With the enchanting white travertine landscapes of Pamukkale situated next to the ancient Roman spa town of Hierapolis, Hierapolis–Pamukkale is surely one of Turkey’s most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Legend has it that Cleopatra bathed in the thermal pools at Pamukkale, while Hierapolis dates back to the second century BC. The Basics
Travelers arrive in droves to photograph the stunning tiered pools of Pamukkale, bathe in the thermal waters, or take a swim in Cleopatra’s Pool. Nearby, the archaeological site of Hierapolis includes the remains of the Temple of Apollo, the Gate of Domitian, the tomb of Flavius Zeuxis, the Plutonium (a cave believed to have been the entrance to the underworld), and a well-preserved 20,000-seat theater.
Full-day tours and shore excursions run to Hierapolis and Pamukkale from coastal towns such as Kusadasi, Izmir, Selcuk, and Bodrum, but it’s even possible to visit on a day trip from Istanbul by plane. Most tours include a guided walking tour of Hierapolis and a soak in the thermal pools at Pamukkale, as well as stops at some of the most impressive vista points. Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- Combination tickets offer access to both sites, but there is an extra fee to enter the Antique Pool (Cleopatra’s Pool).
- Pack a swimsuit and towel if you plan to swim in the thermal pools.
- Visitors must walk barefoot around the thermal pools of Pamukkale in order to protect the fragile travertine—bring a backpack or bag to store your shoes in while you walk.
- Due to the uneven terrain, Pamukkale and Hierapolis are not wheelchair-accessible, although there are accessible points from which to view the two sites.
Pamukkale and Hierapolis are located around 120 miles (193 kilometers) east of Kusadasi, about a 3-hour drive. Buses run from most of the cities along the Aegean coast to Denizli, the closest town to Pamukkale, but most travelers opt to join a guided tour with round-trip transport included. When to Get There
Day-trippers descend on Pamukkale and Hierapolis en masse during the summer months, and it’s almost impossible to escape the crowds during peak times (11am–4pm). For a crowd-free visit, opt to stay overnight in Pamukkale village and get to the baths early before the tour groups arrive, or brave the cold weather for a visit in the quieter winter months.The Natural Wonders of Pamukkale
The ice-white terraces of Pamukkale (which translates to “Cotton Castle” in Turkish) date back several millennia and were naturally formed by a buildup of calcium carbonate—a by-product of the region’s thermal springs—flowing down the slopes and forming steplike pools. Much of the natural landscape was eroded due to tourism before the area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, and today, some of the pools have been artificially rebuilt. The thermal waters are naturally heated to temperatures between 95°F (35°C) and 212°F (100°C).