Pamukkale: One of the Strangest Landscapes on Earth


Pamukkale travertines and pool

When I arrived in Turkey, I had a list of three things that I simply had to do while I was there.

1. Explore Istanbul and its neighbourhoods, its food, its mosques and its awesomeness.

2. Take a hot air balloon ride over the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia.

3. Visit the bizarre landscape of Pamukkale.

Pamukkale travertines

As you know, I love visiting unique and bizarre destinations and Pamukkale would have to be my strangest one yet.

Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish and it’s not hard to see why. Stretching over a mile and a half, the dazzling white travertines and hot springs of calcium carbonate look incredibly out of place against the very green Turkish countryside. To say that Pamukkale stands out would be a huge understatement.

Pamukkale travertines and pools

After falling in love with Istanbul within approximately three minutes of arriving, I knew that Pamukkale was going to have to be seriously impressive in order for it to be a highlight from my time in Turkey.

We were visiting as a detour on our way down to Fethiye and fortunately our minivan driver dropped us off at the lower entrance. There are two entrances to Pamukkale — the upper one, where the tour buses vomit dozens of tourists onto the top few terraces every couple of minutes or at the bottom, where much fewer people enter.

By starting at the bottom and spending the majority of our time hanging out in the pools there we found it exceptionally easy to escape the crowds. Dave lazed around in the warm waters and amused himself watching me stumbling around like a baby giraffe, attempting not to fall into a pool.

Pamukkale travertines and pool

Pamukkale travertines and pool

Pamukkale turquoise water

As much as I like to avoid crowds and tour groups as much as possible, after a few minutes in Pamukkale I actually found myself doing the exact opposite.

For the Russian and Eastern European women visiting Pamukkale it was simply not enough to just paddle in the pools and take photos of the terraces. No, instead they draped themselves seductively over the terraces and pouted beneath waterfalls in bikinis while their boyfriend trailed around after them taking photo after photo after photo…

I laughed. A lot.

This was a strange place.

Pamukkale travertines

Aside from all of the ridiculous posing, I actually really enjoyed my time at Pamukkale. Splashing about in the water helped to cool me down on a hot summer’s day and the landscape was gorgeous and unlike anywhere else I’ve visited.

Pamukkale travertines
 Pamukkale travertines

The highlight for me would have to be the terraces at the very top. You were unable to swim in these pools as they are formed naturally (the lower ones were man-made) and so the terraces themselves were much more pristine, the difference in colours caused by different minerals in the water.

Pamukkale travertines Pamukkale travertines

As we finished up our exploration, Dave pottered off to look at some ruins and I took the opportunity to nap for an hour a while before wandering around some of the dry terraces. Water is regularly diverted from one side of the valley to the other in order to give the calcium carbonate a chance to harden and form travertines.

Pamukkale travertines

With our time in Pamukkale drawing to a close, there was just enough time to leave the park through the top entrance, realise it would take over an hour to walk down to the bottom in 40 degree heat, give up and pay a ridiculous amount of money to take a cab back down.

Pamukkale travertines and lake

Usually when I finally manage to visit a place that I’ve always wanted to see, I find myself leaving feeling disappointed, that it hadn’t met the high expectations I’d created in my mind as I’d imagined over and over how amazing it would be.

It was with great surprise then, that I found Pamukkale to be so much more awesome than I’d expected. Wandering barefoot over the travertines, paddling in the pools and cooling off under the waterfalls made for a fun few hours — and the bizarre setting helped to make it even more enjoyable.

Even with the crowds and the crazy posing, it was definitely worth going out of our way to visit.

 

Previous 2012: My Year in Review
Next Month 18: Travel Summary and Statistics

60 Comments

  1. January 13, 2013
    Reply

    You’re making me regret not going to Pamukkale now! I heard a lot of mixed reviews about it from other folks while I was travelling in Turkey, so opted out of going and headed from Canakkale-Selcuk-Fethiye without stopping off there.

    Those Russian girls have the right idea, by the way. I’ll squeeze myself into my tiniest bikini and have the bf snapping photos of me seductively licking the travertines when I finally make it there x

    • January 14, 2013
      Reply

      Haha, you would have LOVED the Russian posing! I’m so gutted I didn’t take a photo of them.

