the ultimate guide to pamukkale

Visit Pamukkale Guide

Turkey’s most well-known tourist attraction has been enticing travelers to visit for centuries, despite the fact that it is little known outside the country.    Pamukkale’s sparkling white travertine terraces are stunning and empty at the right time of day.  Right now, while you can’t visit Pamukkale in person, we’ve pulled together an awesome collection of drone coverage and books so you can explore Pamukkale virtually and plan for your future trip!


Read about the history of Pamukkale, understand what has made these travertine terraces then use the rest of this article to plan your trip to Pamukkale!



Take this Fabulous Pamukkale Trip

With full transport and an English-speaking guide, this is a super way to visit and explore Pamukkale. Head out for a fabulous time – but book early.

Pamukkale Turkey & History

The 17 thermal springs here have been bringing Spa visitors to the area for centuries.  The limestone terraces are created by water flowing from calcium-rich springs down the hillside, forming into pools.

Pamukkale viewpoint

Pamukkale translates literally to “Cotton Castle” in Turkish, homage to a local legend.  This myth details that the terraces are actually a waterfall made from cotton (which is the principal crop of the local area), which was left out to dry by giants in years gone by.

Over the years roads and hotels were built in and on the ruins to “maximize” the tourist experience in Pamukkale.  At one point you could even ride a motorbike over the terraces!  Water was diverted to the hotels for their pools.   This has since stopped.  Hotels have been demolished and water supply is strictly regulated.

Our Pamukkale Travel Guide books while we’re visiting the Pamukkale terraces, Turkey.

The site of Hierapolis-Pamukkale was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988.  Read about our visit to the Hierapolis Greco-Roman Ruins at the top of the travertines of Pamukkale.

Pamukkale Fact:  Pamukkale is twinned with Las Vegas, USA!

Pamukkale from the top

How Big is Pamukkale?

The terraces stretch over an area that is 2.7 kilometers long by 0.6km wide and 160 meters high.  It can be seen from 20 kilometers away in the area’s major city, Denizli.    Many of the terraces are now no longer accessible, having been damaged by millennia of tourist tramping across them.

How were the Pamukkale Terraces Formed?

Hot water springs in the area emerge at the top of the terraces and leave calcium carbonate deposits as the water makes it’s way down to the bottom of the hill.  As the water reaches the air, the calcium carbonate is deposited.  At this point, the calcium carbonate is soft, it solidifies into travertine.  The water is between 35 degrees centigrade and 100 degrees centigrade when it starts its journey.

Pamukkale water flow

It is underground volcanic activity that creates the hot springs.  This activity is also responsible for the appearance of carbon dioxide in the cave in the ruins of Hierapolis called the Plutonium.  The cave was used by priests who discovered ways of avoiding the deathly gas and used it for religious purposes.

If you like hot springs, then you’ll love our guide to the best hot springs in Korea.

Does Pamukkale really look like the guidebook and Instagram photos?

In a word.  No.  Certainly not when we were there.  How the pools look depends on the time of year that you visit and the weather conditions.  Plus, of course, there are the crowds.    Is Pamukkale worth the trip?  Yes, but you should plan your visit to the Pamukkale hot springs carefully to ensure you make the most of your time here.


How to Visit Pamukkale In Person

Take a Day Trip to Pamukkale

Most visitors come on a day trip from the coast.  We strongly recommend that you don’t do this.  2 million visitors a year means on average 5,500 a day.  Most of them visit on a day trip like this.  It means that you’ll all arrive at the same time and leave at the same time.  Pick a Turkish company like One Nation Travel and you’ll benefit from local knowledge and expertise too.

If nothing else the queue to get in through the ticket gate will drive you insane.  If, however, you have no other choice, then consider the time that you will spend getting here and perhaps add in a visit to surrounding locations too.  That’s why organizing a tour to Pamukkale might save you a whole heap of time. 

