Also known as “Cotton Castle,” Pamukkale is one of Turkey’s most popular tourist attractions. It is world-renowned for its travertine terraces, ancient city ruins, and large spanning natural mineral hot springs.
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, Pamukkale is home to the country’s greatest concentration of hot springs. It attracts millions of visitors yearly thanks to its combination of rejuvenating waters and historical landmarks.
From the mineral pools’ ancient formation to the best time of year to visit and practices to enjoy the site’s soothing waters, this is everything you need to know before visiting the Pamukkale Thermal Pools, Turkey.
History of Pamukkale Thermal Pools
The Pamukkale Thermal Pools first formed millennia ago when a natural spring cascaded its way down the nearby cliffside during an ancient earthquake. The calcium bicarbonate-rich waters solidified as they cooled and left shelves and ridges in the process, which have since filled with spring water to form natural pools.
Since its formation, the natural pools have been popular amongst local inhabitants thanks to the mineral water’s therapeutic properties. However, the site’s first spa wasn’t officially established until the second century BC by the King of Pergamum, Eumenes.
Since then, the region surrounding Pamukkale has been conquered and passed between several civilizations, which left their mark on the ancient natural pool. With that said, the most prominent of the city’s ruins are attributed to the ancient Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis, which thrived between the second and third century AD.
In the millennia that have since passed, several influential civilizations and people have passed through Pamukkale and have soaked in the region’s world-renowned mineral waters. And while many of the ancient spas and buildings that presided in the area are now in ruins, visitors today can still soak in the same therapeutic spring waters once enjoyed by the region’s ancient inhabitants.
Attractions at the Pamukkale Thermal Pools
Pamukkale is more than just a simple hot spring complex. The once abode of several historical civilizations, the Pamukkale Thermal Pools offer visitors both a rejuvenating soak and a trip through time.
From natural hot spring pools to ancient city ruins, these are just some of the top attractions visitors can explore at the Pamukkale Thermal Pools, Turkey.
The Travertine Pools
The most iconic of Pamukkale’s hot springs, The Travertine Pools, are the overflowing stepped calcite travertine terraces featured in postcards and magazines of the region. Formed from the release of a mineral spring during an ancient earthquake thousands of years ago, the Travertine Pools are the region’s most naturally occurring swimming holes.
Since its first formation, spring water has cascaded its way down the travertine terraces, leaving behind mineral deposits that have grown and developed the site into the shape that has since been dubbed Cotton Castle.
Along with soaking in the natural pool’s soothing mineral waters, visitors to the site are invited to hike the historical geological formation. The vastness of the natural complex takes about 45 minutes to walk, and visitors must remove their shoes before making the trek.
Cleopatra’s Antique Pool
While not a naturally forming pool, Cleopatra’s Antique Pool is no less surreal than the Travertine Terraces and offers visitors a historical soaking experience in an ancient man-made pool. Believed to be built as a gift to Cleopatra from Marc Antony, the Antique Pool was once a luxurious swimming complex that now allows visitors to soak in a serene historical setting.
At one time, the ancient swimming pool was surrounded by ornate designs and even hosted a Doric temple dedicated to Apollo. While a 7th-century earthquake has since decimated the temple and surrounding columns, the ruins of both can still be explored in the lining of the pool’s bottom.
In modernity, Cleopatra’s Antique Pool continues to attract local and international tourists from around the world thanks to its ancient history and soothing waters, which average between 95 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. In addition, the pool features various small fountains and waterfalls and boasts high calcium levels for a rejuvenating soak.
Located within the ruins of the ancient city, Cleopatra’s Antique Pool is also a favorite swimming hole among snorkelers seeking to explore the remnants of the past. The pool’s complex also features an onsite cafeteria and gift shop for added convenience.
Ruins of Hierapolis
While the thermal pools may be the primary attraction to the region, the Ruins of Hierapolis offer a complete exploration of the region’s history. Believed to be established in 190 BC by Eumenes II of Pergamum, Hierapolis passed between several civilizations over the years, the influences of which can still be observed in the city’s ruins.
Despite its longevity, Hierapolis experienced its heyday during the rule of the Roman Empire in the second and third century AD. During this time, several additions were constructed in the city, including the complex’s lavish baths, temples, nymphaeum, theater, and necropolis.
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Pamukkale Thermal Pools, Hierapolis is now a protected archaeological site. It is a must-visit attraction for understanding the intertwined history of the region and its mineral waters.
Museum of Hierapolis
Located next to Cleopatra’s Antique Pool, the Museum of Hierapolis offers visitors an even more enhanced insight into the hot spring city’s past.
Home to several archeological finds that include remains of old hot spring structures and sarcophagus, the museum provides guests a look into the ancient lives of the region’s ancient spring-goers
Accommodation Options at Pamukkale Thermal Pools, Turkey
While visitors are not permitted to stay within the thermal pool complex itself, the community of Pamukkale boasts a wide selection of accommodation options for visitors to enjoy. With dozens of fantastic hotels within walking distance of the thermal pools, Pamukkale is a perfect destination for travelers of all budgets.
Located about 200 meters from the travertine mountains, Ozbay Hotel is one of the best ways to visit the region while maintaining a budget. This cost-effective accommodation features plenty of comfort amenities, including breathtaking mountain views and complimentary breakfast.
Situated only steps from the Hierapolis UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Hotel Sahin is one of the most comfortable mid-range hotels in the city. Onsite amenities include an a la carte restaurant, an outdoor pool, and great views of the travertines.
Visitors should book a room at the luxurious Pamukkale Whiteheaven Suite Hotel for the most comfortable stay in Pamukkale. While more expensive, this extensive hotel complex features an onsite restaurant, snack bar, and bar.
It also features 24-hour front desk guest services and offers tour packages, including hot air balloon rides and paragliding.
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Getting to the Pamukkale Thermal Pools, Turkey
As one of Turkey’s most popular tourist attractions, there are several ways to reach Pamukkale, including bus, plane, and car.
For most visitors, the easiest way to get to the site is by air, arriving at Denizli Cardak domestic airport, about an hour from the city. From there, visitors can take a bus or car rental to reach the famous thermal pools.