Pamukkale, the cotton castle

Updated: 09 November 2013 Created: 08 November 2013


This striking site is a good few hours’ drive from your Antalya property but so worth the visit. The city of Pamukkale has hot springs and descending terraces of carbonate minerals formed by the flowing waters of thousands of years.

This World Heritage Site has been used for thousands of years by bathers and worshippers, and has been the site of dwellings both spiritual and commercial. The ancient ruins of Hierapolis, a Greco-Roman and Byzantine city, were first founded here as early as the third century BC. In the second century BC Hierapolis became a thermal spa, with patrons coming from far and wide to soak away their ill health in the waters. Great baths were constructed here using enormous stone blocks; these can still be seen today.

Tourism in the area has been ongoing for many years, and reached a peak in the mid 20th century. At this time hotels were built over the ruins of Hierapolis, causing damage to the foundations. Roads in and and out of the area also damaged the look and feel of this natural site. Thankfully, when the area was declared a World Heritage Site the hotels were all demolished and the roads closed.

Hierapolis’s Roman Bath is now the site of an archaeology museum, where you can see the ancient city’s historical artefacts as well as relics from nearby ancient settlements. You can also see a number of beautiful examples of Bronze Age craft. The museum is set out over three closed areas of the bath, and the open side areas which were once used as a library and gymnasium.

Don’t miss the 12,000-seat Roman amphitheatre which lies just above the travertines. You can also swim among Roman ruins in a large swimming pool just above the travertines.


The entire “white castle” is around 2700 metres long and 600 metres wide. It is so large it can be seen from the hills on the valley’s opposing side, 20 kilometres away. There are 17 hot springs in the area with water ranging from a comfortable 35 degrees Celsius to a (literally) boiling 100 degrees.

A walk up the cascades of Pamukkale will be hot in the summer, and you’ll need a hat and sunglasses to avoid the sun’s rays, which bounce off the chalky cascades. To preserve the site, shoes aren’t allowed so bear this in mind if you’re visiting in winter as you’ll need to walk through flowing downhill water.

You can access bathing pools by way of a toll booth and climb up the cascades barefoot, or you can enter the site from the Hierapolis side, which is easier as you’ll avoid the climb - but miss the beauty of the travertines.

Admission is 20TL and includes entrance to Hierapolis. Day tours are available for around 45TL, which includes entrance, and English-speaking guide and lunch. There are also night tours available.

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