A visit to Pamukkale with its picturesque white hillside known as the “cotton castle” is a fun experience during your trip to Turkey. We recently visited the site as we drove from Antalya to see the ancient city of Ephesus and enjoyed a few hours of exploring. We spent time hiking, exploring the ruins, and walking through the thermal waters in the travertine pools on the hillside. Our guide to visit Pamukkale has everything you need to see the famous site and have a great time with your family.
Know Before You Go
COST: Check Museums of Turkey App
6:30am – 7pm | Oct – Mar
6:30am – 11pm | Apr – Sept
BEST TIME TO GO: April – October
LOCATION: 16km from the Denizli
PARKING: 25 TL for Cars
TIME NEEDED TO VISIT: 2 – 3+ hours
- Kid Friendly | Pamukklale is kid friendly. Opportunities to hike the site and swim in the thermal pool. Kids rate to swim in the thermal pool is 50 TL.
- Accessibility | There are paved paths and dirt trails when first entering the site. The paved paths are wide and make it easy to get to the travertines, the musueum, and thermal pools.
- Carts | There are carts on site you can rent to drive you through the site if needed. The theater entrance is up on a hill, so this helps if you have any issues with walking up or down hill on the dirt path.
- Thermal Pools | You can pay to swim in the thermal pool on site. You cannot swim in the travertine pools, but you there is an area you can remove your shoes and walk through the water.
- Photography | An early morning visit to Pamukkale is best for photos and skipping the large group tour crowds.
- Food & Drinks | There are markets on-site at the entrance to buy water & snacks. There are places to order food by the Antik pool, but we’d recommend heading to a local restaurant to eat.
- Restrooms | There are restrooms on-site at both entrances and the thermal pool area.
- Itinerary | Go to Pamukkale early or later in the day. The bulk of the crowd will be midday when the group tour buses arrive. Then, head to the ancient city of Laodicea a short 15-minute drive from Pamukkale.
Pamukkale & Hierapolis Fast Facts
- Hierapolis was founded in 190 BC by the Kind of Pergamon.
- Cleopatra is rumored to have swum in the Thermal Pools of Pamukkale.
- The thermal spring temperature is a consistent 36 degrees Celsius.
- The white hillside was formed by hot spring water flowing over the hill and leaving white calcium deposits as it cooled.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Brief History of Pamukkale
Pamukkale and Hierapolois are located in the Denizli province in the inner Aegean region on a plateau. Denizli has many cultures and rulers passed through the area including Alexander the Great. The first known ancient city is Laodicea. It was founded by King Antiochus II for his wife Laodice, about 6km from the city of Denizli.
The city of Hierapolis was founded in 190 BC by Atalos II, the king of Pergamon, and includes the travertine pools of Pamukkale. Hierapolis was built in an earthquake zone and experienced many earthquakes that the city was constantly having to be rebuilt.
Pamukkale’s travertine pools were formed by the thermal springs leaving calcium deposits on the hillside. This is what gives the effect of the white snow on the hillside. In fact, Pamukkale means “white cotton” in Turkish. The thermal springs gained popularity for their health benefits. Hierapolis was abandoned in the 12th century AD because of wars, earthquakes, and immigration.
Museum Pass The Aegean |
Get access to more than 40 museums to visit over 7 days in the Aegean region. You can purchase the card through the website, at the first museum you visit or on the Museums of Turkey app. If you’re traveling to other reagions, get the Museum Pass the covers access to museums in ALL of Turkey for 15 days.
What to Do at Pamukkale & Hierapolis
Hierapolis and Pamukkale are one site and a great to explore. Together with the kids, we hike up the dirt path to the top of the hill to go see the Theater. We spent most of our time here looking at the theater, people watching and listening to all the different languages we heard. After this we headed down to the museum to look at the artifacts on site.
The kids’ favorite part was heading over to the travertine pools, taking our shoes off and walking through the water. It was a fun little adventure to be able to touch and feel the travertines and the warmth of the water. I found it fun to feel a sense of community with other travelers doing the same thing. We had lots of conversations and laughter with complete strangers experiencing the travertine pools at the same time.
Below you’ll find our favorite parts of Pamukkale!
The ancient city of Hierapolis is sit above the white hillside of Pamukkale. Together they are recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pamukkale is a natural thermal spring that has covered the hillside in mineral deposits that give it a white cotton look. Hence, giving the site the name meaning “cotton castle”.
You can go explore the site of Hierapolis, with the great theater being the best structure to see on the site. The theater was built in the 2nd century AD during the reign of Hadrian. The theater can hold 15,000 spectators. The stage area is two stories and has columns with scenes of Apollo and Artemis. We enjoyed the views of the area from the theater.
Many of the ruins in Hierapolis have fallen over time due to many earthquakes. All in all, it is an easy site to explore. We suggest exploring and seeing the Necropole, the Grand Northern Bath, Frontinus Gate, Byzantine Gate, the Martyrium of St. Philipp, and the Museum.
Once you’ve visited the city, you can head down to the travertine pools.
Visit Pamukkale’s Travertine Pools
The views of the white hillside are breathtaking when you walk up to the pools. Many people think they will be able to swim in the travertine pools, but they are closed for swimming. There are several pools open where you can take your shoes off and walk into the warm thermal waters. We went in the wintertime and the only warm water was the small path of water running into the pools. Our feet were freezing! If you want the full thermal experience, you can visit Cleopatra’s Pool or stay in a local hotel that is fed by the springs.
