In Türkiye, the town of Pamukkale is known as the Cotton Castle, thanks to the area’s natural travertine (a type of limestone) rock formations that decorate the mountains. Natural hot springs have formed within these travertine terraces, where tourists flock to bathe in the mineral rich waters.
Located just below the ancient Greek city of Hierapolis, where temple ruins still stand today at a UNESCO World Heritage protected archaeological site. Hierapolis and Pamukkale have been well known for thermal pools since at least the 2nd century B.C., and people looking for healing and relaxation have been gathering here for thousands of years.
Today, the cloudy aquamarine waters of the hot springs, which take their unusual hue from the calcium that dissolves into the water as it bubbles up from the ground, are still attracting tourists. The government of Türkiye has limited where tourists are allowed to venture to protect the integrity of terraces, but there are still a series of shallow pools where visitors can bath and take photos.
The water in the pools is shallow enough that they are safe for kids, and most bathers simply soak rather than swim. The bottom of the hot springs are covered in a chalky mud that some people like to spread on their skin, as a kind of mineral rich skin treatment.
Shoes are strictly forbidden on the terraces, so be prepared to carry them with you if you decide to explore the pools.
How to get to Pamukkale hot springs
There are two entrances into the Pamukkale terraces: One at the top of the mountain, near Hierapolis. This is the most commonly used entrance for tourists, where you can buy tickets to enter the hot springs and the Hierapolis ruins. There are also cafes where you can stop for refreshments at the top of the mountain.
There’s also another entrance at the bottom. If you’re starting from the bottom of the mountain in Pamukkale, you can hike up to the ruins of Hierapolis and pass the hot springs along the way.. The hike up the mountain is long and hot, according to people who have visited before, so be sure to pack water and sunscreen.
Pamukkale is a 25 minutes bus ride from the town of Denizli, and there are small, budget-friendly hotels in Pamukkale if you wish to stay overnight. Cleopatra’s Pool, another iconic hot spring is located in Pamukkale, so it might be worth taking a day trip to experience both.