One of the most fascinating sites I have been to is the thermal pools of Pamukkale Turkey. Not only is it a beauty to behold, but it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a complete guide to Hierapolis Pamukkale Turkey. In this guide, you will find out where the thermal pools of Pamukkale Turkey are located, why Pamukkale is called the Cotton Castle, how Pamukkale was formed, What to expect on your visit, the 5 amazing things to see at Hierapolis Pamukkale, my personal experience and the top tips to having a pleasant time out on your visit to the thermal pools of Pamukkale Turkey.
I have written about the 7 must visit destinations in Turkey and Pamukkale was on that list. Here is all you need to know about the Thermal Pools of Pamukkale.
Where are the Thermal pools of Pamukkale Turkey located?
The thermal pools of Pamukkale Turkey is located in the Denizli area of Turkey, about 3 hours drive from Marmaris. Known previously as the Egypt part of Turkey, the most western part of Turkey and the region is a thermal region. There were over 50 thermal pools in the region and the temperatures of the thermal pools range from 25 degrees to 100 degrees. The Turkish government are using the thermal pools to generate electricity and there are thermal plants in the region for this purpose.
There are over 50 thermal pools but the thermal pools of Pamukkale Turkey is special, it is one of Turkey’s most visited tourist attraction and rightly so, it is such a breathtaking experience. Many people believe it is salt but it contains calcium bicarbonate. Here is how it was formed.
How were the Thermal Pools of Pamukkale Turkey formed?
Pamukkale is a natural wonder that was formed by a high content of calcium bicarbonate which was believed to have cascaded over the edge of this hillside. When it got cooled, it hardened up and left calcium deposits. Deep beneath the area which was known as the ancient Holy city – Hierapolis lies the source of water heated by volcanic lava. The thermal pools Pamukkale Turkey is believed to have served the Holy City called Hierapolis. The waters come from 50 metres below the ground.
Why is Pamukkale Turkey called Cotton Castle?
Pamukkale means Cotton Castle in Turkish and it is called Cotton Castle because when the first inhabitants arrived in this area of Turkey, the first thing they saw was a white mountain, they believed it was a special place and they named it Cotton Castle. From afar, the white limestone walls seem to look like fluffy cotton because it is white and because of its size, at 5 square kilometres long, 600 metres wide and 160 metres high, it is indeed a castle. That is why it was named Cotton Castle.
How to get to the thermal pools of Pamukkale Turkey
If you have arrived at Marmaris, there are day excursions to the thermal pools of Pamukkale Turkey organised by tour operators and a local guide. If you decide to go see for your self, the nearest city to Pamukkale is Denizli at about 212.4 Km from Marmaris through the D330 road.
There are taxis going to Pamukkale Turkey at the cost of around 600 Turkish Lira and minibuses from around 400 Turkish Lira.
Once you get to the town of Denizli, there are signposts that will lead you to the thermal pools of Pamukkale Turkey. There is an entrance fee for the thermal pools of Pamukkale is 80 Turkish Lira per adult and kids under 5 go free.
What you will see at the Thermal pools of Pamukkale Turkey
There are 9 pools going from top to bottom. These pools are called Travertines and the depth of the water in these 9 pools are about 125 cm. That means you can not have full-blown swimming in here but you can lay in the thermal pools of Pamukkale Turkey. It is believed that the thermal pools have healing powers and people use the thick calcium deposits on their skin. Although I didn’t do this. I saw many people doing this.
Tips for navigating Hierapolis Pamukkale
As you enter the site called Hierapolis Pamukkale, you will find that it is an overwhelming site thus, you need to follow the tips for navigating Hierapolis Pamukkale for your best experience.
The best option is to park your car at the South gate at Hierapolis Pamukkale. At the entrance, you will find cafes, shops and a toilet. Once you pay the entrance fee, you will find a huge map of Hierapolis explaining what to see. Also available at the entrance are golf cars. The Golf cars provide the much-needed shade from the sun as well an experienced tour guide who is also the driver of the Golf cars. They are available for 250 Turkish Lira for an individualised experience or 150 Turkish Lira for a joined tour.
Once you have decided the way you’ll like to explore the Hierapolis site, you need to proceed to see the 5 amazing things at Hierapolis.
5 Amazing things to do at Hierapolis Pamukkale Turkey
There are five amazing things to see and do at Hierapolis Pamukkale site. The first thing to do is to see the thermal pools of Pamukkale and the second thing to do is to explore the historical site of Hierapolis, the third thing to visit is The Museum of Archaeology, the fourth thing to do is to visit the Ancient Theatre and the fifth thing to do is to swim at Cleopatra’s thermal pool.
#1. See the Thermal Pools of Pamukkale Turkey
The thermal pools of Pamukkale Turkey are slippery. Use these tips for navigating Pamukkale Turkey for your best experience.
- You will not be allowed to wear shoes on the Travertines and carrying heavy bags and items are not adviseable so you best bet is to make use of the lockers at Cleopatra’s thermal pool which is located in the Hierapolis Pamukkale site. Alternatively, there are little kiosks selling drinks and snacks with an outdoor seating area.
- The source of the water comes from the top, that means that the lower you go, the colder the Travertines.
