the Özbay Hotel in the city center. Don’t expect anything too fancy but the rooms are clean and spacious. Ours even came with a little terrace and the best part is that it was located right at the entrance of the site!
A lot of the more luxury hotels in the area also come with their own thermal pools and spa’s. So why not enjoy these during the day to avoid the crowds at the travertines pools?
When to plan your visit
Try to avoid the months of July and August! Not only will you encounter hundreds of foreign tourists but this is also the time when the locals have their school holiday! It’s pretty much the worst time to visit!
Instead opt for planning your trip to Turkey in Spring or Autumn! Not only will the temperatures be way nicer during the day but it will also be a lot calmer to visit.
If you’re visiting as a photographer make sure to be inside the travertines complex during sunrise and sunset to capture the most magical photos!
How much time do you need to visit Pamukkale
Seeing the travertine terraces only takes a couple of hours and you don’t need more than one day to explore the entire town. But if you want the option to take photos during both sunrise and sunset you might have to stay 2 nights, depending on what time your flights arrives :).
Things to do in Pamukkale
Visit the travertine terraces
The white terraces are at its most beautiful during sunrise and sunset and are the main reason for most people’s visit. And once you see it for yourself you understand why it’s one of Turkey’s most beautiful and most visited natural wonders.
The entrance fee for the hot springs is 50TL.
Once you enter inside the area you are obligated to take off your shoes. Please respect this cause the ground you are walking on is actually pretty fragile. And honestly, walking on that hill barefoot was such an awesome feeling!
Parts of it feel a little cold to your feet but once you reach the parts where water is streaming down you’ll notice how warm this water actually is. Oh and it’s nothing like walking barefoot near the Dead Sea. I had a pretty painful experience there but going barefoot here is totally fine!
Once you’re inside you’ll notice that part of the travertine terraces are actually closed off. This is to preserve them and actually give them the chance to restore again.
Tons and tons of people frequently visit this place on a daily basis so you can imagine the damage this does to the area. And people aren’t always as mindful as they should be.
For instance I saw many people walking around the travertines with their shoes on, THIS IS NOT ALLOWED! Please be a nice human and walk barefoot :).
Also I saw a lot of people going over the ropes that separate the travertines from the part where you can’t go in. All for the sake of Instagram…
It’s perfectly possible to take beautiful photos in the pools where you’re allowed in.
So again, please be a respectful human being and don’t do this.
Visit Hierapolis Archeological Site
Visiting the ancient city of Hierapolis Pamukkale is included in your ticket for the thermal pools. Hierapolis was founded in 190BC and its ruins are embraced by the unique natural site of Pamukkale.
The most prominent and popular spot has to be the amphitheater. When you’re standing at the top of the travertines you can actually already see it on the other side of the hill.
At the end of the archeological site you’ll find the Hierapolis Archeological Museum. Entrance is 5TL.
We chose to only admire the archeological site from a distance. I have visited so many amazing ones in the past (Ephesus, Pompei, etc.) that I didn’t find this one as interesting.
But if you have the time and you love archeology then you should definitely pay a visit to this site.
Go for a Hot Air Balloon Ride over the travertine terraces
For €150 you’ll be on one of the standard and shared balloon flights which will fly over the site of Pamukkale and lasts for 1 hour.
If you really want to go a little crazy you can also book a private balloon flight. Do know that you’ll have to cough up €3000.
Bathe in the Antique Pool
The Antique Pool, also known as Cleopatra’s Swimming Pool, is close to the Archeological Museum at the top of the hill but is not included in the standard ticket price.
To enter the pool you’ll have to pay 32TL extra and make sure to bring your own towels. There are changing rooms and toilets present if you wish to use these
Inside the pool are marble columns, that fell in from the Temple of Apollo during an earthquake. It is therefore believed that the Antique Pool is a sacred pool.
How to plan your visit to the travertines pools
Which entrance is the best one?
There are several entrances from where you can enter the travertines. The North entrance, the South entrance and the Town entrance. All of these entrances will grant you access to both the thermal pools and to the Hierapolis.
The admission fee for all entrances is the exact same – 50TL
If you wish to also bathe in the Antique Pool you will have to pay an extra fee of 32TL.
North and South entrance
If you’re staying in Pamukkale itself you can reach these by car/taxi. Simply drive for 2 km in the direction of Karahayıt to reach the car park.
These entrances are ideal if you wish to visit the entire complex. Plus they open up earlier than the Pamukkale city entrance so you’ll have to use these ones if you want to take photos during sunrise.
With these entrances you’ll start on top of the hill at the Hierapolis. Make your way down to be one of the first ones at the travertines pools and experience this place all for yourself.
Opening hours – 6.30am to 9pm
If you come here by car you will have to pay a parking fee of 5TL.
This entrance is located right outside of the city center and is the easiest to use if you don’t have a car and you’re staying inside the city itself.
However opening times are a little different from the other entrances.
During my visit I wasn’t aware of the other entrances so I patiently waited for the guard to open the gates. In the mean time I could see a lot of people entering the thermal baths from the top of the hill which was frustrating to say the least.
Opening hours – 8am to 9pm
What to bring with you
- Sunglasses – Make sure to bring a pair of polarised sunglasses with you! Especially if you’re visiting during the day! The white terraces combined with the hars sunlight can quickly cause snow blindness and damage your eyes!
- A waterproof bag – Make sure to keep your valuables safe in a waterproof bag.
- A pic nic – There aren’t many food options in Pamukkale or Hierapolis. And the ones that are there are way overpriced. Bring a pic nic and some mineral water with you to enjoy on top of the hill underneath the trees.
- A towel – Chances are pretty high you’ll end up swimming or bathing in one of the thermal baths. Bring a towel with you if you wish to dry off before putting your regular clothes over your swimsuit. There are no changing facilities for the travertines pools.
Instagram vs. Reality
To be fair the white terraces are pretty amazing and it’s a beautiful and unique piece of nature. But the crowds… the crowds…. the crowds are INSANE. Okay, maybe it didn’t help that we went there in August but I still feel that it’s my responsibility to tell you the truth!
If you want to take photos with no one else in them. Make sure to be at the North or South entrance at 6.30am and be prepared to make a run for it!
Tour busses start to arrive as soon as 7am so you don’t have that much alone time.
Also a lot of Instagrammers apparently take photos in the travertines that are clearly closed off to the public. I will repeat myself again: please don’t do that!
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Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.