Looking for a few things to see and do in Pamukkale?
Have you ever seen photos of the limestone travertine terraces in Turkey and thought WOW 🤩 where is this?
This natural wonder is Pamukkale… and there is no other place on earth quite like it!
Pamukkale, meaning Cotton Castle in Turkish, is not a big place. But it certainly leaves a big impression.
This is a complete guide to Pamukkale highlighting some of the things you absolutely must do while you’re there. We share some ideas on where you should stay and we answer a whole lot of questions that you’ll probably have about your upcoming visit. Including some invaluable tips, that we wish we had known before our visit.
Where to Stay in Pamukkale
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First up, let’s make sure you stay in the right part of town. Many visitors to Pamukkale stay in nearby Denizli. Don’t do this! Denizli is a small city 18km away from Pamukkale and there aint much going on there. (Sorry if you are from Denizli.)
We definitely recommend you book in Pamukkale as it’s right across the road from the travertines. And let’s face it… that is why you came, so why stay anywhere else. Here are a few hotels we think you should look at.
At the cheapest end of the spectrum comes the Ozbay Hotel. This a family-run guest house with simple but nice rooms. There is an outdoor garden for breakfast and the location is perfect, as you are walking distance from the travertines. This is a great option if you are travelling on a budget but still want a little comfort.
In the mid-range options we have three places for you to check out –
The Cotton House – A bed and breakfast if you want something small and cosy. They rate really high for customer satisfaction on Booking.com. The rooms have a kitchenette, so you can be semi self-catering and the rooms are elegant and exceptionally clean!
Hotel HAL-TUR – The location is ideal, the pool is super nice with views of the travertines. The rooms have all you need for a night or two in Pamukkale, including a small patio.
Hotel Sahin – Breakfast views don’t come better than this! The staff are super friendly and accommodating and in terms of location you can’t get better value for money.
If you want to experience some of the natural healing properties of the thermal waters of Pamukkale then you may want to head to Doğa Thermal Health and Spa.
This 5 star hotel and spa is around 6km from Pamukkale and their facilities are nothing short of incredible. Experience a Turkish bath, relax at the spa and then take a dip in the incredible indoor pool. The rooms are luxurious and the open buffet breakfast comes highly recommended. This hotel is definitely for the comfort lovers.
Know Before you Go!
Navigating Pamukkale presented us with a few challenges. Much of what we read online was out of date, as so many posts were written pre-Covid. Prices in the travel and tourism industry have clearly spiked in Turkey after Covid. I guess a need to make up for lost time, but also the global financial situation has not helped. This meant tracking down accurate information on things to do and places to visit in Pamukkale was a struggle!
We just couldn’t get all the information we needed to plan our visit to Pamukkale. Following are a series of questions we had about Pamukkale. This post is accurate for 2022 and we hope it helps you navigate all those little details of Pamukkale that you need to know before you go.
What Makes Pamukkale Unique?
Imagine – white tiered pools of warm thermal water cascading down a valley.
The first time you see it, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it as a snow capped mountain. These travertine terraced pools are a naturally occurring phenomenon. The flowing thermal water contains calcium carbonate and this leaves lime deposits as it moves.
Over time, the lime has become white terraced travertines and voilà, this wonderful place is made.
The Turkish people will proudly tell you of the healing powers of these thermal pools. All year round the water keeps a comfortable 36 degrees celsius and bathing in these mineral rich waters, is known to help treat a number of ailments.
In fact, it was the Greeks who first took up residence in this region for the healing powers of Pamukkale waters. You might not be aware that directly behind these spectacular white terraces lies the great Hierapolis. And therefore, a visit to Pamukkale is more than just an opportunity to dip your toes in the white healing terraces, it’s also an opportunity to explore the ruins of ancient Hierapolis. More on that below!
Sustainable Tourism in Pamukkale
This is a big one actually! Since Pamukkale has gained in popularity as a bucket-list-worthy place over the last decades, it has suffered. Large hotels encroached on the travertines from above. Tourists were given access to swim in the terraces as and where they liked. And of course there was the issue of over-tourism.
