It was the beautiful Pamukkale (Turkish for ‘Cotton Castle’) that inspired us to take the trip to Denizli in south-west Turkey.
Upon first glance, Pamukkale’s white limestone cliffs could easily be mistaken for ice so its a confusing but pleasant surprise to step into the calcite travertines (terraces) pools that were up to 30 degrees celcius!
But before you book your flights, you’ll need to readjust your expectations of these pools.
THE TRUTH ABOUT PAMUKKALE
Left: Famous natural section of Pamukkale during its prime over a decade ago. (Image from Pinterest)
Right: What it looks like now
- Pamukkale’s famous natural landscape of 17 stunning turquoise hot springs (pictured left) is often used in tourist magazines and postcards …but in reality, it’s glory days are unfortunately over. Due to the hotels around the area draining the thermal waters to fill their own swimming pools, these terraces are now mostly empty and grey/brown (pictured right) and no longer open to the public.
- The section of the travertine pools that we’ve photographed throughout the rest of this post are the man-made pools that are accessible to the public. These artificial pools have been made to mimic what the travertines once were and they’re built on top of a road that was created once upon a time to allow motorbikes to access the site.
- In 1988, Pamukkale was officially declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site (thank goodness!). The hotels are now gone and there are now stricter controls on the developments around the area to protect the remainder of the area.
It’s a real shame that this beautiful natural wonder has lost some of it’s magic over time. Unfortunately humans can become so caught up in their own fascination that they forget it can be to the detriment to their surroundings 😦
Despite this lost, these thermal pools continue to be Turkey’s single most visited attraction and it fills up with tourists fast. Here are our tips on how to get a more intimate experience in Pammukale:
- Most tourists will make a day trip to Pamukkale from Aegean or Mediterranean resorts which means everyone arrives to the site from 9am in 15-20min waves. To allow yourself the freedom of coming and going at your own pace, we recommend spending a night in Pamukkale village and hiring a car so you make your own drive to the site and can enjoy it at dusk and dawn.
- The open hours of Pamukkale are listed as: 8:00 to 21:00 with 35TL entrance fee. However, these open hours are only applied to certain entrances. The South Gate entrance is open 24 hours.
- We drove our hire car to the South Gate not long after sunrise and paid the entrance fee to enter the site. From there, it was a 15 minute walk through the ancient Hierapolis ruins and first lot of travertines (which used to be open to the public but are now closed for swimming) before we finally found the travertine pools that were open for swimming.
- These travertines continue down hill and the further you continue along the travertine path, the better the pools. The only catch is that footwear is not permitted around the terraces so if you make the trek downhill, your feet will have to endure some pretty rough surfaces which can turn a 5 minute walk to a 15 minute tip-toe – so be careful!
- Once you’ve had enough time to explore the area, find your favourite pool and soak in the sun as it stretches over the limestone mountain. You’ll have some alone time with the beautiful view of before the tour buses start rolling in. If you’re lucky, you might be greeted by the local dogs around the area that enjoy an early morning dip in the pools!
- Make sure you bring your sunglasses because the reflection from the white landscape can leave you blind-sighted!