We had been looking forward to visiting Pamukkale for a long time. When you see pictures of this place, you can’t help but plan to go!
Where We Stayed
Lots of places on the coast offer day trips to Pamukkale, but we elected to stay for a night so we wouldn’t be rushed through the site. We stayed at Venus Hotel. We found this hotel very comfortable. Checking out the pictures, you would never guess that this was a relatively budget option. We had two rooms, a double and triple and both had comfy beds, kettles, and pretty nice bathrooms. They also served a delicious buffet breakfast! We kind of wish we had stayed another night!
What We Did
Visit the UNESCO-listed site of Pamukkale – The site consists of two parts: the ancient Hierapolis ruins and the white calcite cliffs, or travertines. You buy one ticket to visit them both. However, if you want to swim in the fancy hot spring-heated pool on the top, it costs extra. The most convenient entrance requires a little drive out of the town of Pamukkale, up 2 km to the top of the cliffs where you enter into the ruins. You can then walk through the ruins and down the cliffs to the entrance at the bottom. Our hotel offered a free lift to the top of the travertines, so we took them up on that!
The Ruins – Hieropolis was a curative center founded around 190 BC. It continued its life under the Romans and then under the Byzantines. Apparently, there were large populations of Jewish and Orthodox Christian communities. The center was abandoned in 1334 after several earthquakes. The ruins are scattered over a large field at the top of the travertines. The contain a large Temple of Apollo where there was another oracle, similar to the one in Delphi. There were an adjoining spring which had some poisonous gases which billowed up from below. Also in the ruins was a Roman theater, Byzantine Church, Hellenistic theater, and a 2nd century Agora. Most noticeable though are the many preserved columns for the healing spring water which flowed throughout the city. The ancient city was quite large and we didn’t feel like we had enough time to do it justice.
The Baths – Wayne had been looking forward to swimming at Pamukkale for a long time. We were a little surprised at the set up of this. We had expected that there would be a pool filled with warm spring water at the top. We knew that the pool apparently had some ancient Roman ruins within it and were expecting that this would mean it had kept some of the ancient character. Unfortunately, in this, we were quite disappointed. Instead, it appears as if there is a large modern spa set in the middle of the ruins. It has very modern facilities, dining, lockers, massages, modern stores, and a manicured pool. There are some roman columns transplanted there, but there is no authentic or ancient feel at all. On top of that, it was quite expensive- an extra 32 lira (~$14) on top of what we had paid for the site already. As we mentioned, we were in a bit of a rush, so only Wayne decided to explore the pool.
The Travertines – The most distinctive part of Pamukkale is the white travertines. Pamukkale actually means Cotton Castle in Turkish, and that is exactly how they look! They look like they are made of ice, but are in face white calcite transported down the mountain by the water. There has been a lot of restoration work on the travertines since they became UNESCO listed and now tourists are only allowed on one portion. We used this portion to walk from the top of the hill down to the bottom. To protect the travertines, you are now required to remove your shoes when walking on them. The water at the top starts out quite warm but cools at it travels down through the pools to the bottom. In the summer, people might choose to actually sit or submerge themselves in the pools, but given that it was winter, the air felt far too cold for this! We did enjoy walking down the amazing landscape and taking pictures which contrasted the white ground and blue water. We also experienced sunset as we walked down, which added a whole host of other colors to the sky!
Where We Ate
We have to admit, we were getting a little tired of normal Turkish fare. So, we were pretty excited when we noticed that Pamukkale the town seemed to cater more to the Asian tourist. We found food from China, Korea, and Japan. We stopped at Kale Restaurant that had some good prices on Korean bibimbap! While only Della ate that, the whole family enjoyed their meal. Eric and Wayne went with a Turkish Combo Plate and enjoyed that quite a bit as well.