If you haven’t been to Pamukkale, you’re missing out. Located in western Anatolia in the Denizli region, it’s easily one of the most popular and visited places in Turkey. And for good reason too. The white “cotton castle” of hot springs is a stunning series of terraced travertine pools, created by eons of flowing water and is in stark contrast to the regions brown hills that it sits upon. The Travertine pools are also a gateway to the incredible ancient Greco Roman and Byzantine city of Hierapolis. From the pristine Roman Theatre, to the Martyrium of St Philip the Apostle, you’ll conjure images of a time long past. You can’t go to Turkey without going to Pamukkale. For most, going to Pamukkale is a simple bus ride.
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But, one day is all you really need.
The Travertine pools and Hierapolis are downright mind-blowing and are awesome in every sense of the word for the adventurer. And beyond the ruins of the city, you can also take a swim in the ancient pools or meander through the archaeological museum. You would also be hard pressed to find an ancient city so conveniently located to town. But the truth is, after one full day wandering through ancient relics and colonnades, there isn’t really much else to do.
For us, this lesson was learned the hard way. Most guides and tour groups will have this figured out, and will allot no more than a day before they move on providing plenty of time to see the Travertines, the ruins, get some swimming in, and of course the quintessential photo op. We made the mistake of staying three days in Pamukkale, against the advice of one of our companions who left that same day. Even the town of Pamukkale is remarkably unremarkable. Evidently, even with its proximity to two prime attractions, the town of Pamukkale has very little in terms of offerings. Dominated by a disproportionate amount of Pensions serving both food and accommodations, restaurants have given way to the competition and have done little in creating their own memorable dishes, choosing instead to cater more towards group travel. There’s very little in the town worthy of additional time; the town is efficient but short on quality.
The best way to tackle Pamukkale is on the way back from Cappadocia. Either way you’ll have to spend some time on the bus, but going from Istanbul to Cappadocia first will break up the return trip making it more enjoyable. Plus Pamukkale is geographically located in the center of most destinations you’ll end up visiting next. From Istanbul, you can get a ticket at any of the tour offices in Sultanahmet, and from Cappadocia, you can arrange your tickets at any of the shops around the Goreme bus station. Just be certain that your ticket specifies Denizli. Spend no more than a day visiting the ruins and try to get a bus ticket leaving the same day. During high season, buses from Pamukkale will go directly to destinations like Selçuk, but throughout most of the year you’ll have to get a shuttle to Denizli’s otogar (bus station) and then onwards from there. Denizli’s bus station services popular destinations like Selçuk, Izmir, Fethiye and Antalya.
In retrospect, the town wasn’t all bad. We did manage to get some much needed rest,recuperate from the sunburns and blisters, take in the local narghile bars and get ourselves an Efes! But for those with limited time and who plan on seeing as much of Turkey as possible, one day is all you need in Pamukkale.
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