Bathing in Pamukkale had been on my BID list for a while, but nothing had prepared me to what it really is like!
Arriving at Pamukkale
Our road trip in Turkey had started in Antalia and after a few wonderful days in Cappadocia (you can read about this here and here), it was time for our next destination. 600 km of various landscapes from desert like to lush forests, mountains and lakes, lead us to Pamukkale.
Despite all the road signs, it is hard to believe that you are indeed arriving at destination. Nothing in the landscape looks quite like the travertines. But then suddenly, light shimmers on the white mineral wall and you know you have arrived!
It was late afternoon when we made it there. we checked-in in our hotel, and went out to have a look around the city, and enjoy the sunset. The site was closing so we went back to the hotel to have diner on the outdoor terrace, while enjoying the direct view of Pamukkale. After diner, we had a lovely walk around the lake which is located at the bottom of the travertines. We knew we had to get up early to make it to the site before the crowd, and after quite a big day of driving, we called it an early night.
Next day was going to be epic!
Bathing in Pamukkale’s springs
I had seen pictures of Pamukkale before, usually with people bathing in the travertines, but this did not prepare me for what was to come and how amazing the experience was going to be.
We reached the entrance at the bottom of the travertines and, from there started to walk up. It was early, yet the sun was already blinding. Water was gently flowing on the ground and tickling our toes.
It took me a few minutes to get used to this unusual environment. As we started walking up, the uneven floor surface was confusing my feet. Mostly soft & slippery, but also granular & a bit rough, the mineral ground felt like a challenge at first but very soon turned out to be the most relaxing experience.
We reached the first pool and I hesitated.
We reached the second pool and I went straight in!!
There I was, bathing in Pamukkale! As I covered my body in the clay mud, I was surprised to be feeling so relaxed and at peace.
The artificial pools where you are allowed to bath
The original travertines which are out of public reach
At some point we had to reach the top of the travertines… so a bit reluctantly we put our shoes back on and went on to explore the rest of the site.
Cleopatra Swimming Pool
By the time we reached the top of the travertines, the sun was burning my skin and the only thing I wanted to do was to follow the footstep of Cleopatra and bath in her swimming pool! Yes more water, more bathing!! But who could blame me?!
Of course I wished I had the pool to myself, like a true queen, but unfortunately, it wasn’t the case.
As I went in the pool, I started knocking every single of my toes, my knees and scratching other parts of my body on the roman columns or other antiques remains which are covering the pool floor. Somehow, that was actually fun!
After a while, we went to the deepest part of the pool, where we found peace and quiet amongst the surrounding neriums. In this part of the pool the water is quite warm and just a little fizzy. It tickles and caresses your skin at the same time.
Caution: do not get your eyes under the water, it hurts!
Discovering the ancient city of Hierapolis
Feeling refreshed from the pool and after a quick lunch in one of the surrounding restaurant, we continued our tour.
Discovering the ancient city of Hierapolis when reaching the top was a big surprised. I knew about it but would have never guessed it was so big (2,700 metres (8,860 ft) long, 600 m (1,970 ft) wide and 160 m (525 ft) high says Wiki). It has been destroyed by several earthquakes but the magnificence and importance of the city remains.
Not the best map, but I still thought it would give you an idea of how big the Hierapolis city was:
After hours spent exploring the city of Hierapolis, it was time to to go back down. The travertines pools were again very welcoming, refreshing and totally irresistible!!
We met this little sweet dog, the night before by the lake. She was hiding her puppies in a bush. That day she was sun-bathing. When getting too hot, she went hiding in hole on the side of the mineral wall.
There are a lot of stray dogs and cats in Turkey. They are mostly gentle as far as we have seen, craving attention and compassion.
The Technical Bits:
Pamukkale and the antique city of Hierapolis are part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
No shoes are allowed on the travertines. Plan accordingly as you will need more than flip-flops to walk around the Hierapolis city.
Obviously, bring you swimming suit!
You are not allowed to bath in the original travertines which are now too fragile.
In terms of accommodation:
We chose one of the hotels, right in front of the site. Not the fanciest place, but the view and the convenience was worth it and the people there were super nice and helpful. We did get a room with a view!
There are some fancier hotels but they are further from the site, and I therefore doubt they could have a view of Pamukkale.
The view from our hotel:
The lake at the bottom of the cotton castle:
A few more words on Pamukkale
It seems that lot of people are disappointed by their visit to Pamukkale, disappointed to very unhappy to say the least. Too many people, not enough water, misleading pictures of people bathing in the original travertines…. complaints on forum are endless.
I’m sure there are good days and bad days to visit, like everywhere else. And like all the complainers, I would have loved to be alone there. Like them I would have loved to bath in the original travertines.
But seriously you can’t expect that, can you?!… You wouldn’t expect to sleep in Louis XIV’s bed when visiting Versailles? You wouldn’t expect to be allowed to touch the Mona Lisa when visiting the Louvre? So why would you expect to bath in the travertines which took thousands of years to become what they are. These need to be protected as much as possible, it seems easy enough to understand.
And maybe there are issues with how the site is managed? Maybe the health and safety regulations there, are not close to what they are in other countries, like in the UK for ex, and that’s a good thing or you wouldn’t be allowed to walk there at all, otherwise!
If you are lucky enough to have visited a site like Pamukkale, you really should just feel blessed!
Feeling like doing a road trip in Turkey?