Pamukkale, Turkey is a small city in south-west Turkey known for its pristine white limestone hills where hot spring water has pooled to create a stunning, steamy landscape. In 1988, Pammukale and the ancient city of Hierapolis tucked behind the springs were added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site—both will be the main destinations in your Pamukkale itinerary. One day in Pamukkale is just enough to admire the highlights and wander off the beaten path.
Keep reading for everything you should know for your visit to this historic place.
How Many Days in Pamukkale?
On average, one day is plenty to spend in Pamukkale. You’ll have plenty of time to visit the travertine terrace pools, Hierapolis, and Cleopatra’s Pool with some time left over to explore the town of Pamukkale. To maximize your time spent here, plan to spend a night on either end of your one day in Pamukkale.
If you stay more than one day, you can revisit the travertine pools. It’s worth it to arrive just as they open to admire the sunrise over the clear blue spring water. Alternatively, you could head out of town to explore the surrounding countryside.
Getting To & Around Pamukkale
If you’re planning to spend a night or two in Pamukkale, you can fly from your current destination to Denizli Cardak Airport. It’s the nearest airport to Pamukkale, but it’s still about an hour’s drive away.
You can take a taxi or reserve a spot on a bus to take you into Pamukkale. The latter option allows you to reserve a ticket in advance and hop on the bus right outside the airport. It’s also the most cost-efficient mode of transportation.
Pamukkale is also located about equidistant between Antalya and Izmir, making it a good destination to stop at if traveling between these two cities.
You can take a bus from either of these cities to Denizli and connect to Pamukkale – a taxi ride will take about 20 minutes from the bus station to the town. Expect the total journey to take about 3-4 hours depending on the route. You can view schedules here.
You also have the option of taking a day trip to Pamukkale by booking a day trip from Izmir or Antalya that includes a visit to both Pamukkale and Hierapolis. You can also organise a 2-day trip from Istanbul.
Once you arrive in Pamukkale, getting around by foot is easy. The town is small and the bright white travertines backdrop the town—you can easily walk to and around them as well. You’ll only need to reserve a day trip or car if you plan to venture beyond the city.
One Day in Pamukkale Itinerary
If you have a day to spend in Pamukkale, it’s plenty of time to check out the city’s highlights. Here’s everything you should plan to see during your visit.
Take a hot air balloon ride
If you spend the night in this lovely town, you’re certain to see hot air balloons soaring above the travertines early in the morning. It’s one of the most recommended things to do in Pamukkale.
The most comfortable time for a ride is as the sun is rising. You’ll get an incredible view over the pristine white travertines before the crowds of the day arrive.
One basket can hold between 12 and 20 people. Most ticket fees include hotel transfer, a 1-hour aerial tour, and the pilot fee. You’ll rise about 1,000 metres to unbeatable panoramic views of the travertines, Hierapolis, and town below. You can book a ride here.
If you opt out of taking a hot air balloon ride, you should still consider rising early one morning to head to the travertines. From the main path along the travertines, you can see hoards of balloons in the sky. It’s a postcard-perfect image of the sunrise, balloons, and pristine white travertines.
If you’re working a hot air balloon ride into your itinerary for Pamukkale, opt to start your day with it. Get a bird’s-eye view of the landscape before heading out to spend the rest of the day exploring on foot.
Stroll through the travertines
The travertines of Pamukkale are the highlight of visiting this town. They were formed when spring water containing large amounts of calcium bicarbonate moved over the hillside. The calcium hardened and left these large deposits that, over time, developed into pools full of warm and bright blue spring water.
They were almost lost to intense tourism in the 1960s. A road was built along the limestone, turning the white stone a dirty grey. Nearby hotels drained the pools to fill theirs.
The Pamukkale thermal pools were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and restored to their original natural beauty. You might notice a few perfectly square pools while walking up the travertines. These are artificial pools that were built to cover the damage caused by the road.
Your visit begins at the entrance gate where you’ll pay a small fee. Visitors are required to walk barefoot along the stone to prevent further damage, but the stone is smooth and the water is warm—it’s a comfortable walk. Plan to pack minimally and wear a swimsuit under your clothes if you want to swim. There are no lockers or changing rooms.
Swimming in the travertines is allowed year-round, but it’s more comfortable during the warmer months. The spring water feeding into the travertines is also warm. The pools are fairly shallow, so you can sit or lay on your back in the water, but you’ll always be touching the bottom.
Make sure you pack sunglasses. The white stone reflects the light to make it a blinding walk. Plan to also wear sunscreen and comfortable clothes.
Once you walk up the main section of the travertines, you’ll notice they spread out to the side and toward the back of the hillside. You can walk along a boardwalk to enjoy the view over the town of Pamukkale or relax in the warm spring water.
Hierapolis encompasses a broad swath of area behind the travertines. Once you walk to the top of the travertines, you’ll instantly begin seeing the ruins. You could easily spend a couple of hours wandering through the standing stone structures.
Most of the standing architecture is from the Greco-Roman period. Established as a spa town in the 2nd Century BCE, it endured several earthquakes throughout its heyday before finally being abandoned by residents after one particularly devastating one.
During your walk through the site, keep an eye out for the Temple of Apollo, Nymphaeum of the Tritons, Necropole of Hierapolis, Tumulus, the Bazilika, Frontinus Gate, and a number of expertly-preserved tombs.