- You might want to visit all the 9 thermal pools, however, the water at the 9th pool is much colder than the rest. The views will be the same so it is up to you to decide if you want to climb down to see the 9th thermal pool.
- There are about 2 million visitors a year to the Thermal Pools of Pamukkale Turkey. It is best you consider how others will love to meet this natural wonder.
#2. Explore the historical site of Hierapolis
Hierapolis in the Greek language means holy city. Hierapolis was called the holy city because when the Greeks arrived, they saw a white mountain and they believed the mountain was a gift from the gods and goddesses. As a result, they built a city around it. In the ancient time, Hierapolis had the biggest graveyard site because people came from around the world to seek blessing, healing and to die in the holy city. They also believed that the gate of heaven was open from this place.
Hierapolis is also a significant Christian site. It is believed that one of the Roman tombs was the resting place 0f Apostle St Philip and there is a martyrium built to signify this. Although we are told his remains have been moved to Rome, Hierapolis still holds an important event in the Christian history.
#3. Visit the Hierapolis Archaeology Museum Pamukkale
On your way to the thermal pools of Pamukkale, you will walk past the Archaeology Museum on the left-hand side. It is about 3 minutes walk from Cleopatra’s Ancient thermal pool. The Museum holds recovered ruins from Hierapolis and many precious items that will give you an insight into the way of life of the Greeks and then the Romans. The Museum is housed in a former Roman bath and gymnasium. It costs Golden statues of gods and goddesses.
#4. See the Ancient Hierapolis Theatre
The Hierapolis Theatre is a mind-blowing structure, located about 15 minutes walk, up a hill from the thermal pools of Pamukkale. The theatre at full capacity can hold about 15,000 people. To make a guess at the population of people living at Hierapolis, we multiply the capacity of the ancient theatre by 10. That means that the population of the people that lived at Hierapolis at the time was roughly an estimate of around 150,000.
The Theatre is dated back to the first century AD which makes it 1,900 years old. It is one of the most well-preserved theatres in Turkey. For the Greek people when they lived at Hierapolis, the theatre was a temple used to worship a god – Dionysus. The god of pleasure, fun and god of wine. They gathered at this temple (Hierapolis Theatre), watched comedy shows, entertainers and drink a lot of wine.
#5. Swim at Cleopatra’s Ancient thermal Pool
Cleopatra thermal pool is a fascinating place because it is believed to be a gift to the Queen of Egypt and it is rumoured that she actually swam in this pool. You will be swimming in the same pool that Cleopatra once swam in and you will be able to imagine how this pool would have looked like in its glory days.
Cleopatra’s ancient pool is fed by the same hot springs from the ground that is distributed around the thermal pools of Pamukkale. The pool has healing powers and soaking yourself into this pool will make your skin feel good. The water is crystal clear however, take care around the fallen columns that make up the floor of the pool.
Swimwear is a must here. There are changing rooms with lockers and keys where you can keep your belongings.
Enjoy having a splash at the pool or opt for the spa facility also in the complex. You can also fill your water bottle with the water at the tap. Many people believe it is good for your body.
The entrance fee for 2 hours of swimming is 40TL. You can sit in the gardens if you are not swimming for free.
My experience at the thermal pools of Pamukkale Turkey
We arrived at Hierapolis Pamukkale through a coach bus, we went straight to the thermal pool, a photographer followed me around taking my pictures. I wasn’t keen on taking pictures with him, he wanted me to sit on the edge of the cliff to get the perfect Instagram picture, it wasn’t for me so I went off my way, that didn’t stop him from taking more pictures. I carefully walked down from the first pool to the fourth pool and saw the views of all the pools. I decided to stop at the fourth pool after taking enough pictures.
We left the thermal pool and went to Cleopatra’s pool. We stayed there for one hour and went on to explore the historical site of Hierapolis. It was a really hot day so we decided to hire a golf car with a personalised service. The driver was the tour guide and he was very experienced at taking photographs too.
The driver took us around the park for one hour, stopping at the most important monuments for pictures. I will say if you can afford it, it is the best option for navigating the Hierapolis in the sun.
The driver took us to another part where we could see the Tavertines from a different perspective. This area was empty and had no tourists.
It was such a beautiful experience for me.
Top Tips for having a memorable time at the thermal pools of Pamukkale Turkey.
Based on my experience of the thermal pools of Pamukkale Turkey, I will recommend these tips in order for you to have a memorable time here.
- Go with a tour guide or use an audio tour guide.
- Take towels, swimwear and hand cream.
- Leave your belongings at Cleopatra’s ancient pool. It costs just 3TL.
- Decide what you want to wear at the thermal pool and change before getting there.
- Sunglasses, sunhats and suncream are a must if you are visiting from May to September.
- Take water bottles to stay hydrated.
- Drones are allowed once you seek permission.
- Make use of the shuttle bus, golf cars or guide if you are less able to walk around.
- Plan in enough time to visit and explore the area.
- Take pictures. It is a truly beautiful place.
Final Thoughts on the Thermal Pools of Pamukkale Turkey.
I absolutely enjoyed visiting this magnificent cotton castle. Have you visited before?
Let me know in the comments what your impression of the thermal pools is. If you are planning a visit here, please let me know too.