Ultimate Guide to visit Pamukkale -Turkey’s Cotton Castles

You will find a complete 2023 travel guide to Pamukkale -Turkey.

According to official numbers, Pamukkale attracts nearly 2 million visitors annually. The distinctive white color of the travertines, the hot springs along with thrilling hot air balloon rides and paragliding opportunities, make it an irresistible destination. Not to mention the remarkable ancient site of Hierapolis, which has withstood earthquakes over the centuries. An ultimate guide to Turkey’s cotton castle is essential not to miss any highlights of Pamukkale. This ultimate travel guide to Pamukkale—the white travertines of Turkey—provides valuable tips to know before you go to the cotton castles and hidden gems of Pamukkale that could be overlooked. Additionally, through this Pamukkale Ultimate Travel Guide, you will find the top tips that nobody tells you about Pamukkale.


  • Where is Pamukkale?
  • How did white travertenes in Pamukkale formed?
  • Why is Pamukkale white?
  • What is the entrance fee for Pamukkale?
  • Can you swim in Pamukkale?
  • When is the best time to visit Pamukkale?
  • How long should I spend in Pamukkale?
  • Can you swim in Pamukkale?
  • What will I see in Hierapolis?
  • A guide to visiting Hierapolis
  • Can you do a day trip from Istanbul to Pamukkale?   
  • How do I get to Pamukkale thermal pools from Istanbul?
  • Does Pamukkale have hot air balloon?
  • What time of day is best for hot air balloon ride?
  • What time of year is does hot air balloon ride?
  • Travel Tips for Pamukkale;

But first let’s check the

Frequently Asked Questions about Pamukkale;

  • Where is Pamukkale?

Pamukkale, situated in the southwestern province of Denizli, Turkey, is a captivating natural site. Nestled in the picturesque valley of the Menderes River in the Aegean region, it benefits from a pleasant and mild climate. This remarkable destination is conveniently located just three hours away from Kusadasi, a bustling tourist hub that serves as a port for cruise ships and is renowned for its proximity to the ancient city of Ephesus. For those traveling from Istanbul, reaching Pamukkale is a breeze with a short one-hour flight.

  • How did white travertenes in Pamukkale formed?

Pamukkale is renowned for its abundant thermal springs, which have been utilized since ancient times. Within this region, there are 17 hot water areas characterized by temperatures ranging from 35 to 100 degrees Celsius. Once the thermal water emerges from the springs, it flows through a 320-meter-long channel, eventually cascading onto the travertine terraces. These terraces span an area of 60-70 meters and extend a distance of approximately 240-300 meters. As the water interacts with the oxygen in the air, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide evaporate while calcium carbonate precipitates. This fascinating process gives rise to the formation of the mesmerizing travertine formations that we take immense pleasure in visiting today.

  • Why is Pamukkale white?

As the warm water reaches the surface, the calcium carbonate precipitates undergo a fascinating process of collapse and freezing.

As the warm water reaches the surface, the calcium carbonate precipitates undergo a fascinating process of collapse and freezing.
  • What is the entrance fee for Pamukkale?

The Denizli Hierapolis (Pamukkale) Archaeology Museum and the Hierapolis (Pamukkale) Archaeological site offer a combined ticket option for visitors, priced at 400 ₺. If you wish to explore the Pamukkale travertines separately, there is an entrance fee of 110 TL. It’s important to note that individuals under the age of 18 and those who are 65 years and older can enter the Pamukkale Travertines free of charge.

  • Can you swim in Pamukkale?

Yes you can.  Regardless of the season, swimming in the Pamukkale Travertines is a delightful experience. Even during the winter when the weather is cold, the Ancient Pool maintains a constant temperature of approximately 36 degrees. This allows visitors to enjoy a comfortable swim throughout the year, making it a wonderful activity for every season.

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You can visit all the highlights of Pamukkale with this guaranteed departure tour.

Ultimate Guide to visit Pamukkale -Turkey's Cotton Castles-  7 Day Turkish Sweet Vacation Package guaranteed departure

  • When is the best time to visit Pamukkale?

During the summer season, Pamukkale tends to experience high temperatures, attracting numerous travelers and resulting in crowded conditions. However, if you prefer a more peaceful visit, it is advisable to consider autumn and spring. During these seasons, visitor numbers decrease, and the sun is not as intense as in the summer, providing a more pleasant experience. Additionally, thanks to the region’s hot springs, the water temperature remains around 36 degrees, allowing visitors to continue enjoying a refreshing swim.

  • How long should I spend in Pamukkale?

Visitors have the opportunity to explore the travertines, Hierapolis ancient site, and the theater on foot, which can take approximately 3 hours. The duration of swimming in the Cleopatra Pool is entirely up to the individual’s preference. On the other hand, guided tours typically allocate around 5 hours to fully experience all the attractions and allow sufficient time for enjoying the pool.

