Travels in Turkey: Pamukkale (formerly Hierapolis)

Jesse and I spent two weeks in Antalya before traveling to Istanbul, we saw some ancient Roman (and Greek sites) that I wrote about here; this time, we decided to take a day trip from Antalya to the city of Pamukkale, which is near central Turkey.

We awoke early where our tour van picked us up; our tour guide, Hamdi, was ready for us at five minutes to seven in the morning, and after picking up a few more passengers, we set off for Pamukkale. It is about a three hour journey to Pamukkale from Antalya, so along the way, Hamid quizzed us on basic Turkish words to know (hello, thank you, so-so, how’s it going? and my love – since we were all couples except two ladies from France who did not speak English). Jesse and I had practiced a few of these already, as it is always nice to know the basics of a language when visiting another country.

Hamdi gave us a map of Turkey, explained some of the history of the country, as well as how people live and work in their day-to-day lives, and salaries of many professions in Turkey. There has been a currency crisis in Turkey for 15+ years, and now inflation has lowered the Lira almost 400%. Our dollar went far here, but we did not know that before we visited; while a “bonus” for us, it adversely affects the population. Hamdi was straightforward about this, but also had a great sense of humor, telling us about other tourists he had met while leading tours in Turkey (he had visited Pamukkale 2,000 times in his life, wow!), and the funny things they had done.

Lake Salda

To break up the trip, we first made a stop at Lake Salda, which has white, rocky, beaches and a tide that does not move (similar to the Sultan Sea in California, but much clearer water, and can be used for swimming). The magnesium in the lake makes the beach white, and researchers have determined that this lake (and only one other, in Canada) have similar makeup to Mars.

It is a picturesque and clear lake, and We walked in as far as our knees before retreating out of the sun.

Our next stop was a large tourist shop, selling all kinds of wares made in turkey, from jewelry and earthenware to a wide variety of the Nazar Boncuk charm, or the Turkish eye. We were given a demonstration of different Turkish materials used to make ceramics, as Turkey has very many quarries and mine many different materials. After that stop we ate a simple lunch near Pamukkale, and then Hamdi gave us a quick overview of the ancient city, named by the Greeks Hierapolis, and told us what and how to best enjoy and explore the area.

Pamukkale translates to “Cotton Castle” and one can see why; the natural thermal spring flows from above and the carbonite creates these levels of white, mostly flat, terraces, that we walked upon, along with many fellow tourists. There are three sets of terraces, and only one is open each day, to prevent overuse. (You can see all the people lined up in the first picture, walking down to the lower terraces; the green pool is not the pool we later swam in, but part of a resort).

There are about seven terraces, but there were so many people we walked down only a couple, before returning and then exploring the ancient city. After visiting the ancient Roman city of Perge, which was in better shape than Hierapolis, we knew we only really wanted to see the theater, which was in great shape. While there is a picture of it at the top of this post, here is a bit more detail of the statues and archways behind the stage.

It was quite a hot day, and after the uphill walk to the theater, we were ready to swim in the thermal pools, created by and warmed by the underground volcanoes here, known as the Cleopatra Antique Pools. Hamdi recommended entering the pools after four pm, by which time there would be less tourists and more room to maneuver (and he was right).

Sulfuric water gives the pools their regenerative reputation, and the clear, turquoise water was quite inviting. There are also large stones and ancient columns to sit upon and enjoy the pools. For a small fee we rented a locker to store our belongings and we went in, finding a suitable stone to sit on, relax, and enjoy the pools healing properties.

We sat on a smooth rock under the shade on the left side

To swim in the warm water where people had been doing so for centuries, is a can’t miss experience. Once we left the pools and changed back into our regular clothes, we had to have some ice cream, which was fruit flavored and quite delicious. As we waited for our fellow tour goers to return to the bus, we took some more pictures of the countryside, and the remnants of the ancient city (the theater is in the center).

Finally, once the whole tour group was ready, we made our way back to the bus, under the doorway that had originally welcomed us a few hours earlier.

We were all tired after a long day of walking, swimming, exploring, and bus-riding; so the three hour ride back to Antalya was uneventful. We did make one stop to use the bathroom, at a roadside restaurant that had a store attached (selling Turkish delights, honey, and designer bags). We were shopped out, so just had some Turkish tea, and then took in the surrounding view.

We made friends with a couple from London named Amanda and Rob, and we all went to eat some really tasty Turkish food once we returned to Antalya. Then we had a few drinks at a rock-n-roll bar which was situated just next to Hadrian’s gate, before calling it a night. It was a fine end to a fun day trip!

Published by Phil Barrington

Currently living in Spain, Accountant by Day, Writer by Night. Lover of baseball, travel ,and spreadsheets. Check out my blog:

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