the ultimate guide to hierapolis turkey

Visit the Hierapolis Ruins – [In Person & Virtually By Drone] Pamukkale

The city of Hierapolis in Anatolia, Turkey was built close to the hot springs of Pamukkale.  Visitors have been coming to Hierapolis and Pamukkale for centuries to take the “healing waters”.   The Greco-Roman ruins here are interesting, but the Hierapolis theater is stunning and worth a visit in its own right. Most people visit Hierapolis on the joint Hierapolis Pamukkale ticket and within the same day.   The Hierapolis city ruins, apart from the partially restored theatre of Hierapolis, required some imagination, but the sense of history, as you walk through the ruined roads is also palpable.  The ruins are much quieter than the much more visited hot Springs and terraces of Pamukkale, but still well worth a visit perhaps because of that.

Here’s our guide to all you to need in order to visit the site of Hierapolis, often known as the Pamukkale ruins.

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Hierapolis, Turkey History

There’s been a settlement at Hierapolis – Pamukkale since 190 BC when Eumenes II founded the city of Hierapolis.   After reading the material at Pamukkale about how many diseases and afflictions the water flowing down the terraces can heal, it’s little wonder that visitors have come here for centuries.    It was a prosperous city, no doubt due to all the spa tourists heading here in the hope of cures for various ailments.

The city was name after the wife of the hero Telefos, “Hiera” – and the name Hierapolis means sacred or holy city.   It was famed for the sacred hot springs, the steam and airs of which were associated with the God of the underworld, Pluto.  There is even reputed to be a sealed off cave with toxic air that leads to, its said, the underworld.

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While traces of Hierapolis can be found back to the Hellenistic period (323 BC to 31 BC), it was completely ruined in 17 BC by a strong earthquake.  Hierapolis was then rebuilt by the Romans and had what’s called its Golden Age.  During the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD it became a popular living area in the summer for Roman elites.

During Byzantine times (the years 330 to 1453) Jews and Orthodox Christians formed the majority of the population, however, the area was prone to earthquakes.  It was finally abandoned in 1334.

Where to Stay in Pamukkale

There are some great places to stay in Pamukkale– here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Pamukkale, mid-range places to stay in Pamukkale, and budget accommodation in Pamukkale.

Pamukkale Whiteheaven Suite Hotel, Pamukkale: The Pamukkale Whiteheaven Suite Hotel is conveniently located centrally in Pamukkale. This top Pamukkale hotel’s rooms feature air-conditioning, a balcony, a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom with a shower and hairdryer, a coffee/tea maker, a seating area, and a complimentary WiFi connection. There are billiards, a game room, and an outdoor pool with a view here. This top Pamukkale hotel also has an in-house restaurant that serves local cuisine. The Pamukkale Whiteheaven Suite Hotel is a great luxury place to stay in Pamukkale. See rates and availability here.

Venus Suite Hotel, Pamukkale: The Venus Suite Hotel is located centrally in Pamukkale. This comfortable mid-range Pamukkale hotel has rooms with air-conditioning, a flat-screen TV, a balcony with a view of the outdoor pool, a private bathroom with shower and hairdryer, soundproofing, an electric kettle, and a mini-bar. An a-la-carte on-site restaurant is available and a daily buffet breakfast is also available. This excellent hotel in Pamukkale also has an outdoor pool, table tennis facilities, massage services, and a garden. The Venus Suite Hotel is perfect for a relaxing and luxurious stay. Check room rates and availability here.

Bellamaritimo Hotel, Pamukkale: The Bellamaritimo Hotel is situated centrally in Pamukkale. Rooms at the excellent value hotel in Pamukkale are equipped with a flat-screen TV, air-conditioning, a desk, a private bathroom with shower, hairdryer, and other toiletries, soundproofing, and iron and ironing board; selected rooms have views of either the pool or the mountains. This budget Pamukkale hotel also has a restaurant and bar, as well as an outdoor pool a garden, and an exercise area. The Bellamaritimo Hotel is a fantastic place to relax after a day exploring Pamukkale. You can look at dates and rates here.     