See also;

  • Can you swim in Pamukkale?

The thermal pool in Pamukkale offers a range of water temperatures, varying from 36°C to 57°C. It has a pH value of 5.8 and a radon value of 1480 picocuries per liter. These waters are suitable not only for bathing but also for therapeutic drinking, boasting a dissolved mineral value of 2430 mg per liter.

A remarkable ancient structure, the Temple of Apollo, stands as a testament to the past, having retained its grandeur throughout the centuries. It was constructed on Plutonion, an ancient and sacred cave. Exploring the temple ruins reveals notable features, including marble stairs and walls adorned with inscriptions depicting the prophecies of Apollo. These captivating lands, which have been inhabited by various civilizations, have also played a significant role in fostering faith tourism and spiritual development.

Ultimate Guide to visit Pamukkale -Turkey's Cotton Castles-  Can you swim in Pamukkale?
Visitors can spend time in traverten pools and Cleopatra pool.
  • What will I see in Hierapolis?

Hierapolis, situated near Pamukkale in Denizli, is an ancient city that played a significant role in the worship of the mother goddess Cybele during the Phrygian era. Ancient geographers Strabo and Ptolemy suggest that Hierapolis originally belonged to the Phrygian civilization. The temple, initially utilized by local communities residing in the Lykos (Çürüksu) Valley, eventually became the focal point of Hierapolis. With the arrival of Greek settlers, the city was established upon the existing settlement, leading to the gradual assimilation of the Cybele cult into Greek mythology. During this assimilation process, the temple became associated with Hades (Pluton) and Persephone, resulting in its designation as the Plutonium.

Although the precise foundation details of the city remain limited, it is known that Hierapolis was established in the early 2nd century BC by Eumenes II, a ruler of the Pergamon Kingdom. The city derived its name from “Hiera,” the queen of the Amazons and the wife of Telephos, the legendary founder of Pergamon. Hierapolis retained its original Hellenistic character until a devastating earthquake occurred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero in 60 AD.

Due to its location in an earthquake-prone zone, Hierapolis suffered significant damage during the Nero earthquake and underwent extensive renovations. Consequently, the city transitioned from its Hellenistic characteristics to assume the typical traits of a Roman city. In the Byzantine period, Hierapolis gained immense importance, particularly as it became a prominent Christian center (metropolis) from the 4th century AD onwards. Additionally, the city is notable for being the site where Philip, one of the apostles of Jesus, was martyred in 80 AD.

A guide to visiting Hierapolis;

  • Frontinus Street:

This main street of the city, measuring 4 meters in width (plateia), is believed to have served as the central thoroughfare.

  • Agora:

Originally used as a necropolis and workshop, this area was transformed into the Hierapolis Trade Agora following a destructive earthquake in the 7th century BC. It spans a vast space between Frontinus Street and the eastern slopes of the hill.

  • North Byzantine Gate:

As the counterpart to the South Gate, the North Gate served as a grand entrance during the Byzantine period. Constructed using spolia, the gate is supported by two square towers.

  • South Byzantine Gate:

Made from travertine blocks and featuring spolia materials, including marble, the South Byzantine Gate stands as another entrance to the city.

Ultimate Guide to visit Pamukkale -Turkey's Cotton Castles-  south gate in Pamukkale hierapolis
  • Gymnasium:

Noteworthy features of the gymnasium include a colonnade and a fragment of an architrave inscribed with indications of its purpose.

  • Tritonian Fountain Building:

This monumental structure, along with the fountain building near the Temple of Apollo, is one of the largest in the city.

  • Ionic Colonnaded House:

Situated on a long secondary road leading to the Theater, this house bears historical significance, with an inscription on its wall dating back to the pre-Byzantine period.

  • Latrina:

Although the Latrina structure was damaged by an earthquake, its remnants have survived to this day, providing a glimpse into its original form.

  • Apollo Temple:

Dedicated to the most prominent god of Hierapolis, this structure holds significant religious importance.

Ultimate Guide to visit Pamukkale -Turkey's Cotton Castles-  apollo temple in Pamukkale hierapolis
  • Water Canals and Nympheums:

Two aqueducts comprising canals constructed on the surrounding hills ensured a water supply to the city for drinking purposes. Nympheums were also present in this water system.

  • Plutonium:

Archaeological excavations in the ancient city of Hierapolis revealed the Plutonium Sanctuary, also known as the Hell Gate, and the entrance to the cave that was considered the “gateway to the land of the dead” in ancient times.

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Ultimate Guide to visit Pamukkale -Turkey's Cotton Castles-  9 Day Legendary Turkey Vacation Package

  • Medieval Seljuk Castle Remains:

Positioned strategically on a plain to oversee the valley, this fortress encompasses a significant fortification system. The walls were constructed using spolia, including marble blocks with inscriptions, sourced from the ruined city.

