Chasms filled with sparkling blue water, reflected in the sun. I felt like I had just stepped onto a mountain of snow or ice, except it was warm, and what I was walking on, was not snow or ice; it was calcified rock, with travetines of thermal pools, that had formed over hundreds of years.
Pamukkale in the Denizli provence of Turkey, is classed as a UNESCO heritage site, and the Turks regard this area as the ‘eighth wonder of the World’.
When translated – Pamukkale means ‘cotton castle’ and when you see the shape of some of the rocks, it is a perfect translation.
Prior to my trip to Turkey, I had never heard of the place, but only when doing that very little bit of research that I often do, and seeing the photos, I knew it needed to be added to my itinerary.
Although I had never heard of Pamukkale, a lot of others had. Pamukkale is the 3rd most visited site in Turkey, with over 2 million visitors per year.
Getting to Pamukkale
The closest airport to Pamukkale is the city of Denizli, but normally you can only get internal flights with local airlines to here (you can fly from Istanbul). Otherwise, the next closest will be Bodrum on the coast.
7-8 hours drive from Istanbul – not really worth a day trip, you’d be knackered. Although tours run from here, you’d be leaving super early
4 hours drive – this is where I went from
3-4 hours drive
You can hire a car and do it yourself – entry fees into the actual Pamukkale is only 25 Lira, and fuel is so cheap. However, I had not thought this far ahead, and may have done it if I had planned better.
Day tour options
I am not normally one for day tours, but I knew I could get one easily from Fethiye, with iGuide tours, and they managed to accommodate me, even at a last minute booking request. The tours from Fethiye region cost anywhere between £25 and £35, they will all include pick up, drop off, an english speaking guide, entry fees to Pamukkale, breakfast, lunch, tea/coffee and water.
If you are on a budget however, I would recommend that you hire a car (which can be done cheaply in Turkey), and drive yourself around.
Public buses go to the city of Denizli from many places in Turkey, and from there you could pick up a cheap shuttle, if you wish to do it that way. There are also accommodation options in Denizli, if you wanted to spilt up the trip.
However, as this trip was a short one, I needed to do the tour option. Tours depart daily from Bodrum and ?? Istanbul. However, if coming from Dalaman or Fethiye, tours are only 3x per week.
I was picked up at 6.15am. Our guide Memet, was incredibly enthusiastic for that time of the morning, introduced himself to us and what the day would entail, then left us to sleep if we wanted, for the 1.5 hours drive to our breakfast stop. I was grateful of this, having only had 3 hours of sleep the previous night, and there is nothing worse than having to listen to a guide talk non stop. Although Memet was very informative throughout the tour, when we had had eaten and slept, and answered any questions we had.
My first Turkish Breakfast
Having just arrived into the country the afternoon prior, I had yet to experience a Turkish Breakfast. We had stopped at a local restaurant, and it was buffet style. In Turkey, food served at breakfast generally consists of eggs; either Mememen (scrambled eggs with vegetables), or boiled eggs, meat (usually chicken ham), olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, fries (chips) and bread (bread is an accompaniment of every meal in Turkey). This is all washed down with several cups of tea.
Pamukkale is entered through either the North Gate, or South Gate. If entered from the North Gate, you will have a 1 hour walk to get to the main sites – which is ok if you have the time.
We didn’t, so we got dropped off at South Gate, and walked the 10 minutes to the main entrance.
At this point, our guide informed us of what we could see, and gave us 2.5 hours of free time to wander and do what we wished.
What can you see at Pamukkale?
This is by far the most popular site at Pamukkale (the main attraction, if you like), and will be the most busy. The area that white mountain covers is approximately 3 km. However, in years gone by, it was 9 km, but this reduced, due to local hotels using the water from Pamukkale.
When UNESCO visited, they advised the shut down of these hotels, in order to preserve this wonder. There are also other measures in place, such as taking off your shoes to walk on the mountain, in order to protect it.
In days gone by, you used to be able to swim in the pools at Pamukkale. However, accidents have occurred, and so you are only able to paddle or sit it in.
If you don’t fancy paying out for a Turkish bath, or spa when you are in the country – Pamukkale offers you a natural one for free (well, with the price of your entry ticket of course!)
Mud can be found at the bottom of the pools, which comes from the rock. If you fancy it, slather yourself in it, then wash it off with the naturally warm water (it is about 35 degrees).
Tips for the white Mountain
Head down to the bottom of the Mountain at the start, and work your way up. Most tourists congregate at the top of the mountain, or in the middle section. So if you don’t want to have your head chopped off by the droves of selfie sticks, and have the many Russian tourists do their model shots in from of you, then the bottom is best – not many trek down to the bottom, so it is a nicer experience.
The Museum at Pamukkale is full of historical artifacts from Hierapolis, Laodiceia, Colossae, Tripolis, Attuda and other towns of the Lycos (Çürüksu) valley.
The museum is only open until 12.30 at the moment, and usually if getting there at 11am, you should aim to do this first if you’d like to see it. It only costs 5 Lira to get in.
I didn’t go in. Instead choosing to spend more time in the pools on the White Mountain.
Legend has it that Cleopatra one day decided that she was looking old, so sent her soldiers out to different parts of the World to obtain something to retain her youth, and water from this pool was brought back to her. The pool used to be part of the hotel on the site, which was shut down to protect Pamukkale, so now is used for tourists, at a pricey cost of 32 Lira (which is a lot, when you’ve already paid for a tour).
It is supposed to have ‘healing’ properties, but to me it just looked like a pool, so I didn’t go in, instead I went and took a dip on the White Mountain pools.
The Hierapolis-Pamukkale, was made a heritage site in 1988, and sits a little ways up the hill, behind Cleopatras Pool. In days gone by it was used by the church, and for various shows.
If you continue to walk further up the hill, you get a good view over the whole site of Pamukkale.
There is also a small church dedicated to the apostle Philip, who was murdered in Pamukkale, as he went to spread the gospel. Unfortunately I did not get to this, as it was a bit of a trek up the hill, and I had to return back to my group (another downside of tours). If you want though, there are little shuttle mini vans that can take you up and down the hill for 2 Lira.
This area was a bit of a natural wonderland to me; unlike anything I have seen before, and is definitely worth a visit. However, I’d advise if you can drive there, do it – and get there before all the tour buses come at 11am.