What to see at Hierapolis, Turkey

You won’t find the crowds of Ephesus here at the Hierapolis Ruins, unless of course, you limit your visit to the Pamukkale terraces.  Read our guide about how to visit the limestone terraces of Pamukkale here.  There aren’t hordes of guides wanting to offer you services and the postcard photo opportunities are fewer and farther between.  When you do find them, however, they are spectacular.  You also won’t have to wait as long for a photo that is free of people

We walked up through the Pamukkale limestone terraces and entered the Hierapolis ruins near the Antique Pool.  The entry fee to the joint Hierapolis-Pamukkale site is 50 Turkish lira and this includes your entrance to the terraces as well.  There’s a map of the Hierapolise site at the top of the terraces, which almost makes sense.

The Hierapolis site contains primarily ruins and what look to be piles of rubble and the major items you’ll want to see are

  • The Hierapolis Theatre
  • The Hierapolis Necropolis
  • The Hierapolis Museum
  • The Antique Pool Hierapolis

Visit Hierapolis Virtually – Overhead Drone Coverage of Hierapolis Pamukkale

4K Ultra HD Tour of Hierapolis and Pamukkale via Amazing Places on our Planet

A Birds Eye View of Hierapolis and Pamukkale

How to Visit Hierapolis in Person

Location of Hierapolis – Pamukkale Map

Location_of_Pamukkale_Hierapolis

Hierapolis Map

Hierapolis Map

The main sites of Hierapolis to visit won’t take long unless the heat saps your energy.  There’s little to no shade here, so we hid most of the time underneath an umbrella.

The Antique Pool at Hierapolis

It costs 50 Turkish lira to swim in the antique pool in addition to the 50 lira fee to enter the site.  Kids under the age of 6 get in for free, aged 6 to 12 must pay 13 Turkish Lira.  The pool is only open from April 15th until October 2nd from 08:00 – 21:00 every day.  There are lockers here, but towels are not provided.

You can enter the café area, which is nicely shaded and gawp at the swimmers for free.  The water is warm, hot in places and the prime attraction here is the fact that you’re swimming alongside and over sections of the original marble columns.  You may even get your ailments cured and your good health restored.  We were content enough to people watch.

Hierapolis ancient baths

The Hierapolis Archeology Museum

There is a 5 Turkish lira fee to enter the Archeology Museum at Hierapolis.  The museum houses antiquities from Hierapolis and Laodicea and is sited in the home of an old Roman bathhouse.

You’ll find stunning examples of baked earth sacophagi here, for which the region is famous.

There are 3 galleries in the museum and a small garden.   The Hierapolis museum is open in the Summer (April 15- October 2) from 0830 until 1900.  Winter opening times at the museum of Hierapolis are 0830 – 1645 (October 3 until April 14).

The Hierapolis Theatre

This is the main atttraction here at the Hierapolis ruins.  You can either stumble over ruins or head up the “road” to the theatre, it’s about a 10-minute walk uphill to the entrance to the theatre.  The entrance is where the viewing seats would be called “in the Gods”, way up high.  It provides a stunning view down to the stage, which is mostly intact.   The theatre is Roman and was built by the emperors Hadrian and Septimus Severus.  The decorative panels have been restored.  It is an incredible sight from all angles.  The theatre measures 92 metres long and has 50 rows of seats, able to accommodate 15,000 people.

Hierapolis Theatre

It’s possible to walk about half way down the seating area, but not to go further or onto the stage.

Hierapolis Theater 2
Hierapolis theatre photo 3

The Martyrium of St Philip the Apostle

This spectacular octagonal site is built on the location where its believed that St Philip was martyred.  At this is at the top of the site of Hierapolis the views are great, but its a long haul up, which means that note many visitors walk up here.  It was in 2011 that St Philops body was apparently found some distance away.

 

The Cathedral at Hierapolis

It’s possible with a little imagination to figure out where the Cathedral was, but there is little left here.

We followed the sign posting towards the cathedral, along with an old Roman road, partly restored, part not.  It was just us.  No one else around, making for an eerie feeling that the destruction of the city might just have happened yesterday.

Finally, we found Frontinus Street, with some original paving, columns along the side and the Arch of Domitian.

Hierapolis original columns
Hierapolis Arches

In many ways, the landscape didn’t look real, more like a movie set.

