Want to feel like you’re walking through a winter wonderland in summer? There isn’t anywhere else you can do that except for Pamukkale’s gorgeous natural hot springs and travertines.
Well, I don’t know why I chose to describe the Pamukkale’s thermal water travertines as winter wonderland in summer. I mean, Pamukkale means “Cotton Castle” in turkish, so I should be saying I was walking up a hill of cotton candy?
Not only that, I was born in Santa Monica, California and then grew up in Austin, Texas. My heart definitely goes to hot summer and breezy beaches (when I get the chance to go).
I think I’ll blame my co-owner, John Hathaway II, on this one. He loves winter more than me. Hey! Don’t get me wrong, the scenery of the snow in winter is beautiful. =P
Anyways… The second I came across Pamukkale when planing my trip to Turkey, it was automatically one of sites I refuse to miss and I’m telling you… I will not regret it at all. There really is nothing else quite like it in the world.
The thermal pools are terraced alongside a mountainside at the top of Cal Mountain. The hot springs sit about 200 meters above the town of Pamukkale with breathtaking views in front, and the ruins of baths, temples and Greek monuments like the Hierapolis. This attraction has been declared as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites back in the 80s.
The pools are undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary natural wonders of the world, and is anything but phenomenal. This attraction has been a legendary spa and spiritual center dating back to the 2nd century BC during Roman times. It’s also one of the oldest spa towns I’ve ever seen and been to.
Getting to the Hot Springs
I got to admit that I was lucky to have company when I went up here. I bumped into a Deaf guy named Miro Emos, a Turkish native who is also traveling solo, when I was in Fethiye few days earlier and then he tagged along me for few days. Yeah, he joined me on my journey up to the pools and kept each other entertained a lot of our time there!
It wasn’t too hard finding out way up to the entrance on the mountain. Miro and I took a 20-minute bus ride to Pamukkale from the town of Denizli, with minibuses running every 15 minutes. Actually, I went to paragliding over the hot springs before taking a dip in the pools. Pretty adventurous for me, huh?
It had been summer and plenty of tourist there, and the line at the entrance was pretty long when I was there at around noon. I lost my patience while waiting in the line with Miros, so we both decided to get out of the line and skipped the line to the entrance to use our “Deaf card”—I already knew that they allowed free admission for people with Disabilities. By the time, they found out Miro and I were Deaf they let us cut the line and enter the area.
By the way, general entrance fee would be 40 TL (~$13 US Dollars).
Experiencing the Travertines
The real charm lies in walking on the terraces of basin. It was an experience beyond words.
Keep in mind that all visitors must go barefoot when walking on the travertines. You’ll be expected to carry your shoes most of them if you’re not going to leave them at the top of the summit where many other people would leave their shoes or belonging. I’d suggest you to bring a backpack to carry your shoes while you go barefoot, or just tie up the shoelaces and hand the shoes on your shoes (that is if you’re wearing shoes. You’ll have to figure out if you’re wearing footwear without shoelaces).
Walking on the travertines gave me some weird and slimy feeling to my feet. It felt like chalky gloop, but it was a lot of fun to squish between your toes and fingers. You should try!
Also, some of the surfaces are quite slippery (especially around the edges of the main pools), so you should be careful and watch your steps. Most of the area without water are not as slippery as the areas near or in the waters though.
The travertine terraces are fragile and easily damaged by humans and their footwear. There had been a restricted section at the top of the hill where people couldn’t get on because of the damages that was done to the travertines by the hotels that were once built directly on top of the terraces in the 1980s.
Miro and I stayed mainly on the designated paths and designated pools/areas but sadly and very annoyingly many others blatantly ignored the signs. I was just disappointed with how much respect the visitors had for the value of the natural wonder.
Which is why I always stick to the Leave No Trace (LNT) philosophy, “Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.” Especially when I go out into the nature for any reason.
It’s important that you respect and leave no trace of damage to the nature, so others can get the same experience you had. Violating the designated area wouldn’t just ruin the nature of the travertines but it would also ruin the experience of future visitors because they wouldn’t see the same thing as you. Be mindful of the nature and others, so don’t ruin it for others.
Psst.. it’s okay to ruin the spoilers of the scenery though! Everybody’s already spoiled it for you. =P
Hey! That principle doesn’t just apply to this site, but it applies to any experience you will have in the nature of any type all over the world. Preserve the nature, yo!
Though the scenery looks like sheets of ice, these white cotton-like terraces are a process that started over a million years ago. The pools are actually created by underground volcanic activity. As it reaches the surface, the water percolates through a layer of limestone, dissolving calcium into the hot water.
The water temperature remains consistent between 95-212 degrees Fahrenheit (35-100 degrees Celsius), so guests can comfortably splash around, even in winter. Yes, they’re open all year around!
In some areas where the water pools and sits for a while, it would become cool and even cold! …Sort of something we learned the hard way. I’d say it’d be a great spot for a fun game to guess where the nice warm water will be, agreed? =P
As we wandered to the edge of the travertine, Miro told me that the gloop of calcium deposits from the bottom of the water has skin benefits if I put it on on my skin. So, instead of taking a soothing mud(or calcium, I’d say?) bath, I covered myself with the ooze like a monster. It had a chalky texture when I rubbed it all over my body.