As a result, the travertines turned grey, water levels decreased and Pamukkale lost its charm. Tourism was killing Pamukkale.
However, things have begun to change. In 1988, Pamukkale became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and steps were put into place to see it returned to its prior glory. Hotels were removed, access to large portions of the terraces were closed, and work began around developing an awareness of sustainable tourism.
Given that things are changing, the scales are tipping for the better in Pamukkale. Now as travellers we need to be aware of our own footprint. Responsible tourism is in our hands, the decisions we take and the things we do when travelling to fragile destinations like Pamukkale lies with us.
So, this is my reminder… tread carefully. Follow the rules and respect Pamukkale for the special place it is without exploiting it. Read this article by the BBC for more information on how tourism in Pamukkale has changed over the last decades.
How Many Days in Pamukkale?
Have you stumbled across this post wondering how many nights to stay in Pamukkale? Are you wondering how much time will you need to see these spectacular travertines and enjoy the other sights of Pamukkale?
Well in reality, after you have spent the day ticking off the main destinations and things to do in Pamukkale you’ve seen most of it.
Pamukkale is not a big place and two nights is more than enough in our opinion.
Jump to our Road Trip Itinerary to get a better idea of how many days you’ll need in other destinations within Turkey.
Is it Worth Visiting Pamukkale?
If you are on a road trip of Turkey, then I’m going to say absolutely yes Pamukkale is worth the trip. Around 3-4 hours from Izmir and 3-4 hours from the Mediterranean coastline, to Fethiye, Kas and Antalya. So, you’ll need to be prepared for a drive in order to get there.
Our recommendation is to use Pamukkale as a stopover location between Izmir and the Coast or Konya for example. This would break up a couple days of driving.
Though if your time in Turkey is short, it may be a little more difficult to fit it into your itinerary. There is an airport nearby and so if Pamukkale is on your bucket-list, then grab a one hour flight from Istanbul. Alternatively take a guided tour and leave the driving to someone else.
How to Get to Pamukkale?
As mentioned above Pamukkale is relatively close to Izmir and the Mediterranean coast. Turkey has a fabulous public transport service and the buses are very comfortable and easy to use. The roads are also very easy to drive, so go ahead and choose your preferred method of transport.
We recommend planning your holiday to Pamukkale with our road trip guide to Turkey. This includes, an itinerary, map, information on buses, internal flights and other helpful Turkey travel tips.
Car Rental – for the cheapest look no further than Qeeq. We used this booking platform for our car rental in Turkey. We had no trouble whatsoever and they definitely provided the cheapest options for our trip.
Or if you prefer, you can book a day trip to Pamukkale from other destinations in Turkey –
- A popular guided full day, 12 hour tour from Antalya, which doesn’t include entrance tickets but does include lunch.
- This guided tour comes with pickups from different locations including Izmir. Follow through the booking to see the price for a full day tour from Izmir.
- Full day, 15 hour guided tour from Istanbul including flights, transfers and entrance tickets.
When to Visit Pamukkale?
The Spring months you’ll find are the best months to visit Pamukkale, between April to June. The temperatures are pleasant and the wild flowers are spectacular!
But of course summer is also great, you’ll just need to be prepared for the crowds.
What to Expect When Visiting the Travertines
If you google Pamukkale you’ll see photos of white travertines, full to the brim with blue water and no one around. This is not the case unfortunately. More than likely the photographer of these images has taken liberties with Photoshop.
As I have mentioned above under sustainability, there are many tourists in the terraces. The pools are certainly not full to the brim with water, nor are they the blue on white that we have been led to believe.
What you can expect to see… areas of pools that are dried up and some discoloured. Other areas that have been closed to tourists to protect and preserve the terraces. The water appears to be directed at different times through alternating channels. We assume these are further measures taken to protect the pools and direct the water flow where needed.
There are man-made terraces that have been created along the edge of the valley and this is where tourists can bath, walk and take photos.
