Pamukkale: Bathing with Cleopatra

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Pamukkale translates as cotton castle…

One of my favourite little trips in Turkey was to Pamukkale. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Turkey, and something like two million travellers, both domestic and international, visit Pamukkale in a typical year (although this year, of course, has not been a typical year for Turkey).

The main thing to see is the travertines, a surreal, white landscape made up of limestone that has been deposited there by the hot springs and built up over thousands of years.

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It is best enjoyed in the morning before the tour buses arrive from the coast. You can stop off for a dip in any one of the warm pools on the way up.

Pamukkale is built on the site of an ancient Roman spa town of Hierapolis, which is incredibly well preserved.

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Hierapolis

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This Roman theatre featured in the movie Ghost Riders 2 with Nicolas Cage.  No me neither.

You can bathe in a pool where Cleopatra is said to have bathed. The water is rich in minerals and said to make bathers ‘ten years younger’.

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Cleopatra’s pool. You pay extra for this, but worth it.

Well it’s a nice pool anyway and comes complete with submerged bits of the old city.  I did feel really good after.

I also visited a hamman (turkish bath) that is also said to make users ten years younger, so I’m not sure whether I’ve now knocked twenty years off or whether the two run concurrently.

I spent two days in Pamukkale, which is probably enough. It is possible to do it as a day trip from the coastal resorts, or even a day trip from Istanbul, but spending two days is better.

I bought a tour for my second day, mainly because the guy seemed nice and I thought it would be an easy way to see everything. In truth, there isn’t a lot else to see. The tour guide turned out to be yet another lecherous Turkish ‘guide’ who thought that part of his job involved seducing any woman who went within a hundred metres of him, and he demonstrated complete incredulous disbelief that any woman could fail to be intoxicated by his ‘charms’.

However if you really want to find more things to do, there are the Kaklik caves.

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You can see the caves in 20-30 minutes.  They are like a cave version of the travertines. There is a strong sulphur smell.

Also there is this waterfall and fish farm, about 28 kilometres up in the hills above Pamukkale, near Sakizcilar.  Personally I found the drive up there through traditional Turkish villages more interesting than the waterfall.

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Its name translates as crying stone

The rest of the day was made up of the Roman ruins (if you’re that interested in Roman ruins nearby Selcuk has much more to see, so you’re better off going there) and a trip to a precious stone factory (aka a shop).

If I were doing this trip again I would spend both days at the travertines; they were an amazing spectacle.  Just beware of predatory tour guides.

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18 replies »

  1. Looking at the name, I thought its somewhere in Srilanka! Wow! Looking at the pictures, I was confused that its snow! Limestone deposits? Wow. Such a stunning landscape it is! The Turkish bath looks interesting! Do you feel 20 years younger?

  2. On the first photo I had to look twice – is that snow there on the hill? Looked somehow a bit surrealistic even – but very lovely. This whole place looks absolutely amazing and inviting. I am really fascinated by this strong beautiful contrast of this sapphire coloured lake and the white hill and the overall embedded landscape. But if this would not be already good enough, you even have these Roman ruins and this cultural aspect. This makes Pamukkale as I can see to a very special place, I would love to see this one day with my own eyes.

  3. I cannot believe I haven’t heard of Pamukkale!! Those lakes look divine! I haven’t spent much time in Turkey but really enjoyed my first trip there, food to die for! Hopefully I can go here for my next trip!

  4. Pamukkale looks amazing, the snowy white like hills definitely gives you a feeling of being in winterland, although I’m sure the experience is completely unique. I hope everything gets back to normal in tis beautiful country so that I can plan a trip soon. Never knew there was a pool linked to Cleopatra here. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes I don’t think now is the ideal time for going to Turkey; not because it’s ‘dangerous’ exactly but because the government is very volatile.

  5. I have only read so many amazing posts about Turkey, specially about the opulent Istanbul, but had never known about Pamukkale! It looks absolutely stunning. I want to include this on my trip to Turkey!

    • You can do it as a day trip from Istanbul (fly early in the morning and then fly back same day). Flights are quite cheap so it isn’t prohibitively expensive.

  6. This place looks lovely. You are so lucky! Cleopatra’s pool looks amazing. I would definitely want to be in there. How much is the fee for that?

    Iza c/o Kathy James (Walk About Wanderer)

  7. The travertines in Pamukkale look beautiful to visit. I would love to dip into one of the warm pools along the way. How neat that you got to bath in Cleopatra’s bathing pool. If it does make you 10 years younger than I would for sure dive right in. Plus it looks really refreshing. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Wow, what a beautiful place. That Roman theater is magnificent and, ha ha, I never heard of that movie either! Would love to take a swim in that gorgeous water.

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