Pamukkale colour contrast
SOURCE: Jamie Payne

Make a Day Trip to Pamukkale from Denizli

Stay overnight in the biggest local town of Denizli and take a 40-minute minibus to Pamukkale first thing in the morning.  The minibus will drop you at the lower gate entrance to the terraces (which is the best way to enter).  You’ll still get here before the majority of the visitors.  Head for a late lunch as the hordes arrive and then take a leisurely minibus back to Denizli.

The Best Way to Visit Pamukkale

You must remove your footwear when visiting the Pamukkale travertine terraces.  There are no lockers, so you’ll need to carry shoes with you.  If you’re planning on visiting the ruins of Hierapolis, then you’ll need to bring footwear.  Bring additional clothing other than your swimwear if you’re planning a dip in the Pamukkale pools might be useful to cover up for exploring the ruins, although there are no rules in place in Pamukkale. What to wear in Pamukkale is more about what you feel comfortable in and sun protection.

You’re not allowed to wear even sandals or flip-flops.  Bare feet only to prevent the erosion and staining of the terraces.

Start at the bottom of the terraces – we recommend the Pamukkale south gate in the town.  Walk up through the terraces, and explore Hierapolis.  Eat a picnic lunch, or get refreshments at the café at the top, and make your way back down into the town.  Tour buses drop groups off at the TOP gate of the site.

Bathing at Pamukkale

Pamukkale Opening Times

The Pamukkale opening hours of the terraces are from 0800 – 1700 from October to March.  Pamukkale timings from April to October are from 0800 – 1900

10 Tips for Visiting Pamukkale

Check out our top 10 Pamukkale tips to answer the question is Pamukkale worth visiting.

  1. All visitors must be barefoot.  This means no flip-flops or sandals.
  2. Take water with you. You can buy drinking water at the café and stands at the top, but it’s more expensive.
  3. Carry your footwear with you, if you plan to visit the ruins at the top. It’s rough underfoot, you may manage with flip-flops, but it can be a long hike to the far end of the ruins.
  4. There are no lockers at the lower gate, so everything you bring with you for the day you’ll have to carry for the day.
  5. Take a picnic if you plan to stay in the Pamukkale limestone terraces and their pools all day.
  6. If you want to take a dip – the waters aren’t deep, but you can certainly sit in them comfortably, then wear your swimwear under your clothes. While there are bathrooms at the café at the top of the terraces you’ll have to walk up there, then walk back down to get into the pools.  We wore shorts and just paddled through the pools.
  7. If you struggle with the heat, take an umbrella, the sun reflects off the white terraces something rotten and your sunscreen will melt quickly! (be sure to wear some though!)
  8. You will need sunglasses – even on a dull day it is VERY BRIGHT
  9. Wear sunscreen.
  10. It is ok to wear bikinis and swimwear. You’ll spot many speedo-wearing torsos, which may cause you to avert your eyes.
Pamukkale walking through the water

How long does it take to visit Pamukkale?

How long to spend in Pamukkale depends on what you want to see and how you want to see it.

If you just want to see the travertine pools of Pamukkale, then walking to the top and returning will take about around 45-60 minutes.  Longer if you want photos or a dip.  You should definitely include a visit to Hierapolis, which is included in the Pamukkale price.  We spent several hours at Pamukkale, most of that time exploring Hierapolis, which for us was one of the best things to do in Pamukkale.

Pamukkale Admission Fees

Tickets to get into Pamukkale last for the entire day and include your entrance to Hierapolis.  The Pamukkale entrance fee is 60 TL.  If you have an All Turkish Museum Pass (cost 375 TL) then your entrance is covered to this site as well.  The Turkish Museum Pass also means that you can bypass the Pamukkale entrance line, simply walk to the front, scan your pass, and walk through.  Buy a Turkish Museum pass and bypass the lines now – they can be painfully slow!

Pamukkale Ticket

The Pamukkale thermal pool entrance fees do NOT include the entrance to the antique pool at the top of the terraces, which is 32 TL and its open from 0800 until 1730 (November through March) or 1930 (April through October).

