Solo Gay Trip Guide to Pamukkale & Hierapolis in Turkey
Like most people, my knowledge of Turkey was limited to Istanbul and Cappadocia along with some great beach places like Antalya and Izmir. It changed quite a lot when I actually started planning the trip.
Read my country guide about Turkey to find answers to all your questions for a comfortable trip.
Pammukale was perhaps the most interesting place for me because it is different and while it is far from off the beaten path places, it certainly is unique. The idea of playing in the fluffy cloud-like travertines and swimming the Beauty Pool of Cleopatra with Roman marble columns was too enticing to ignore.
Fun Fact: Pammukale literally means cotton castle in Turkish and Hierapolis means ‘Holy city’.
The beautiful white Travertines filled with our blue water along with the ancient city of Hierapolis are UNESCO World Heritage sites and a must-visit in Turkey. The site has been popular with Romans and people would come here as early as 2nd Century B.C to bathe in the mineral-rich waters of Pammukale. Hierapolis is called Holy City because people would worship Apollo here and it was a place which would take you directly to heaven after death and people would flock to come and die here. To be honest, it would have been a great place to die, It is a very relaxing and scenic spot and I have very fond memories from my visit.
Fun Fact: The two most famous who died and were buried here are Marcus Aurelius and Philip The Apostle.
How to Get to Pammukale
Pammukale is located next to the city of Denizli. Denizli is quite a beautiful place on its own and easy to reach both from Istanbul, Cappadocia and Izmir.
Istanbul to Pammukale
There are multiple flights from Istanbul to Denizli Airport and back. You can take the shuttle bus directly from the airport to Denizli and back or you can take the shuttle bus from the main Otogar (Bus Station) of Denizli regularly. I used this route on the way back when we took the shuttle from Pammukale to Denizli and stopped in the city for a quick look and some great lunch before heading to the airport for my flight to Istanbul.
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Izmir to Pammukale
I was visiting Pammukale on the way back from Izmir with the advantage of seeing Selcuk and Ephesus before heading to Pammukale. We took the train from Izmir Basmane Train Station which brought us to Selcuk, you can take the same train further to Denizli and then take the shuttle to Pamukkale.
The train takes an hour and 15 minutes to arrive in Selcuk and 4 hours 30 minutes to arrive in Denizli. You can check train times and book tickets on the Turkish National Rail Website.
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Food in Pammukale & Denizli
There are some restaurants for food but the food here is a simple affair. The food is generally fresh and simple. The most amazing regional speciality is the Denizli kebab which is made with lamb and served with bread, hot chillies and Ayran. The best kebabs in Denizli are made at Kocabeylar Kebabci. It is a very local canteen-style place without any frills located deep in the old bazaar, you will need to ask locals.
Another must-try is the helva ice cream which is ice cream served with molasses, absolutely delicious after some hot kebab!
Where to Stay in Pammukale
There are a few hotels in Pammukale village and most of them are pretty much the same. there are no luxury places but the hotel we stayed in was very comfortable with a nice pool and very hospitable staff. The village is quite small and no matter where you stay you won’t be far from the entrance of Travertines.
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What is the Best Time to Visit Pammukale?
Summers in this part of Turkey are scorching hot and winters quite cold. The best time to visit is spring or autumn. I visited in later October and the weather was perfect with water nicely warm and nights cold enough to sleep without the need for air conditioning. In summer, water quantity is quite low and in Winter you will get ill walking through water up and down.
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Practical Tips for Visiting Pammukale
- Bring towels, swimming costume and a bag pack with you to avoid paying for towels and Locker at the Antique Pool
- Early morning is the best time to visit before the day trip tourists arrive and the place gets crowded
- Bring a change of clothes, you will need it after the swim, wear shorts to avoid getting your pants dirty
- Take the shuttle bus to the northern entrance from Pammukale village if you have mobility issues or if you want to walk only one way.
- You are not allowed to wear shoes going up or down but despite the fluffy look, the path up has good grip.
- The photos you see online with all pools full are not necessarily reality. Only sections of the travertines are open to the public and not all of them are filled with water, there is a watering schedule to preserve the site.
