This hidden holiday destination in Turkey is an unbelievable place, just off the beaten track, where natural wonder meets ancient history in a fairytale combination that will leave you mesmerized.
Play in the Travertine Pools
Pamukkale’s most iconic sight, the awe-inspiring limestone cliffs are laced with terraced travertine pools of hot water that is a dazzling blue against the white stone, worn into rippled patterns after thousands of years. The water cascading down and pooling in the terraces comes from a natural hot spring and is warm to the touch.
You can hike from the town’s edge straight up to the pools, climbing up the hill barefoot, where you can swim, sunbathe, or just take in the amazing sights that Pamukkale has to offer. This amazing natural landscape is a popular place for photographers, for good reason!
Pamukkale, which means “cotton palace” in Turkish, is said to have gotten this name because the massive limestone hill, shaped by the thermal waters, looks like cotton set out to dry by giants. It’s hard to believe this holiday destination isn’t very well known to tourists.
Discover the Ruins of Ancient Hierapolis
Turkey is a country full of unrivaled ancient ruins and Hierapolis is a prime example of what makes this country so interesting to travel through. Once a bustling ancient Greek metropolis, Hierapolis is now a mess of ruined temples, walkways, and ancient buildings sitting on top of the hill.
You have to hike up through the travertine pools to arrive at Hierapolis. Or you could take a car or tour bus to one of the back entrances, but that’s not nearly as fun. The ancient city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built around the thermal pools which provided the basis for an excellent spa. You can also see a remarkably well preserved ancient Greek theatre, the city’s gates, and assorted temples and churches. It really gives you the sense of having traveled back in time.
Swim in Cleopatra’s Antique Pool
The Antique Pool is a hot spring pool in the ruins of Hierapolis. A massive temple of Apollo used to be constructed above it, but the temple collapsed and its ruins, massive chunks of columns and once ornately carved pieces of ceiling now make up part of the incredible ambiance of this destination.
Legend says that the Antique Pool was a favorite swimming hole of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra and now you can swim in the same waters. It’s a unique experience you can’t get anywhere else. A modern spa has been built up around the ruins, though they’re careful not to disturb the sense of being in an ancient wonderland. These days you can get your picture taken underwater with the ruins or drink some of the water, which is said to have restorative powers and to have kept Cleopatra beautiful, using an antiquated hand pump.
Ride a Hot Air Balloon
Before you see everything up close, you can take a sunrise hot air balloon journey to look over the incredible sights of Pamukkale. Rising with the sun, you can look at the hot springs, the travertine pools, the ruins of Hierapolis, from above in a view that will take your breath away. It’s definitely a bucket list experience you’ll never forget.
Even if you don’t want to ride in a hot air balloon, the view of a dozen colorful balloons rising against the white limestone is something to see from the ground. The balloons reflected in the travertine pools, silhouetted beside the ancient theatre, there’s something magical in the juxtaposition of old and new.
If Pamukkale wasn’t on your bucket list before, it should be now. The natural beauty of the limestone hills and travertine pools, the ancient ruins of a civilization, the opportunity to swim in a pool that Cleopatra has swum in, there aren’t many other places that can offer such an eclectic combination of sights and experiences in a single place.