Pamukkale literally translates to Cotton Castle in Turkish, which makes perfect sense when you take one look at it. It’s an incredible cliff side in south-west Turkey covered in white from the mineral water running up from the ground and down the cliffside, hardened over time to create this natural spring oasis.
As the calcium hardens over the years, it creates little pools where the 35.6 degree natural spring water fills up to create small travestine spa baths. It’s pretty insane how much nature has blessed this part of the world!
Since the first time I ever laid eyes on a photo of Pamukkale a couple of years ago, it had instantly risen to the top of my bucket list. I knew it was only a matter of time until I came to see it for myself and normally, when I build things up in my head a little then I end up a little disappointed when I see it in person, yet Pamukkale somehow managed to surpass all my expectations and it’s 100% one of the best places I’ve ever visited.
Now I’m not entirely sure if this was the euphoria of my first warm, summer evening or the actual charm of the town but I loved it instantly. The air was so soft and warm, the streets were made up of run down little corner stores where old women dressed in burkas worked in the gardens in big groups, and rogue cats and dogs played in the streets.
The town is a total mess in a really charming way. It’s not dirty or littered, it’s simply old and poor. There is a bit of a Thailand-feel to the place, mixed with some small Polish villages that I used to vacation in when I was young.
That summer smell though… You know the one, it was amazing!
All up I didn’t spend much time in Pamukkale, most people don’t. We were all there for one reason, to see and bath in the majestic traverstines, and see them we did.
After an epic 11 hour drive from Capadoccia, James and I arrived in Pamukkale at 7:30pm, checked into the hotel room (for €28 it was very simple, with a big bed, air con and a neon blue ceiling light – yep, sexy!) and headed straight out for a walk to stretch our legs and see the Cotton Castle from afar.
After realising we were both pretty delirious from the drive, we made our way back to the hotel and settled in for late dinner and drinks. I only just managed to get through my glass of wine without falling asleep at the table so an early night was on the cards, to be ready for yet another early start in the morning.
We got up at 6am (a sleep-in considering our other mornings), checked out and headed straight to the Cotton Castle. Wanting to get there right as the gates opened at 8, I forewent breakfast and coffee, running on pure joy and excitement!
When the gate opened at about 7:50am, there were around 10 other people already there waiting with us. Making my way up, my shoes had to come off and as I stepped onto the white rock with water flowing down for the first time, I had no idea what to expect. Surprisingly, it wasn’t slippery, cold or sharp. The white rock is smooth with soft ripples to give you great grip and the water was a beautiful 35.6 degrees Celsius, perfect for this time of morning when the sun was only just starting to warm up.
I powered up the hill, stopping for a million photos along the way.
Pamukkale is such a magical place. It genuinely doesn’t seem real and once again on this holiday, Mother Nature has completely astounded me with her beauty.
Travel Tips for Pamukkale:
- Enter through the bottom gate as it’s less busy and much more fun to walk up, plus the bottom pools tend to be less busy (the water is a bit colder in those as the stream takes longer to get to them from the top)
- Tickets cost 25 lire plus another 5 lire of you want to see the ancient city too
- Bring a bag if you need it, you can just leave it to the side when you’re swimming
- Camera is a must! So are swimmers under your clothes. You don’t need a towel unless you go in the colder months
- There’s a cafe at the top with drinks and snacks, if you get hungry
- Gates open at 8am and it’s also a lovely place to watch the sunset, so I recommend you either go first thing or wait until late afternoon when it quietens down again
- Water flows much more freely a little later so if you go first thing, wait around for an hour or two to see Pamukkale in its full glory
- The water in the pools is a little cold first thing but it warms up as soon as the water stream is opened at the top of the hill and the fresh spring water fills the travestines
- Try putting some of the clay over your body for a natural body mask
- You can’t wear shoes on the white rocks so bring flip flops or something easy to take off
- Don’t forget to go for a walk on the boardwalk at the top of the hill to check out some of the closed pools that are still setting – they’re absolutely incredible!