Turkey is a beautiful country and the region of Denizli, home to UNESCO World Heritage site of Pamukkale is yet another testament to its beauty. It is most famous for the gleaming white travertines that seem to lead you directly to heaven as you hike from its foothills. It reminded me of Asia’s rice terraces, only instead of rice paddies you have travertines that are white as snow. The very pleasant walk to the top is made even more enticing by the warm water springs that seem to sprout throughout this “white hill”. Not surprisingly, a lot of tourists bathe here while hiking, which is totally acceptable and expected :D.
What nearly ruined this experience for me was the ridiculous weight of the camera equipments I was carrying: Canon EOS 60D body, 2 lenses and a flash! Oh, yeah that also prevented me from taking a dip into this glorious, natural pool. Sigh. Anyway, waiting on top of this wondrous thing are additional surprises for therein lies a nearly 2,000 year-old group of ruins called Hierapolis. Here, you’ll find ancient hot springs, marketplace, amphitheatre, tombs, museums and Roman style swimming pools . All in all, I think Pamukkale’s main sights can be explored in one day but you’ll need additional time if you really want to experience the endless array of hot spring resorts.
We were only there for one full night and while it was really exhausting to wait for 6 hours for an hour flight from Istanbul, I think it’s worth it. However, I probably would have just joined the day trip from Istanbul, if I knew any better. My overall impression is that Pamukkale is quite rural and it seems to be more of a local tourism destination, given the lack of basic international support. One example of this is the absence of airport shuttles. We got into so much trouble due to miscommunication. They barely spoke English and of course we didn’t speak Turkish so we were all lost in translation! We did have more luck on our way back to Istanbul. This time our “airport transfer” consisted of 2 shuttle transfers and chasing after a local bus while crossing a very busy highway. Fun :D. I really love the place though. This is where we first tasted dondurma, an authentic Turkish ice cream. It was absolutely yummy!
If you are planning to visit this place anytime soon, here are some useful tips:
- On your hike up to Hierapolis, bring towels and swimsuit for bathing
- Book a shuttle from the airport through your hotel. It can cost you up to $400 USD if you take a taxi from the airport. Make sure that you have somebody who speaks Turkish to book this for you because they hardly speak English.
- Join the daily bus trip from Istanbul instead of flying. Even better if you can join an overnight group tour
- Most of all, have fun!