  2. Mike
    January 13, 2013
    Reply

    Amazing landscape

    • January 14, 2013
      Reply

      I thought you’d like it! :)

  3. Forest Parks
    January 13, 2013
    Reply

    I’ve never even heard of this place…. Now I really want to see it for my own eyes! The photos are stunning.

    • January 14, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Forest! It’s a beautiful place and not very well known either!

  4. Ele
    January 13, 2013
    Reply

    I had no idea there are two entrances. Thank you for pointing this out.

    • January 14, 2013
      Reply

      No problem! The bottom one was far better :)

  5. Gungor
    January 13, 2013
    Reply

    This place is amazing. I have been there three times and it still amazes me. There’s nothing like this in other countries, so Pamukkale is quite unique. There is also an ancient city called Hierapolis at the top of Pamukkale, which is also stunning. And 15 minutes from Pamukkale there’s a natural thermal hot spring in Karahayit, which is also nice to see. So If you guys have the opportunity, you should really visit Denizli (town) in Turkey. You will be stunned by the natural beauty of this city.

    • January 14, 2013
      Reply

      Yeah, Dave explored the ancient city while I *cough* napped. Ruins aren’t really my thing :)

  6. January 14, 2013
    Reply

    Just added this to our Turkey plans! Looks amazing! What time of year were there, we plan on being in Turkey August/September hopefully it looks just as amazing then!

    • January 14, 2013
      Reply

      Yay! I was there at the end of August so it’ll be perfect for you guys :)

      • Gungor
        January 15, 2013
        Reply

        August or September are good times to visit. But it can be very hot in those months, with temperatures reaching up 35/40 degrees. So you need to be well prepared for that.

  7. Koren @ City Gal
    January 14, 2013
    Reply

    I read a lot of travel blogs, and I have never seen this place even mentioned. Looks super cool. So happy you wrote about it so I can add it to my list of places I must get to!

    • January 14, 2013
      Reply

      Glad to have introduced you to somewhere new, Koren! :) I hope you manage to get there soon!

  8. Natalie
    January 14, 2013
    Reply

    Fantastic photos Lauren. I plan to return back there this year just to see the pools again because they are so amazing.

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Natalie! I hope to return one day too :-)

  9. Bloody hell – that is one seriously stunning looking place. I had never even heard about it before your post! Thanks for the intro…

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      No problem! It was so incredibly beautiful.

  10. Juliann
    January 14, 2013
    Reply

    It looks like the setting for a Sci-fi movie. Very different. Hope I can see it for myself someday.

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      Yeah, it was pretty other worldly. I hope you can too :-)

  11. Gregory @ Earth Itinerant
    January 14, 2013
    Reply

    What is the deal with Russians, anyway? I’ve seen them do this semi-bizarre behavior all over the planet. Always in their own world, and somehow believing they’re from the planet Rive Gauche.

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      I know! It’s so, so funny!

  12. Andrew Darwitan
    January 14, 2013
    Reply

    Really regret missing Pammukale on my visit to Turkey last year. Only visited for a short period of time, so I only explored Istanbul, Ephesus, and Cappadocia. You really should drop by Cappadocia the next time you’re there. One of my most favorite places, definitely.

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      Yeah, Cappadocia is somewhere I will definitely be visiting next time I’m in Turkey.

  13. Amanda
    January 14, 2013
    Reply

    SO COOL. This is one of the reasons I need to get back to Turkey soon.

  14. Scarlett
    January 14, 2013
    Reply

    This is absolutely crazy, it’s so weird to see people in bare feet and shorts in a place like this – I had no idea it even existed… I need to go xx

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      I know! I kept thinking I was going to fall over because it looked really slippery.

  15. January 15, 2013
    Reply

    Hahaha. I had a good laugh about the Russian tourists posing seductively. I live in Thailand, and that seems to be a popular activity on the beaches here as well. I don’t get it!

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      Hahaha, yes, exactly! They do it everywhere, hey? :-)

  16. January 15, 2013
    Reply

    Since meeting so many wonderful people from Turkey in my travels, I’ve added it to my countries to visit list, and now I have a definite site, as well. Pamukkale looks phenomenal, and your photos are truly amazing! I am curious to know if the smell of the minerals permeates the air (like the springs in Aachen, Germany) and what walking on the travertine rocks feels like. It looks so smooth…and precarious!

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      It really didn’t smell at all, Gayla. I was kind of expecting it to.