It wasn’t hard to imagine togas and chariots careering towards us.  Instead, what we got was a Russian in speedos and a captain’s hat.

The Hierapolis Ruins Necropolis

There are many tombs here, more than a kilometre of them.  All ruined.   There are more than 1,200 tombs here, covering an area of more than 2 kilometres.  The necropolis of Hierapolis is one of the best preserved in Turkey, those who travelled here to seek healing waters and then died here were buried here.

t was here we found the Russian.

As most visitors access Hierapolis from the travertine terraces, they come prepared primarily for the terraces.  And so that means in their swimwear.  However, it appears to be the vogue to continue on and visit some parts of the ruins without returning for clothes.  Selfie takers watching was never so funny.

Hierapolis Oh Captain my Captain

After viewing a few of the tombs, we headed to the edge of the park, found the boardwalk and some of the older terraces and headed back towards the antique baths.  The terraces that we found here, from Hierapolis were similar to those of the front area.  No water runs down them, it’s long since been diverted to hotels, spas and swimming pools.  They are, however, minus the hordes of speedo and bikini clad selfie takers.

Although there are three gates to get into Hierapolis, north, south and the middle gate, we were returning to the middle gate and so removed our shoes and walked back down through the terraces.

There are two cafes here at the ruins of Hierapolis, but it was crowded and undeniably more expensive than the options in the town of Pamukkale.  It’s around a 30-minute barefoot walk back down the terraces depending on the tenderness of the soles of your feet.

FAQs about Hierapolis Turkey

Where is Hierapolis?

Hierapolis is co-located with the limestone terraces of Pamukkale.    It is on the outskirts of the town of Pamukkale, which is in Denizli in south western Turkey.

How to get to Hierapolis and Pamukkale

You’ll need to ensure before you travel to Turkey that you have a Turkey visa, unless you have a passport from an exempt country.   Many nationalities can use the easy e-visa, which can be applied for online quickly and easily..  (it’s how we did it!)

From Denizli to Hierapolis and Pamukkale

The closest bigger town is Denizli, and there a number of options for how to get to Pamukkale from Denizli.  Local buses from Denizli to Pamukkale take 20-30 minutes and cost 5 TL per person.  Catch the minibus (Dolmus) from Denizli Otogar Bus Station at platform 76 on the lower level, below the intercity bus area.  Minibuses seat about 20 people.    Pick up the return bus from where you get dropped off.  Check the return times with the driver as you get off.  You can ask your driver to get dropped off at the northern entrance (Örenyeri Kuzey Giriş) and walk through the Hierapolis site and then down to the terraces of Pamukkale.

A taxi from Denizli to Pamukkale will cost around 50 TL per person and will take around 20 minutes to complete the journey.

From Istanbul to Pamukkale

Driving time is about 8 hours, it is 620 kilometres.  A bus journey time is about 12 hours and bus fares are about 80 TL.  Bus go from Istanbul to Denizli, and then you will need to take the minibus from Denizli to Pamukkale.  You can fly from Istanbul to Denizli in an hour.  Most people wanting to visit Hierapolis from Istanbul do so on a tour.

From Ephesus to Pamukkale

It is 190 kilometres from Ephesus to Pamukkale.  This will take about 3 hours to drive.   Again, if you wish to travel from Ephesus to Pamukkale by bus you will need to go via Denizli.  Buses go from Ephesus – the town of Selcuk  – to Denizli every day.  The bus journey between Selcuk and Denizli takes about 4 hours and costs 30 TL.

Teepee Camping Hierapolis Pamukkale
Tepee Camping Pool

What does it cost to visit Hierapolis?

The Hierapolis entrance fee is 50 lira.  It includes the entrance to the travertine terraces.  The ticket is valid all day.  If you have the Turkey wide museum pass (185 lira) then Pamukkale and Hierapolis are included in it.  You won’t see the 15 day Turkey wide pass advertised, you will need to ask for it.

What else is there to do in Pamukkale

The obvious other activity here in Pamukkale is to visit the limestone terraces.  You can read more about that here.  It’s also possible to take a balloon ride over the terraces and Hierapolis with Kaya Balloons for one.  There’s also the potential to take a paragliding trip to see the ruins and travertines from above.

 

Resources

Travel Tips for Exploring Turkey

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