You can also expect to see women in bikinis (even at 6.30am when it’s very cold), floppy hats and flowing dresses. The Instagrammers are out in force in Pamukkale! But if you are lucky, like in our case, they don’t hang around long. They’ll grab their photos and be gone.
Don’t miss my tips below on how to visit Pamukkale. I share some ideas on how to get the best out of your visit.
That said! Pamukkale is stunning and you might even be lucky enough to get it to yourself for a few minutes like we did. At 7am I had one of those I finally made it moments. For years I had wanted to get here and to sit on the edge of the travertines, looking out over the valley, I felt a deep sense of privilege to be there.
Things to do in Pamukkale
Here we go, as promised a handful of things to do over a full day visit in Pammukale…
The Travertines / White Terraces
The star of the show… the reason you are here. The travertine terraces cover a relatively large valley with the town of Pamukkale at the bottom. The area is small, so you can more or less walk everywhere in Pamukkale and it’s certainly better to stay here than in Denizli.
Described as a resort town, Pamukkale is concentrated around the base of the travertines and stretches back a couple of kilometres at most. There are many great hotels to choose from, great restaurants to feast at and the odd shop to explore. And mostly that is all.
Standing in town at the base of the mountains there is a lake, and the Pamukkale town entrance. From this gate you can walk up the travertine track to the top where the best terraces are. Then of course, the runner up attraction are the ruins of Hierapolis. And they carry on up the hill towards the Great Theatre of Hierapolis and the Necropolis… see the map below.
How Much Does it Cost to Enter?
The entrance fee is 150 Turkish Lira and covers the travertine terraces and the Hierapolis Archaeological Site only. Children under eight are free.
There is a combination ticket available which includes the Hierapolis Archaeological Museum (onsite) and the Denizli Laodikeia Archaeological Site, a short 15 minute drive away from Pamukkale. Prices for this ticket are 185 Turkish Lira.
Note: parking in the designated car parks also comes at a small fee.
If you can, grab the Turkey Museum Pass (800 TL). These Pamukkale locations are included within the 300 museums and archaeological sites available to you.
If you are road tripping Turkey over two weeks, then I definitely recommend this card, it will save you a stack!
Planning Your Visit – The Tips!
- Wear you swimmers under your clothes and don’t forget a towel. Bring sunglasses, hat and sunblock too if you plan to be there during the day!
- Get there early. But note that the only entrance that is open from 6.30am is the south gate. We jumped in our car and drove up, but you may need to catch a taxi up or walk.
- From the south gate entrance follow the signs to the travertines, this is about a 5 minute walk to the top of the terraces.
- A security guard waits to remind you to remove your shoes. You can leave them there if you intend to leave the same way, or put them in your bag if you plan to walk the track back down to the town entrance gate.
- The powdery ground and water in the pools is surprisingly cold on your feet. At least it was during our visit.
- You can swim in these man-made terraces. It wasn’t my idea of fun at that time of the morning… but I’m a bit soft in cold water.
- Sometimes there is a channel with warm water running through it. We warmed our toes in there, before the kids decided they would get right in.
- You have until just after 7am when the tourist buses arrive, so I sincerely hope you get the opportunity to enjoy it for yourself. Even just for 10 minutes like we did.
- Then it was time to warm up in the Cleopatra Pools!
Antique Cleopatra Pools
A short walk from the travertine terraces, are the Cleopatra Antique Pools, and I thoroughly recommend them. The entrance fee is not included in your ticket, so keep 110 Turkish Lira per person at the ready.
I definitely suggest you get there early in the morning to avoid crowds. Also, because thermal pools aren’t so comfortable in the midday hot sun.
Because we travel full-time now we budget pretty heavily. But it was Spring and there was a definite chill to the early morning air. So, it didn’t take much arm twisting to convince us to splurge on tickets for these lush thermal pools.
What makes them unique is the ruins that you swim among. During the Byzantine period earthquakes toppled pillars and columns and the swimming pool has been created around them. The loose pebbled pool bottom, feels great on your toes. There is a sense that you are swimming in a crystal clear river bed… that is warm to boot!
