A trip to Turkey isn’t complete without visiting these top bucket list items – Pamukkale and Hierapolis. Located in the South Western part of Turkey in Denizli provence, Pamukkale is the more well known of these two world heritage sites, with it’s unique travertine terraces. Hierapolis is the ancient city that once stood above the terraces and the ruins can still be explored today. If you are in Turkey, then visiting Pamukkale and Hierapolis is a must do.
Pamukkale which means cotton castle in Turkish is one of Turkey’s most popular tourist attractions. The white thermal pools are made of terraced travertine – a mineral carbonate deposit that is left by the flowing of water. The thermal water once supplied the ancient city of Hierapolis and over the centuries people have bathed in the therapeutic water in the hope of curing ailments. Legend has it that when Cleopatra visited Hierapolis, she bathed in the thermal waters and claimed that the water had removed all her wrinkles. She then insisted on having the precious water shipped to her palace so as she could bath in the water. The antique pool is often referred to as ‘Cleopatra’s’ pool.
There are two areas at Pamukkale for swimming, the complex where the Antique pool is and the travertine terraces that overlook the valley. Some days the terrace fountains are not running and there will only be a few terraces filled with water. The majority of the pools are dry and don’t resemble photo’s that you will have seen on the internet, depicting brilliant blue pools. Many people are disappointed by high expectations of how they imagined it was going to look. If you go with an open mind and just enjoy the site for the view, the ancient city of Hierapolis and a lovely serene walk around the gardens then it is well worth a visit. Not to mention maybe even testing Cleopatra’s claims of discovering the fountain of youth – it’s certainly worth a try at least!
The terraces are crowded with tourists during summer and the pools can be even more so if not all the fountains are running. You will be required to remove your shoes and leave them on the decks in order to protect the terraces. This is vigorously policed by security guards along with ensuring that no one attempts to climb onto the off limit terraces. The day I visited there were only a couple of pools filled with water for those who wanted to swim. We were told by our tour guide that the previous day all the fountains had been running, so I guess it’s the luck of the draw.
Bathers enjoying the health benefits of the pools.
The lower section of the terraces are out of bounds to tourists.
The expansive whiteness of empty pools.
There is a nice garden area with a walking path, if you take the time to have a walk around you will discover another lot of terraces hidden behind. If you want to take a shot without other tourists in your photo, then this is the best place as it is not open for swimming. This section is very quiet as most people don’t realise what’s beyond the garden area.
The quiet out of bounds travertines that are just beyond the garden area are a bit more closer to the images you may have seen on the internet.
Entrance into the antique pool, where you can get changed and use the day lockers, have something to eat in the large cafe and you can swim in Cleopatra’s antique pool.
The antique pool contains ancient artefacts from the destruction of the pool surrounds that occurred during one of the devastating earthquakes. Swimmers can swim alongside original columns and marble that had come to lay where they fell. The pool itself has many health benefits for swimmers and is said to relieve a number of ailments. The thermal water temperature varies between 36-57 degrees Celsius.
High up on the hill overlooking the terraces of Pamukkale is the ancient city of Hierapolis. Originally built during the 2nd century B.C, it became a centre for health and religion due to the supply of the thermal waters. Hierapolis has had many influences from the Greco-Roman and Hellenistic eras and it’s peak time was around the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. Hierapolis has been destroyed by major earth quakes three times, the first being in 17 A.D then again in 60 A.D which the city was rebuilt and the final devastating earth quake occurred in 1354 of which the remains are of what we see today.
Walking though Hierapolis today you will still be able to see the gates and main street of Hierapolis, the remains of the roman baths, the church of St. Phillip and the magnificent ampitheatre.
One of the entrances to the city of Hierapolis. Visitors were required to cleanse in the baths prior to entering the city gates.
Ancient ruins lay where they came to grief.
The magnificent theatre is now being used again for performances. The ruins are quite spread out and it is quite a walk to each point of interest. There are shuttle buses that will take you to the further out monuments for 2 Turkish Lira and leave regularly. If you are interested in ancient history then you will could easily spend hours wandering around Hierapolis.
Pamukkale and hierapolis are located in the small town of Pamukkale. Pamukkale is about 19 km from Denizli and a two and half hour drive to the resort town of Kusadasi.
Pamukkale terraces and Hierapolis costs 25 Turkish Lira.
To swim in Cleopatra’s pool it will cost you an extra 30 Turkish Lira.