Cleopatra’s Pool is in the same complex as Pamukkale, with signs calling it the Antik Pool. There is an extra cost to swim with discounts if you have the Museum Pass. It is not a travertine pool, but a natural pool filled with the thermal waters and ruins that toppled during an earthquake in the 7th century AD. We were there in March and only a handful of people were in the water because it was so cold outside. The people in the water said it was warm and very enjoyable, but we decided not to take the dip. In the summertime, you can expect more people in the pool midday. There is lighter traffic early and late in the day when the large group tours have left the site.
Ancient City of Laodicea
After seeing Pamukkale, head to Laodicea, one of the first ancient sites of the area founded in the 3rd century B.C. and one of the 7 churches of Revelation mentioned in the Bible. (Rev. 3: 14- 22) The city experienced several earthquakes in the 1st, 4th & 7th centuries that eventually left the city in ruins and it was abandoned.
I visited this site in 2005 and there wasn’t much to see. Visiting in 2022, this was a pleasant surprise that we all had so much fun exploring. There has been a lot of excavating being done, and we learned so much about the area. Also, you could even see the white travertines of Pamukkale off in the distance.
What to Wear to Pamukkale
Many wonder what gear or clothing they need to wear when they go to Pamukkale. Depending on the time of year you visit Pamukkale there are several things to keep in mind when you are packing for your trip. Following is a guide for what to wear to Pamukkale:
- Wear shorts or pants you can roll up if you plan to step into the travertine pools. The deepest parts come up just below your knees.
- Wear shoes that are easy to get on and off to get in the travertine pools. You can put them in your bag or carry your shoes with you.
- Bring your swimsuit or wear it under your clothes if you plan on swimming in the Antik Pool. Note, you cannot swim in the travertine pools.
- Bring a change of clothes in a backpack if you plan on swimming. There are changing rooms and lockers on site for you to put your things if you decide to swim. There is a fee for the lockers.
- It is hot in the summer months and the sun is bright – bring sunglasses, a hat and don’t forget sunscreen.
- Don’t forget your camera and adventure pants! 😀
Check out our ultimate Turkey packing guide for your more tips on what to bring and what to leave at home.
How to Get There
If you’re short on time while you’re traveling in Turkey, you can fly from any major airport into the city of Denizli. To fly from Istanbul airport or Cappadocia to Denizli is about an hour’s flight. From there, you can rent a car or hire a driver to take you to the sights to see in the area.
Pamukkale is approximately 3 hours from Ephesus, Fethiye and Antalya, making it a great day trip location or a stop as you’re passing through. You can rent a car or hire a driver to take you on a road trip to see the sights and return the same day. Another option is to stay the night and then return the next day.
Where to Stay
While Pamukkale is more of a day trip location, there are some options to stay in a hotel being fed by the thermal pools. You can swim in the thermal waters and skip the crowds of Cleopatra’s Pool. Be aware that the nicest and popular hotels are three-star hotels. While they are clean with good service, they are not luxury resorts.
Doga Thermal Hotel & Spa
Only a 10-minute drive to visit Pamukkale and Hierapolis. Doga Thermal Hotel & Spa is a favorite thermal hotel in the area for families. With attentive staff and clean rooms this is a good option for an overnight stay. The large indoor pool is a highlight for the kids to enjoy. Adults can enjoy the thermal spa on site.
Venus Suite Hotel
Venus Suite Hotel is in Pamukkale with views of the of the mountains and the travertines from the hotel rooms. Helpful staff, clean rooms, relaxing pool and a wonderful breakfast are highlights here. A family friendly atmosphere makes it fun for everyone!
Where to Eat
Pamukkale is a small village outside of Denizli and can feel a little overwhelming when thinking about where to eat when you visit. We’ve got several places we’ve eaten and would recommend stopping by for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You’ll have great food and experience everything that is great about Turkish hospitality.
Hiera Coffee & Teahouse
In Pamukkale, you’ll find Hiera Coffee & Teahouse run by Tolga and his mom Selven. You won’t get better service anywhere in Pamukkale. We found the café to be cozy and welcoming serving us cay as soon as we walked in the door. They had a full menu of food for the whole family. They even have vegetarian options. We had the Adana durum and the kids had hamburgers, all with fries. The food was great, and the price was on point!
Kayaç Wine House Restaurant Bar
Kayac Wine House is a great stop before or after a visit to Laodicea. A family-friendly atmosphere in a family-run restaurant. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner with excellent service and sensational meals. The mixed grill is at the top of the list along with the grilled vegetables. Smaller portions and good price point.
We stopped here on our way in from Antalya. They had options on the menu for all of us – The kids had cheese pizza, and we had kusbasali pide and chicken shish. We enjoyed the food – the service was ok.
For more food tips on the Aegean region, see our Foodie’s Guide to Turkey.
Can I swim in Cleopatra’s Pool?
Yes, you can swim at Cleopatra’s Pool when you visit Pamukkale. To swim in the pool costs 100 TL and 50 TL for kids. If you have a Museum Pass, you get 50% off the price of entry to the pool.
Can I swim at Pamukkale in the wintertime?
Yes, the Antik Pool is open in the wintertime and the water is 36 degrees Celsius. You’ll be able to swim in the thermal pool. It’s an ideal time to visit Pamukkale because there will be less people visiting. You might even have the pool to yourself!
How far is it from Laodicea to Pamukkale?
The drive is a short 12km, about a 15-minute drive from Laodicea to Pamukkale.
How far is it from Antalya to Pamukkale?
It’s about 179 km. Roughly a 3-hour car ride through the mountains from Antalya to Pamukkale.
How far is it from Ephesus to Pamukkale?
It is approximately 153km, a 3-hour car ride from Ephesus to Pamukkale. Its an easy day trip to add to your Turkey travel itinerary.
How many days do I need to see Pamukkale?
You can easily see Pamukkale & Hierapolis in one morning or afternoon. If you plan on swimming in the thermal pools, you might be there longer.