Then I went all “BOO!!!” and scared the tourists away from the scene for a beautiful photo with a background clear of people!
Haha, I ain’t that mean. You could say I was lucky to capture many pictures with stunning backgrounds clear of people or any other types of distractions! =P
I was in my own cloud nine when I was in the scenery. The color of the pools was beyond unreal to me. And it’s incredibly beautiful!
Exploring the Ruins of the Spa City
After taking a long and hot 20-minute hike from the bottom entrance to the summit, I got to see impressive view of the amphitheatre at Hierapolis, where I had a great photo op of me doing some yoga poses. It wasn’t allowed walk down the steps to the bottom of the ruins, so you’ll be staying at the top of the arena mostly.
On the other note, there were more to the ruins that I’d explore, but raining on and off at the time, so I didn’t go any further because I knew I’d visit the ruins Esphesus in Selcuk, Turkey after this trip where I’d see best of greek monuments and ruins there. If it weren’t for the rain, I’d have explored more. Therefore, I’d recommend you to look around if you have the chance.
There are two entrances to the Pamukkale travertines; one at the top at the ancient town of Hierapolis and a less used entrance at the bottom of the travertines in the town of Pamukkale itself.
At the top entrance near the ruins, you will see a beautiful scenery of the pools where people weren’t allowed to swim in. That’s where the scenic view for photographs is. I’d recommend you to go there if you’re a photographer and you want to capture beautiful scenery to grow your portfolio. Truth to be told, I cannot describe how beautiful the view is at the top.
However, this area at the top has visitor’s center where you can sit down and eat while enjoying the scenery. They have cool gift shops as well. As mentioned, you’ll see some of the ruins at the top. Beautiful sight to see! Clearly, this spot is the one most favored by large tour groups, so you’ll encounter most of your fellow tourists there.
Since the area is at the top, it’s also pretty busy with minibuses and taxis with passengers getting on and off. In the meanwhile, the bottom entrance is just easily accessed without minibus or taxi. You can just walk through, but you can still go up for a long hike to the summit where the Hierapolis is at from the bottom.
Keep in mind that the waters at the bottom are a bit cooler than the ones at the top.
Two bonuses for you at the bottom entrance:
- Travertines are a lot more quieter and settled along with fewer tourists.
- The rocks at the bottom of the pools are whiter. It’d be great for photos!
If you ask me which entrance I should go to, I’d say it’s worth the trip in either direction, but I’d suggest you to go to the top first if you’re not up for a long hike from the bottom.
Tips to Keep in Mind
- The Pamukkale pools are open from 8am–8pm daily (until 5pm in the winter). The entrance fee is $6 and changing rooms are provided.
- But if you go to the entrance from the back, you’ll be able to get in at 6am. Just be sure to look for the South Gate.
- If you want to get the best of the scene, I’d suggest you to go there early in the morning when there aren’t so many tourists. Not only that, you’d be able to catch a beautiful sunrise. Miro and I actually came back for the second time in the early morning for a better photo op as advised by the staff there! No regrets and I’d strongly recommend it.
- Visitors can take a 20 minute bus ride to Pamukkale from the town of Denizli, with buses running every 15 minutes.
- The food and gifts at the visitor center on the top are pretty pricey, so I’d recommend you to bring your own snack and especially water!
- It’s a long, hot hike to the top of the travertines and Hierapolis, especially in summer. Bring along water, sunscreen and a hat.
Where to Stay?
Miro and I had a brief stay at the Yildirim Hotel, a family run business for three generations now, but this 2-star hotel should be rated more than 3 stars because it is an amazing place!
It has a convenient location just next to the bus and train terminal so we could see the hotel as we arrived. Literally, it was right across from one of the largest and busiest bus/train station.
I was fortunate to be able to receive complimentary suite room for couple of nights at around the last minute through our communication on email. Not only that, I wanted to mention that the hotel owner was very kind, flexible and welcoming when I asked to allow Miro to join me in the room on complimentary basis.
I think it’s pretty evident that communication with the hotel staff was very easy. Honestly, the friendly staff topped off this stay – overall no problems at all. Louis and his team and this great hotel just made everything so much better. They even guided me to see Pamukkale at our own without booking a tour.
The suite we stayed in was very clean and fresh with a double bed, a single bed, and a fold-out couch, and a balcony!
Free Wifi, Buffet breakfast, satellite TV, 24 hour hot water, private bathroom, and clean linens and towels were included.
I gotta admit that the breakfast buffet offered a wide range of options. I’m a foodie and I’m big on breakfast myself, and I was impressed with the options and quality of food!
Our very brief stay at Yildirim hotel was fantastic and luxurious, I’d say!
- Address: 632 Sok. No:13 Denizli, Turkey
- Room rates per night:
- Backpacker Special: 40TL (~$13 US Dollars)
- Single & Twin Room: 60 TL (~$20 US Dollars)
- Double Room-Economy: 60TL (~$20 US Dollars)
- Double Room-Standard: 65TL (~$25 US Dollars)
- Double Room with Extra Bed: 100 TL (~$33 US Dollars)
- Friends Room (Triple Room): 100 TL (~$33 US Dollars)
- Suite Room: 100 TL (~$33 US Dollars)
- Furnished Studio Apartment: 160TL (~$53 US Dollars)
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: http://yildirimhotel.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yildirimhotel
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/YildirimHotel