During my visit to Turkey, I took an overnight trip with a few friends to Pamukkale. We could not resist visiting these beautiful travertine terraces that look like ice in the middle of this Mediterranean country. We had all seen pictures of this “cotton castle” before we went, and the reality did not disappoint us. Below are some tips from my short visit to this town:
What to Do:
Thermal pools. The main thing to do here is go to the travertines. Visitors can either walk to the top or get a ride from their hotel to drop them off at the entrance, which is what we opted to do because of the heat. After the entrance, there are some ruins that visitors can walk through. At this point, we had already seen our share of Greek ruins so we did not spend a lot of time looking around here. Instead, we walked straight for the travertines making a stop at Cleopatra’s pool along the way. Once at the travertines, visitors can spend their time laying around in some of the warm pools, taking in the scenery, and taking some amazing pictures. We stayed around to see sunset when we were able to get some more breathtaking shots, which I highly recommend doing. Visitors can exit the area by walking back to the entrance for a pick up (if they arranged for one) or by walking down through the travertines, which is a neat experience and what we chose to do. Visitors should remember to bring a swimsuit and towel as they will not be able to buy or rent these on site. Visitors should also bring a bag to carry their shoes in as they are not allowed to wear shoes in the travertines. Plan to spend 2-3 hours here.
Cleopatra’s Pool. This hot spring is built on top of toppled ruins. It is located inside the same site with the travertines but is not part of the ticket for the travertines. Visitors will have to pay a separate fee to enter here. The fee for these pools will get visitors two hours of time in the pools and unlimited time in the area around the pools. We did opt to come here, and I thought the extra fee was worth it. These pools are unique because of the ruins that have been left inside of them. Although they are warm, they are still a nice way to cool off out of the heat and they are deeper than the travertines. Inside this site there are lockers that can be rented to store bags and towels during time here and a restaurant. Plan to spend 2 hours here.
Pamukkale Natural Park. This park is located at the bottom of the travertines and has a nice view of the “cotton castle.” It also has some nice gardens that are good for a picnic, and some small streams of the thermal water running down from the hill. These streams surround a larger lake that has ducks and fish. This park is nice place to relax and take in some sights. Plan to spend an hour here.
This is really not a place for shopping. While there are a few shops in the town selling souvenirs, there are not a lot. And the souvenirs here are not ones I would recommend buying because they can be found in a wider variety and better quality in Istanbul. There really is not an item that is unique to just this area. Instead, spend time enjoying the outdoors and taking pictures as a souvenir.
What to Eat:
This is a small town so there are limited restaurants in this area. While there are ‘restaurants’ up at the thermal pools, they are not great. The food is more expensive and is cooked in the microwave. During our visit, we got beverages at the restaurant by the entrance, and one of my friends ordered a wrap that she said tasted okay. The rest of us ordered food later at the restaurant in Cleopatra’s Pools. The food I got was still cold in the middle despite being put in a deep fryer and just was not very tasty. I advise visitors to have a big meal before going to the travertines and/or waiting to eat at a restaurant in town at the bottom of the travertines after leaving. I would also advise bringing water and snacks in a bag.
The restaurants in the town are located near each other and the hotels and are located inside the hotels. They all serve popular Turkish dishes. The food we ate here was fine but not overly memorable. During our short trip here we dinner at one restaurant outside of our hotel that served pide, which was low cost and good. The rest of our meals we took inside our hotel. We ate breakfast at the Turkish breakfast buffet in our hotel, which came complimentary with our room. We also had lunch here on the day of our departure that was good but nothing unique. There are not a lot of options for food and we only tried one of the restaurants in town so there is not one restaurant I would recommend over others. Any restaurant travelers choose will likely be decent price and serve solid Turkish food.
Where to Stay:
This town is mainly a tourist town so travelers will want to stay in a hotel here. There are several hotels in the area that are within walking distance of the pools. These hotels are nice and still on the cheaper side. My group was at an advantage because there were four of us who were able to split a room for the night making this a very affordable option. But travelers in smaller parties should still be able to find a good deal.
We arrived to the area by plane from Istanbul. We chose to go by plane rather than bus because of the limited time we had in Turkey. The flight was much faster and the cost through Pegasus airlines was not bad, especially because we were only carrying on an overnight bag. Traveling by plane within Turkey is very affordable. And we could have gotten even better prices if we had booked earlier. Unfortunately, we did not book our tickets until a couple of weeks before our flight when the cheapest seats were already sold out. The closest airport to Pamukkale is Denizli, which is about an hour away by car. We arranged for a pick up ahead of time through our hotel who sent a taxi. Visitors can also get a taxi on their own outside the airport or take a bus, which will be cheaper for travelers traveling alone or in smaller parties. Because we were able to split the cost four ways taking a taxi was only slightly more expensive and was worth the extra cost for us because we did not have to wait for the next bus. Arranging a taxi ahead of time, if this is the preferred option, is better because the price will be already negotiated and a ride will be guaranteed. Once in Pamukkale, there is no public transportation. Instead, for those staying within walking distance of the travertines, everything necessary should be in walking distance. If visitors need to go somewhere outside of the town, they can arrange for a taxi through their hotel or Airbnb. When we departed Pamukkale, again we took a plane and arranged for a taxi to take us to the airport through our hotel.
This overnight trip provided me with some amazing sights that I will not soon forget. Standing in this cotton castle was so much fun. And the pictures we took were truly Instagram worthy. We only spent about a day and half here, and I think that is sufficient time because there really is not much to do outside of the travertines. There are other thermal pools in nearby towns that hotels can arrange tours of, but these are not the famous and picture worthy pools that are in Pamukkale. And I would only go to these if travelers are not short on time and want to stay in this area longer. We visited this area in September, and it was still very warm but not overly crowded. I can imagine that at peak time it would be much more difficult to get into Cleopatra’s Pool and the thermal pools with everyone trying to pack into a limited space. And I imagine that during peak summer it is extremely warm to be outside all day. I would definitely recommend going in September. This city is for travelers who love natural wonders and photo worthy spots.