  17. January 16, 2013
    Reply

    This place looks amazing! I love otherworldly landscapes – the salt flats in Bolivia and the high altitude drive in to Chile was similar in its other worldliness, and some areas of the Galapagos Islands look like Mars! Hadn’t heard of this before reading your post, so I’m glad to be introduced to somewhere new.

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      Yes, I’m desperate to get to both places, hopefully next year! :-)

  18. TammyOnTheMove
    January 17, 2013
    Reply

    I grew up in Germany where there are a lot of Turkish restaurants. Almost every second one is called Pamukalle. Now I know why, because it is probably the most beautiful place in Turkey!

  19. January 18, 2013
    Reply

    Wow that place looks amazing! Can’t believe I’ve never heard of it before!

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      I know, I’m surprised at how few people have heard of it, given how awesome it is!

  20. The CounterIntuitive
    January 18, 2013
    Reply

    Great shout. I love seeing pics of awesome places without having heard of them before.

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      No worries, glad you enjoyed the post!

  21. The Guy
    January 18, 2013
    Reply

    What a stunning and bizarre place. In some photos it looks like snow and in some it looks like a beautiful white beach.

    Either way it looks fascinating and a definite place to visit.

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      Yep, I can definitely recommend it as a must-see in Turkey.

  22. nomadic translator @LatinAbroad
    January 24, 2013
    Reply

    *sigh* this place has been on my list forever…

    I was actually supposed to go to Turkey back on December 2008 for freaking 40 DAYS.

    Guess what happened?

    I decided to surprise my then-fiancé back in America for Christmas…

    For him to break up with me over the phone just 10 days before my planned surprise!

    I was young and stupid ha! Indeed, I learned my lesson — NEVER, EVER change your travel plans/dreams for a man! :P

    – Maria Alexandra

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      Eeeeeeeeek — that sucks. :-(

      Though I did change my travel plans for a man when I met Dave, but 18 months later it’s still good so sometimes it can work out!

  23. January 30, 2013
    Reply

    I really enjoyed Turkey, and Pamukkale was gorgeous! We actually started at the top because we figured it would be easier to walk down instead of up. Like you said, there were a few tour groups at the top, but once we got past the first couple of pools, there weren’t many people at all. The tour groups aren’t given enough time to walk down the whole thing and back up to where the buses are parked, so it worked out for us being on our own. Glad you had a good time and it didn’t disappoint!

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      Yep, walking down to the bottom is definitely the right way to do it.

  24. Carmela
    February 11, 2013
    Reply

    I feel the same way! Pamukkale was the most anticipated destination in Turkey and it surpassed every expectation.

    Wish you got a chance to walk through the travertines at night. We watched the sunset and then mosied down to the lower entrance – no one else was around and it felt like we were on another planet!

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      So glad to hear it also surpassed your expectations, Carmela! I really wanted to see them at night… next time!

  25. February 26, 2013
    Reply

    I’ve been there and really enjoyed it. But there is so much to Turkey. I only had a month there and that was nowhere near enough. Need to go back there!

    • March 25, 2013
      Reply

      I agree! I spent six weeks there and wanted to stay for double that!

  26. Pat
    May 29, 2013
    Reply

    Fantastic pictures. What was your total time spent at Pamukkale? In August I’m taking overnight bus from Cappadocia to Pamukkale then afternoon bus to Fethiye. Is 3-4 hours enough? My dilemma is where to store my luggage while at Pamukkale?

    • May 30, 2013
      Reply

      Hi Pat,

      Four hours is enough time, in fact it’s probably too much time! It’s pretty small. I spent around two hours at Pamukkale. I booked a bus from Selcuk to Fethiye and they stopped off in Pamukkale for a few hours so we could leave our bags at the bus company’s office. Maybe find the bus company you’re heading to Fethiye with and you should be able to leave your bags with them?

  27. Jeff Bell
    June 29, 2013
    Reply

    I have really enjoyed reading your website. I was looking for a post about what it is truly like to visit Ephesus and Pamukkale. Great photos and I love your sense of humor in the writing. Thanks for sharing.

  28. Atanas
    March 27, 2015
    Reply

    Hey, Lauren. Did you make it Cappadocia? And if yes – how was that?

  29. Atanas
    March 28, 2015
    Reply

    What a pity… Wish you to make it next time

    • March 28, 2015
      Reply

      I’ll definitely get there next time! :-)

  30. Jit
    November 7, 2015
    Reply

    Really beautiful! Breathtaking! Simply out of this world!

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