If you like ancient ruins and natural wonders of the world, then you’ll have a blast with these fun things to do in Pamukkale.
Pamukkale is the home of one of Turkey’s most popular tourist attractions – the dazzling white travertine terraces.
This amazing natural wonder is considered a must-see when you visit Turkey.
But, on our last trip to Turkey, we didn’t visit Pamukkale as the travertines had been damaged by mass tourism.
Hotels had been built on the summit and were diverting the water to fill their swimming pools, damaging the white cliffs and making them dirty.
We weren’t going to contribute to that.
Since then the government has stepped in. The hotels are gone, the water is flowing and human access is properly controlled.
Thankfully, the travertines have recovered, and are once again sparkling white.
So this time around we made sure to check it out.
And we were delighted with all the fun things to do.
The number one must do in Pamukkale is to explore the spectacular travertines.
The word Pamukkale means “Cotton Castle” as, from a distance, it looks like a castle made of fluffy white cotton.
They are an incredible sight, and we had a ball traipsing over the terraces and paddling in the pools.
The mineral rich water has health giving properties and you’re allowed to take a dip in the warm water. We only paddled our feet but we saw people coating themselves from head to toe in mud!
Some science stuff
This dazzling wonderland was formed in the same way as stalactites in limestone caves. For centuries mineral rich water has flowed over the cliffs creating calcium deposits on the steep slopes.
These deposits fan out into a series of blinding white terraces that have pools of stunning blue water.
Tips for visiting Pamukkale’s travertines
- Most tourists visit from the coast on a Pamukkale day tour – usually arriving in the late morning or early afternoon. So it’s a good idea to avoid these times.
- There are three entry gates but we recommend using the gate closest to the village. This way you can start at the bottom and walk up through the terraces and enjoy the views along the way.
- Bring a bag to carry your shoes in as they aren’t allowed to be worn on the terraces.
- There aren’t any change rooms so wear your bathers under your clothes.
- You’ll also need to bring a towel to dry off.
- Wear sunglasses as the glare from the travertines can be strong.
- There’s a lovely area at the top with a cafe where you can rest and have something to eat and drink.
A word of warning: Tread carefully. The travertine floor can be slippery in places and some of the limestone pieces have sharp edges.
The Ruins Of Hierapolis
We were looking forward to seeing Hierapolis as traipsing around ruins was one of our favourite things to do in Turkey.
But our travel weary bodies (read Audrey’s) were too darn tired to see it all. We did go for a bit of a wander though and we’re glad we made the effort.
If you like ancient ruins then you’ll have fun visiting Hierapolis.
What is Hierapolis?
Hierapolis is an ancient city that was founded around 190 BC and was famous for its sacred hot springs. Much like today, people came to the city to bathe in the mineral waters believing it would cure their medical problems.
An earthquake in 60 AD destroyed the city, it was rebuilt and continued to prosper until another earthquake struck in 1334 when the city was abandoned.
What remains are castle ruins, a Byzantine church, Necropolis, city walls and a collonaded street.
The Hierapolis Theatre
The amphitheatre sits on a slope above the rest of Hierapolis. From below it looks less than impressive as the area is littered with building materials from restoration works.
It was a bit of an effort climbing the hill and I almost turned back thinking it wasn’t worth it. But, as always Andrew was there coaxing me onwards and I kept going.
I’m glad I did.
The theatre is incredibly well-preserved with beautiful royal boxes and decorative panels along the stage. I was disappointed we weren’t able to take a closer look. But gosh, here we were sitting in the same seats that people sat in a millennium ago.
So we sat and enjoyed the view for a while.
Pamukkale Antique Pool (Cleopatra’s Pool)
The Pamukkale Antique Pool was just what we needed to soothe our travel weary muscles – just like the Romans did!
It felt like a warm bath with the mineral rich water sitting at a steady thirty-six degrees.
The thing I liked best is, you get to paddle amongst centuries old columns and marble blocks.
Apparently, they fell into the pool during an earthquake and nobody has bothered to remove them. So, we get to have fun crab crawling – and grazing our knees – all over them!
How cool is that!
- The antique pool costs extra as it’s not included in the price of a ticket. And you can only go in the pool once which makes it expensive – but you can stay in as long as you like.
- There are change rooms available but you need to bring your own towel.
- A locker is included in the price of your ticket. You need to show it to an attendant in the locker area so don’t throw it away.
Sunset On The Travertines
Over and over again our hostel owner repeated ” Go at sunset,” “Sunset’s the best time,” “See the travertines at sunset.”
We’ve been told to “go at sunset” many times, but often it doesn’t live up to the hype so it wasn’t something we were planning to do.
But time got away from us and we were there for sunset anyway.
And it didn’t disappoint.
Go at sunset!
Paragliding over Pamukkale
If running off a mountain into thin air is fun for you there are companies offering tandem paragliding over the travertines and Hierapolis.
We aren’t thrill seekers but we liked watching the paragliders floating across the sky. Their bright colours were a striking contrast to the blue and white terraces and we thought they looked like giant butterflies.
If this is something you’d like to do, make sure you check a company’s safety record and insurance before booking them. Try asking at your hostel or hotel’s reception for recommendations as they should know who the best operators are.
Pamukkale Nature Park
If you have a spare hour or two take a wander down to the outdoor nature park.
Set at the bottom of the travertines it’s a wonderful way to see Turkish families spending time together. If you’re lucky you might see some brides wandering around as it’s a popular spot for weddings.
There are paddle boats that you can take out on the lake, just be sure to keep an eye out for ducks – there’s a lot of them.
The nature park is an ideal spot for a picnic or there’s a cafe where you can grab a bite to eat. Either way, everyone seems to end up walking around with an ice-cream in their hand.
There’s also a pool with water slides for the kids.
Where To Stay
We stayed at Mustafa Guesthouse in Pamukkale, it was cheap and clean and a minute’s walk to the lower gate. The owner was helpful but best of all was the great food!
We’d read guesthouses have the best food and not to eat in the restaurants but we tried them anyway. And after two disastrous meals, we stuck to eating at Mustafa’s. The stuffed peppers were a favourite of ours and we ate them once, twice, three times?
Pamukkale is a small village, if you like things lively then we recommend staying in Denizli. It’s easy to catch a dolmus from there to see the travertines.
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