Best Time of Day to Visit Pamukkale

The best time of day to plan your Pamukkale visit is either early in the morning or in the late, late afternoon.  This isn’t just to avoid the heat of the day and the crowds, but also for better light for your photographs.  The white calcite of the terraces drains all color.  Most people (us included) arrive at Pamukkale in the afternoon.  The second best time to go to Pamukkale is the late afternoon, which will be busier than the early morning visit.  If you can stay overnight in Pamukkale then you’ll likely have the place to yourself in the early morning.

Pamukkale pools

Best Time of Year to Visit Pamukkale

If you have a choice, when you come to Pamukkale the best time to visit Pamukkale is between April and June.  In summer the whole area gets very, very hot and much busier.  You may see snow if you visit in winter.  Autumn is also more pleasant.  If you’re visiting in the months of November through March then there are also fewer visitors.   Avoid weekends if possible.

How to get to Pamukkale

We visited Pamukkale and Hierapolis en route from Ephesus to Ihlara and then Cappadocia.  It was a small part of our overland trip from Istanbul to Kathmandu.   Most people will visit Pamukkale as a day trip from beach resorts on the Med or Aegean seas. 


Car Icon

Best Turkey Car Rental

If you need to rent a car in Turkey we recommend Discover Cars for car hire.  You can search, compare and save up to 70%, with no hidden fees and free cancellation, it’s the perfect option! Get a price for a rental car in Turkey here.

 Book a day trip to Pamukkale here!.   It will take you 2 hours to drive from Antalya or Marmaris, or 5 hours from Bodrum.  You can always rent a car and drive to Pamukkale yourself!

Pamukkale bathing

Pamukkale Maps

Take a look at our Pamukkale Turkey maps to see first of all to find out where is Pamukkale Turkey.


The map above shows where in Turkey Pamukkale is located.  The map below shows where the historic sites of Pamukkale and Hierapolis are located with regard to the town of Pamukkale.

Pamukkale is a very small town, with the historic site of Pamukkale located at the edge of it.  It’s impossible to get lost in Pamukkale.  There are no Pamukkale tourist maps as you see the Pamukkale travertine terraces as soon as you arrive.


How to Go from Denizli to Pamukkale

There are several options for how to get to Pamukkale from Denizli.  You can take a coach from Denizli, which is the closest city to Pamukkale.  Denizli is 19 kilomtres from Pamukkale.  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.  Minibusses 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.

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

If you’re considering whether to stay in Denizli or Pamukkale – then accommodation is cheaper in Denizli than in Pamukkale.  Check accommodation in Denizli here.

How to go from Istanbul to Pamukkale

To get to Pamukkale from Istanbul, unless you are driving, you will need to first get to Denizli.  Driving time is about 8 hours, it is 620 kilometers.  A bus journey time is about 12 hours and bus fares are about 80 TL.  Buses go from Istanbul to Denizli, (and some go directly to Pamukkale) and then you will need to take the minibus from Denizli to Pamukkale.  You can book your bus from Istanbul to Pamukkale here.

You can fly from Istanbul to Denizli in an hour.  Check out 10 great reasons to visit Istanbul here.

How to get From Ephesus to Pamukkale

It is 190 kilometers 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. You can also take a taxi and book one here.

How to go from Cappadocia to Pamukkale

The distance from Cappadocia to Pamukkale is 530 kilometers.  The drive to Pamukkale from Cappadocia takes 7-8 hours, or around 10 hours on an overnight bus.   You will likely find a bus that goes directly, or via Denizli from MetroTurizm. Check buses and ticket prices to go from Cappadocia to Pamukkale here.

We visited Pamukkale on our Silk Road adventure, which began in Istanbul and headed toward Kathmandu.  So far on the trip we’ve explored Gallipoli, Troy, and Ephesus.  We’re heading to Cappadocia next!

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.     

Travel Tips for Exploring Turkey

Final Words on Visiting Pamukkale

Pamukkale is a stunning site to visit. The pools are spectacular, and the walk up through them is interesting, especially to Hierapolis at the top. It’s best to go earlier or later in the day for the best light.

Stock images in this article are courtesy Deposit Photos.

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