Quick tip: No cameras are allowed in the pool and once you get out you can’t get back in. In other words, pee before you get in!
Further back from the Antique Pools you can’t miss the crumbling ruins of Roman Hierapolis. Perched on the hill behind the white terraces this archaeological site adds to the charm of Pammukale.
Hierapolis (meaning Holy City) is proof of the long held belief that these thermal waters have healing powers. Since 2nd century BC, this city has been frequented by those seeking treatment. And as a result, a rich history remains of this Byzantine ancient city.
Within the city walls is the main street and entrances. You can also see the basilica baths, a shrine in honour of the Greek god Pluto, and the great theatre. While beyond the city walls is the largest necropolis in the Anatolia region, with fascinating sarcophagi and epitaphs.
This huge site takes some time to explore. This means spending a full day here between the white travertines and the ancient city is easily done. Read our guide below on how to plan your day in Pamukkale.
Denizli Laodikeia Archaeological Site
As mentioned above, if you have purchased the combination ticket for Hierapolis, then the ancient city of Laodikeia is included. This spans a large open site and is still under excavation.
Laodikeia played a major role throughout history and dates back as far as 5500 BC, given its fertile lands, proximity to multiple rivers and a prominent position along main trade routes. And in 2013 Laodikeia became recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You’ll find fewer tourists here, many tortoises if you visit at the right time of the year and loads of incredible photography opportunities!
This was a total random find… but a goody! Dubbed Pamukkale Part 2, the Kaklik Cave is an underground canyon with a giant spring bubbling up from below and thermal waters cascading in from above. And the icing on the cake, is the white underground terraces… just like the travertines in Pammukale. Okay they are much smaller, but what a combination of elements have come together to create this alluring spot.
You’ll need a car for this one, as it’s about a 50 minute drive out of Pamukkale but it’s definitely worth it. There are almost no tourists around, it’s cheap to enter, only a few Lira each and the small underground loop path is super unique!
Paid Experiences & Things to Do in Pamukkale
If you have a little extra time on your hands, or you want some extra adventure in this sleepy little town then read on!
Hot Air Balloon Experience
Grab a hot air balloon ride over Pamukkale. This activity is rapidly gaining in popularity here. We were excited to see several floating over the travertines as we headed up to the entrance gate early in the morning.
We had a friend who put his lifelong fear of heights aside, and decided to give paragliding in Pamukkale a go. It has a nice ring to it… and he absolutely loved it of course. Paragliding is a very reasonably priced thing to do in Pamukkale and with landscape like this is doesn’t get much more spectacular.
Planning For One Full Day in Pamukkale
You could just follow your instinct and explore Pamukkale on a whim. Or you could follow our quick guide and recommendations of how to organise your day.
- We say start early! In this case, the early bird catches the worm and you want to get there before those big ol’ tour buses roll in. Gates open at 6.30am and so head to the south gate for opening.
- Take your time exploring the white terraces, and when you’re ready go to the Antique Pools for a swim.
- Next up, wander the lower ruins of Hierapolis, or the Museum until the sun gets up and you are feeling a little peckish.
- The food on site is a little lack lustre, and expensive! So better to head back to town for lunch. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to reenter, just keep your ticket somewhere safe.
- Take your time, enjoy some lunch, take a drive to the Kaklik cave, the Laodikeia ruins, or try paragliding.
- Then later in the day return. Walk up the travertines from the town entrance gate or enter from the south gate again. Then wander around the rest of the Hierapolis sites.
- Then before before the day comes to an end, decide where you’d prefer to catch the sunset. Looking over the white terraces of Pamukkale or from high on the hill of the amphitheatre steps.
The end to a perfect day and visit to Pamukkale!
Map of Things to Do in Pamukkale
We hope this post has helped you navigate your way around Pamukkale. Despite being very much on the tourist trail, it’s still a special place and one that I’m glad we visited. And while there is not a lot of things to do in Pamukkale, what is available is pretty unique!
Use this map to help you find the exact locations for the places I have mentioned here in this post, on Things to Do in Pamukkale.
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