  • Theater:

This grand structure rests on four terraces. The vertical seating area, divided into two sections by a diazoma, consists of 9 cunei and upper cavea galleries with 8 steps. The stage building features a logeion, a spacious backstage.

Ultimate Guide to visit Pamukkale -Turkey's Cotton Castles-  theatre in Pamukkale hierapolis
  • Martyrion of St. Philippus:

Hierapolis held a sacred status in both Pagan and Christian eras, partly due to its unique thermal waters that were believed to possess healing properties. Additionally, the city became renowned as the place where St. Philippus, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, was crucified and martyred while spreading Christianity.

Ultimate Guide to visit Pamukkale -Turkey's Cotton Castles-  Martyrion of St. Philippus in Pamukkale hierapolis
  • St. Philippus Bridge:

Just after passing through the St. Philippus gate, a substantial bridge stands prominently.

  • Pole Church:

Dating back to the 7th century AD, this pillared church is located in the city center. It features three naves with large and small pillars dividing the passages. The central nave culminates in an apse.

  • Necropolis Area:

In addition to the travertine areas in the west, there are necropolis areas in three directions. These burial grounds are predominantly situated on both sides of the northern road leading to Tripolis-Sardis and the southern road leading to Laodikeia-Colossae.

Ultimate Guide to visit Pamukkale -Turkey's Cotton Castles-  necropolis in Pamukkale hierapolis
  • Bath Basalika:

Adjacent to the Frontinus gate and constructed in the 3rd century AD, the bath underwent transformation in the 5th century. The south-facing wall of the caldarium was demolished, an apse was added, and the bath was converted into a basilica with three naves. The previous structure’s barrel vault was replaced by three domes.

  • Cathedral:

Among the most significant Christian religious buildings in Hierapolis, the cathedral boasts a prominent main apse that houses the synthronon—a concentric staircase where priests and the bishop sit during services.

  • Great Bath Complex – Roman Baths:

The remains of this impressive bath complex reveal that the interior of the building, including its massive walls and some vaults, were once adorned with marble.

  • Domitian Gate (Frontinus Gate):

Serving as the northern entrance to the city, this well-preserved gate features three gates and round towers on either side. It bears an inscription in both Latin and Greek, dedicated to the emperor Domitian.

See also;

  • Can you do a day trip from Istanbul to Pamukkale? And/or How do I get to Pamukkale thermal pools from Istanbul?

Daily tours are organized from Istanbul to Pamukkale, with the journey taking approximately an hour. Flights to Denizli are available every day, allowing you to conveniently reach your destination. From Denizli airport, it is just a 20-minute drive to Pamukkale. After exploring the area, you can return to Istanbul in the evening.

See also

6 Day Dream of Turkey Vacation Package

Embark on a remarkable journey that encompasses a boat tour along the breathtaking Bosphorus, a visit to the bustling bazaar offering an array of authentic goods, and an exploration of the captivating Ephesus ancient city. Conclude your adventure with a tranquil respite in the rejuvenating thermal pools of Pamukkale.

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  • Does Pamukkale have hot air balloon?

Hot-air ballooning is a highly sought-after activity in Pamukkale, offering breathtaking views as the balloons glide over the stunning sedimentary rock formations during sunrise. The balloon ride itself typically lasts a minimum of 60 minutes, providing ample time to soak in the scenic beauty. Overall, the entire Pamukkale balloon experience spans approximately 120 minutes, creating lasting memories.

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Please check TSG’s hot air ballon tour.

Pamukkale Hot Air Ballooning Tour From Denizli

  • What time of day is best for hot air balloon ride?

The optimal timing for hot-air ballooning in Pamukkale is either at dawn or dusk. These time frames are favored due to the typically calm winds, which provide ideal conditions for ballooning, and the enhanced lighting conditions that create stunning landscapes for photography. Whether you choose to embark on a balloon adventure at sunrise or sunset, you can expect the perfect combination of serene skies and picturesque scenery.

  • What time of year is does hot air balloon ride?

Flights are available every day for 12 months.

Travel Tips for Pamukkale;

  • Bring a towel as you will need it after swimming in the Cleopatra Ancient Pool.
  • Pack a lunch because the region is large and far from the city center. Alternatively, you can opt for a daily tour that includes a visit to a good restaurant.
  • Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, a hat, and long-sleeved shirts, especially during the summer when the sun can be intense.
  • Try to visit early in the morning or during sunset when the crowds decrease, the weather becomes cooler, and the landscape becomes magnificent.
  • Visit the site with a tour guide as there are numerous captivating stories worth listening to, ensuring you won’t miss any of them.
  • Don’t forget to bring your camera as the white travertines, Cleopatra Pool, and Hierapolis Ancient Site are stunning, providing ample opportunities for taking dozens of photos.
  • Experience a hot air balloon flight as it is one of the popular attractions in the region, and exploring such a place will create lasting memories.
  • Book your hot air balloon flight in advance as availability may be limited.

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