Hot Spring and Cotton Castles at Pamukkale
It is 7 hours from Istanbul to Pamukkale and another 7 hours from Pamukkale to Cappadocia. If you wanted to come straight to Cappadocia from Istanbul then that’s at least an 8 hour journey. So a trip here is no mean feat. Yet the astounding natural beauty that awaits you could tip you to decide to come anyway!
The surreal white travertine terraces and boiling hot pools of Pamukkale hang, like the petrified cascade of a mighty waterfall, from the rim of a steep valley side in Turkey’s picturesque southwest. Truly spectacular in its own right, the geological phenomenon that is Pamukkale (literally “Cotton Castle”), is also the site of the well-preserved ruins of Hierapolis. With such a unique combination of natural and man-made wonders it is little wonder that this has been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With over two million visitors annually, it is also Turkey’s single most visited attraction. This fact surprised me, as before my trip to Turkey I hadn’t even heard of the place! For a tourist attraction that is supposedly the most-visited in Turkey, it seems that many foreign tourists to the country do not know it exists.
I have seen many hot spring resorts in Asia, such as in Japan and Taiwan, but the ones I have experienced were not snow-capped. Pamukkale simply has it all! There are dramatic terraces similar to this all around the world, but nowhere else can visitors enjoy exploring both picturesque travertine formations, built up over the millennia from limestone deposited by the abundant hot springs, AND the colonnaded streets, temples, bath houses, necropolis and theatre of the remains of an idyllically located Greek-Roman spa city, Hierapolis. After a few nights in urban Istanbul, a trip to Pamukkale is therefore the perfect tonic! A combo ticket for both of these attractions costs just 25TL.
The best way to approach the ancient terraces of Pamukkale is to walk up through the formations on the travertine path, starting at the south gate. You cannot wear shoes, to prevent eroding the delicate calcite deposits, so put your footwear in a bag and carry them. Wearing swimwear allows you to splash in the warm, aquamarine pools, and later swim in the antique pool at the top of the terracing.