Turkey is home to an array of unique and otherworldly landscapes and Pamukkale is no exception. If you’ve ever wondered what a sweltering hot snow desert may look like, well look no further than Pamukkale. While it may translate to “Cotton Castle” in Turkish, from a distance it looks more like a mountain of snow rising in the middle of nowhere surrounded by the green countryside. It’s a spectacular sight and one of the most unique natural wonders you’re likely to lay eyes on. Pamukkale is also home to the ancient city of Hierapolis, which is located at the top of the travertines. This combination of unique, natural and manmade wonders have made it a UNESCO World Heritage site.
How it Got its Looks
The constant flow of warm water down the hillside from the hot springs above leave white calcium deposits, which harden over time to create those brilliant white travertines. The large pools of chalky blue water formed in terraces are made from the hot water bubbling up through the limestone, which dissolves calcium into the water and creates that chalky appearance. So grab your selfie stick and bathe like the Romans and Cleopatra once did in these warm mineral rich waters.
Before entering make sure to toss your shoes at the entrance or carry them in a bag as no footwear is permitted. This helps to prevent eroding and maintain that brilliant white colour. While the travertine may look rough, it’s actually quite gentle to walk on barefoot and not nearly as slippery as it may look.
Everything is Better at Sunset
Pamukkale is the most visited attraction in all of Turkey with over two million visitors annually, so you can imagine just how crowded it can get. For this reason we chose to enter after 5pm, once all the tour groups had vacated the premises (note: it closes at 9pm during the summer and 5pm in winter). Not only will you get photobombed way less, but if you’re traveling during the heat of the summer like we did, then you’ll also find it much cooler and less heat stroke inducing.
It’s Not What You Expect
Tourists are now restricted to certain walking paths and basins for swimming, with those famous cliff side travertines that you’ve likely seen on Google now off limits. At the time of my visit these basins were also completely dry, however the slightly less epic hillside basins are still open to tourists and full of water. It’s always best to search #pamukkale on Instagram and read up-to-date reviews on Tripadvisor to find out the current conditions of the travertines.
The majority of tourists travel to Pamukkale on a day tour, generally from the popular resort destinations along the coast such as Bodrum and Fethiye, which are a 3-4 hour bus ride away. If you choose to fly, Denizli Cardak airport is an hour’s drive from Pamukkale and has direct flights to and from Istanbul. Personally, I took the overnight bus from Cappadocia and arrived in Pamukkale at sunrise.
If you’re like me and love the look of snow but hate the cold, then you’ll love Pamukkale!