Perhaps the greatest attraction is the Hierapolis amphitheater. It’s carved into the hillside and stands prominently when you first enter the site. Construction on the theater began in the 1st Century BCE. Over the next two centuries, the stage and seating sections were slowly added.
In the 4th Century CE, it was renovated to be able to hold water for performative games. At its peak, the theatre could hold over 10,000 people. Much of it has been destroyed because of several earthquakes, so what stands today is a glimpse at what the theatre used to look like.
Between 2009 and 2013, the site had extensive restoration to create a well-preserved snapshot of history that welcomes visitors to walk through its aisles.
Entrance to Hierapolis is included in the ticket you purchase when first entering the site at the start of the travertines. All the main highlights are spread out across the preserved area.
To reach the amphitheatre, walk straight back from the top of the travertines. You can’t miss it. Make sure you pack plenty of water and snacks. It tends to get warm and there’s only a restaurant in Cleopatra’s Pool.
Visit Hierapolis Archeology Museum
Tucked within the Hierapolis archeological site is a small museum full of local artefacts. It’s home to items from the ancient cities of Laodicea, Colossae, Tripolis, and Arruda.
The museum is divided into three sections, each featuring a unique exhibit. You’ll find statues, idols, cups, gravestones, and all kinds of other artefacts recovered from the ancient site.
The museum is located in the Roman baths on site, which is also one of the biggest and most popular buildings in Hierapolis.
The entrance fee to the museum is included in your main ticket that you purchased at the gate at the base of the travertines. It’s recommended that you avoid visiting in the middle of the day as this is when the crowds are at their biggest.
Swim in Cleopatra’s Pool
For thousands of years before Pamukkale was named by UNESCO, people visited the thermal pools here to bathe. One of the most famous antique pools is Cleopatra’s Pool. It’s not a travertine, rather a sculpted pool that was gifted from Marc Anthony to Cleopatra, according to legend.
A giant Roman Temple dedicated to Apollo once towered over the pool, and you can find remnants of the temple’s columns there today. An earthquake in the 7th Century crumbled it.
Cleopatra’s Pool is commonly referred to as “champagne water”. This is due to the little air bubbles from the water’s minerals that you’ll see throughout the water. When you arrive, you’re given two hours to enjoy the pool.
We recommend you arrive early in the morning or wait to visit until late in the evening. The largest crowds at the pool are from mid-morning to late afternoon when day trip tours are in and out of the area.
If you generally aim to avoid crowds during your travels, it might be wise to skip Cleopatra’s Pool. You are charged an additional entrance fee and pay to rent a locker for your visit.
Many people tend to visit the pool, so it quickly gets crowded. If you can squeeze in a visit during the shoulder time periods, it’s a relaxing way to spend a couple hours.
Have 2 Days in Pamukkale?
With 2 days in Pamukkale, you can either spend more time exploring the travertines or venture beyond Pamukkale.
If the second option, head to Lake Salda. This sprawling crystal blue lake surrounded by clean white sand is known as Turkey’s Maldives. It’s the deepest lake in the country at 184 meters and the cleanest.
The lake is renowned for its hydromagnesite mineral mud, which is thought to nourish your skin. It’s an old volcano crater that is filled with water. A huge concentration of magnesium gives it the bright blue hues. It sits just over an hour’s drive from Pamukkale.
If you’re looking for a relaxing day in the sun where you can swim and enjoy crystal blue waters, Lake Salda is a great way to spend a second day in Pamukkale.
If you’re looking for a little more adventure to add to your Pamukkale itinerary, head for Kaklik Cave. It was formed at the beginning of the 21st century when the ceiling of an underground cavern collapsed. Today, visitors are invited to trek down the narrow and slippery staircase to enter the cave.
The first thing you might notice is the travertines similar to those in Pamukkale. This gave the cave its nickname “Little Pamukkale of the Underground”.
During your visit, you’ll walk down an initial set of stairs and follow a wooden path in a loop around the cave. It’s fairly short and you’ll exit the cave in a similar place to where you entered it. There’s no need to worry about bringing your own light as powerful LED lights have been set up along the path to give you a clear view of the cave’s interior.
There are sections of the path where water sometimes collects, so plan ahead by packing an extra pair of shoes or wearing waterproof shoes while exploring Kaklik.
Where to Stay in Pamukkale
Aspawa Hotel – This rustic hotel is great for mid-range visitors to Pamukkale. They have several comfortable rooms, a great location, free parking, an on-site swimming pool and a fantastic breakfast.
Venus Suite Hotel – This 4-star hotel is ideal for an upmarket stay in Pamukkale. They have a number of great rooms to choose from, a gorgeous outdoor swimming pool and a great buffet breakfast served daily.
Ozbay Hotel – A great budget option, this property is a stone’s throw from the Travertines the ruins of Hierapolis. They have a number of room types – all with A/C – and a traditional Turkish restaurant on site.
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Pamukkale is one of the most unique places to visit in Turkey. The travertines and ancient city of Hierapolis are impressive sites. Use this itinerary to guide your travels and you’re certain to have an unforgettable trip.
Are you planning to visit Pamukkale? Have any questions about this route? Let us know in the comments!