The Wonderful Trio; Kusadasi, Ephesus, Pamukkale

After my business meetings in Istanbul ended I had a few days for a short vacation and i decided to spend my time in Kusadasi.

Before I flew to Izmir I searched for hotels in Kusadasi and it was surprising to see most of the hotels in Kusadasi Centre with average prices were all booked. After expanding my search a little I ended up booking a hotel in Ladies’ Beach neighborhood which is close to downtown.

If you are looking for a flight the nearest airport is in Izmir. From the airport to Kusadasi is like an hour drive and to Ladies’ Beach area it only takes like 10 -15 minutes’ more. But I do recommend you to arrange a transfer to your hotel as other means of transport like train or coach busses can take longer. So after I landed in Izmir it took me only 1,5 hours to arrive to my hotel and check in. Ladies’ Beach Neighborhood was a small place but it was quite nice and vibrant and it was right along the sea where beaches were. And yes it was a great idea to go to beach and relax. And if you prefer a hotel here most of the hotels are only a few minutes’ walk to the sea.

Before I arrived a friend of mine told me that, unlike transfer, I don’t need to worry about booking a tour before I arrive as there were many online booking sites and travel agent offices on the streets. And just like he advised with an easy search I could quickly book online for two separate tours, one to Ephesus and another for Pamukkale. The prices of the tours were pretty much the same everywhere. So after checking a few you will have an idea about the price.

Annually, roughly 500 cruise ships and thousands of travelers visit Kusadasi.

There are many options available for Ephesus Tours but the most popular ones included Mother Mary’s House+ Ephesus + Local Village Sirince. Some tours even had Ephesus and Pamukkale in the same day but I ignored them as it would be too tiresome.

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Next morning the guide was on time for pick up from my hotel. As I booked for a regular tour I ended up in a group of ten people which was ok. Our first stop was Mother Mary’s house. It was a very peaceful place up on the hill between the trees. Our guide explained us that Mary’s House was a holy pilgrim destination for Christians and different Popes had been here and celebrated the mass back in the past. After that we had a short drive for our next stop, Ephesus. I heard a lot about Ephesus but I never thought it was such an amazing place. What impressed me most about Ephesus was, almost all the main structures of a Roman City were still present, as the city had been really well preserved. Fountains, temples, agoras, shops of its time, luxury residences known as terrace houses (but the visit to here requires extra ticket), the beautiful and admirable library, the massive grand theatre and even the latrines (public toilets) were all there for you to see. Ephesus is a marvelous ancient city and its outstanding structures like the Celcus Library and the Grand Theatre must be the best of their kinds in the whole world. One of the things that you should know Ephesus is, when you enter the city from the upper gate and as you walk to the lower gate it gets better and better. Seems they saved the best for the last so you better save some energy and save some battery for your phones or cameras.

The tour in Ephesus took a little more than 1,5 hours and it was definitely worth it. In a regular tour, such as ours, I believe the time we spent was enough but Ephesus is really a magnificent city so you might want to spend more time. In this case you should consider a private tour.

Our next stop was lunch in a carpet weaving center and it was a nice local place where we had great food. And although I was a bit hesitant about carpets I ended up buying one which I really liked.

After lunch we had a drive like 20 minutes and reached the local village Sirince. I read on internet that Sirince meant Pretty Place, which our guide also explained, and yeah the name and the charateristics of the village was a perfect match. I was amazed to see how this beautiful village was conserved like this in such a touristy area. Our guide told me that the place was under the preservation of the state and new buildings and structures were not allowed at all in the village. After a short tour and detailed information we had free time there which i really enjoyed. Although it’s not my thing the local embroidery and clothes were really interesting as well as the soap and some cosmetics made from natural and organic products such as olives, thyme and etc.. The Turkish Coffee here was really something else. Especially the way it is cooked distinguished it from other coffees. They literally cook coffee on the hot sand. Yes it was taking a bit of time but it was an amazing experience to see there was a fire in a small stove like place under the sand, the sand was getting hot and it was cooking the coffee, wow!

Before we left we also enjoyed wine tasting in a local winery. Yes there were different types of local wines available but to my understanding the one the significances of the village is their fruit wines. So if you are into wine you should taste the fruit wines of Sirince.

At the end of the tour I was back to hotel by six early in the evening and I was really pleased with my day. If you are in Kusadasi, Izmir or in other nearby places you should take this tour.

Next day early in the morning it was time for departure to Pamukkale. Today it was only five of us in the bus. We left a bit earlier than yesterday as there was a bit of travelling involved today. It took us like three hours including a coffee break to get to Pamukkale. The drive was fun actually as we saw lots fruit gardens and agriculture fields. There were tons of pomegranate trees, peaches, strawberry fields, figs and so on. What a fruitful and green area.