Entrance Fee for Pammukale
These fees are as of late 2019, please use this website for up to date information.
Entrance Fee – 60 TL
Antique Pool – Free to Enter 50 TL to swim
Locker Room – 10 TL
Towels – 20 TL Large, 11 TL Small
Museum – 8 TL
There is no official website with this information but this is the best website I have found.
You can learn how to manage your budget during travelling in this guide.
How to Explore Pammukale
There are three main gates to the complex, most people use the entrance gate in the village which brings you up to the Antique Pool via the travertines and then you can go to Hierapolis and the Museum. The north gate is used mainly by public transport and most day trip tourists arrive here on the tour buses. The third gate is for the cars and there is a 5 TL parking fee for it as well. There is a single source of these mineral-rich baths up near the Antique pool.
Fun Fact: The calcium travertines and the hot springs are being formed by the volcanic activity deep underground. The hot steam dissolves calcium and bubbles up. When it reacts with Carbon dioxide in the air it forms Calcium Carbonate paste which solidifies over time and creates these beautiful pools.
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Spending A Day in Pammukale
I arrived late in the evening from Selcuk and Ephesus by train to Denizli and headed to our hotel. After some quick dinner, I retired to bed to wake up nice and early which paid off well next morning. The ticket booth was almost empty when I arrived without breakfast, I purchased the ticket and headed inside.
I took my shoes off and got ready for the feeling of these beautiful slopes to feel under my feet. Slowly but steadily I headed up, caressing the rocks with my feet, enjoying the lukewarm water running through my feet. The pools were surprisingly shallow and uneven (I mean DUH, What was I expecting, a swimming pool?).
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I headed up enjoying the sun and then sat down to chill with my snacks as I have had no breakfast missing my green tea. It took an hour to go up at crawling speed. Some parts of the slope were quite steep and slippery but didn’t see anyone trip or fall. Soon enough the trickle of tourists turned into the full tap flow when the tour buses started arriving and people increased rapidly.
I headed up to the Antique pool which is rumoured to be the bathing place of Cleopatra. I mean I might not have two Roman generals to seduce but who doesn’t like feeding their beauty. Feeling like Cleopatra, I changed and headed for a nice swim in the pool. It was great fun. the water was clean and nice and the Roman marble columns do create a sense of intrigue with the swim. The water was great and with people busy with the travertines, I had a great time.
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An hour later, I was ready to head out to the ruins of Hierapolis to see the ancient Temple of Apollo, the Roman theatre and the cemetery but the start wasn’t too great. Most of the site has been badly damaged with piles of ‘historical rubble’ lying around in big mounds. The ruins could never compete with the attraction of splashing around on the travertines of Pammukale. I found myself another way by heading to the museum.
It was a good compromise as the museum has plenty of items from Roman times. It is quite a small museum and it didn’t take me a lot of time to go through it. I absolutely loved the sarcophagi which were the most interesting item in the entire museum. There were small objects like all museums do (and they bore me incredibly, this mundane day to day objects are very boring without the context in which they lived or a historian telling you about them).
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I was getting hungry by this time and headed back down to the town. It was a good 5 hours I’d spent in there and I was hungry and sleepy both. the sun was strong by now. I had some food and took a nap and then headed back. The temperature had dropped and the idea of getting into the water wasn’t very appealing so I decided to explore a bit of Pammukale village.
I did come back in the evening after dark when everyone was gone, the place looked very nice and peaceful. I am ever so glad I stayed back to spend the evening in Pammukale.
The village is quite simple with very friendly sweet people. There’s nothing special about the village apart from the amazing fruit-laden trees. I asked a few locals and they were happy for me to pick a piece or two.
I saw chillies drying along with women casually sitting peeling and chopping vegetables for winter months for drying and making pickles. They smiled when I waved, I love Turkish people! I walked a bit further at the time of sunset. The asphalt road gave way to fields and the sky opened up to provide a very beautiful sunset.
Pammukale is indeed a wonder of nature that deserves a visit if you are in Turkey. It is totally worth the effort, time and money. Has this tickled your fingers to start looking for tickets? If you have visited already, do let me know what your experience was like.
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