I heard and read about the places Hierapolis, Pamukkale, Cotton Castles and Denizli but I didn’t know which was what, so I asked our guide and here is the story. Hiearapolis is the ancient site (like Ephesus) in the town Pamukkale that is bound to Denizli province. And Cotton Castle meant Pamukkale in Turkish and it was named this way as the calcium terraces up on the hill look like cotton. Now it is clear. 

Pamukkale has been a Unesco Heritage Site since 1988.

Anyways once we arrived, after the ticket gates we walked about 10 minutes and there we were in the magical calcium terraces. The place was so mesmerizing, the water was running on the calcium terraces and they were all pure white just like cotton. The formation of the terraces is simple actually. As the water runs slowly calcium deposits and white formation occurs. Some little pools here attracted my attention and learned that precisely shaped pools were man made ones whereas the others were natural. The pools were especially made that way therefore the visitors could go in and dip their feet in the water. By the way the pools were very shallow like up to ur ankle or a little higher maybe. Obviously these are not swimming pools.

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In our free time we walked on the terraces which was really fun. If you ever walk on the terraces, there are two things you should know. Firstly, no one is allowed to walk on them with shoes or slippers, in other words, you are only allowed to walk on barefoot. Secondly, it is slippery and you do need to be careful and move slow. Our guide told us that the temperature of the water was almost the same as the body temperature all through the year so even in the cold days of winter people could still walk here. Also it was interesting to see people rubbing the white mud of the water to their skin because the water coming from the springs were tested and been scientifically confirmed that it is good for some skin diseases. And last but not the least there are really great spots around calcium terraces that enable you to take fantastic photos of cotton castles.

Next we had a few minutes’ walk to “Cleopatra’s Pool”, I think it is just a name or maybe it was inspired due to the properties of the springs. The water is said to be good for your skin and if you swim here I guess you will have a smooth skin. Anyways the pool was really beautiful and you can swim in the pool if you wish but an extra ticket is required for that. There are cabins and showers and everything all you need is a swimsuit and towels.

The pool was really mesmerizing as it was literally an antique swimming pool. Inside the pool, beneath the water, there are roman columns and marble pieces from the ancient city. The water is perfectly crystal clear and you can see all the Roman Pieces and the sand as you swim or walk. The majority of the pool is shallow, up to your belly maybe, but also there is a separate section which is deeper. And as I explained above due to the temperature of the water visitors could still swim here in the winter even when it is snowing. This pool must be one of a kind in the whole world. An amazing and a unique place.

Behind the pool, to the east, up on the hill there is a theatre but you need to walk uphill for like 15 minutes to see it. As I was in theatre of Ephesus, which is two times bigger, I didn’t walk up and besides there is a very nice view of the theatre from down below, around the pool area.

Another interesting fact about Hierapolis was that, St.Philip, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, had lived, martyred and buried here. Up on the hill to the west of the theatre I saw an octagonal structure and it is said that it was the place where he was buried. I didn’t know Hierapolis had such a religious significance.

The hot springs have served as a wellness retreat for centuries, dating back to at least the 2nd century BC.

Over time, countless visitors have sought solace or met their final rest within the premises, as indicated by the expansive necropolis adorned with tombs. One of the most renowned tombs is that of Marcus Aurelius Ammianos, adorned with a relief showcasing the earliest recorded instance of a crank and rod mechanism. Additionally, the Tomb of Philip the Apostle holds significance within the necropolis.

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Our guide also informed us that Hierapolis was an ancient healing center even in BC ages and lots of people were coming here to be healed. It seems that the spring waters didn’t work because the city had the biggest necropolis (cemetery) of its time. They buried their dead away from downtown so the necropolis was a bit far on the north edge of the city. If you wish you can walk to necropolis for like 20 minutes’ or so. But please keep in my mind that it is too hot here during summer.

Briefly, the calcium terraces and Cleopatra’s pool are the must see places of Hierapolis. If you wish to see other interesting places like the theatre, the Martyr of St.Philip and the necropolis you can either have a walk, which may be tiresome in the summer as it is too hot, or you can rent a electric golf cart like vehicle to drive around the city, which can be a bit expensive, or you can also take the shuttles, with a reasonable price, to visit the other places in the city.

The distinct red-colored therapeutic thermal water and thermal mud that emanate from its primary source maintain a constant temperature of 58 ºC throughout all seasons. This remarkable water and mud are abundant in mineral content, enhancing their healing properties.

It was time to leave for us around 4 pm and I was back at the hotel around 7 pm with a big smile in my face.

I didn’t have time but if I did I would prefer to stay in Pamukkale overnight rather than having a daily tour from Kusadasi. Yes it would be a little more expensive but this way it would have been easier in terms of travelling times. I also learned that most of the hotels in Pamukkale had swimming pools with the same spring water in Hiearapolis and it would have been really fun to spend some time in the thermal pools.

Anyways now I have an excuse to come back to this amazing place again!!

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