Sometimes when you really really look forward to visiting some place, you tend to expect much more from the place than what it really is. That’s what happened at Pamukkale. Ever since I have come to Turkey, all I could think of was visiting Pamukkale so imagine my disappointment when I get off the bus and see this side of a hill (not a mountain) covered in white looking very much like snow. I thought to myself, please don’t tell me this is it…it was!
Pammukale is normally a day stop for most tourists but I was staying there for 2 nights so I had plenty of time. I chose to go in the afternoon because it would be a bit cooler and I was looking forward to having a swim in the ancient antique roman pools. There are 2 entrance gates to the travertines, the upper and lower gate and it makes sense to start at the upper gate so you won’t have to climb up and then down again. Unfortunately unless you are with a tour or have a car, there isn’t a way to go to the top gate. However the hotel, I stayed with had a few local guys just hanging around the front and one of them offered to drop me on the top on his motorbike! No charge. 😀
When visiting Pamukkale because so much focus is on the travertines that the magnificent Hierapolis site behind the travertines is often underplayed. Allow a good 3 hours plus extra time if you want to swim to explore the entire site. There is a lot walking involved as the site is vastly spread over the hilltop and while there is a shuttle bus to take you to one place to another, it will set you back quite a bit.
So after walking around in the burning sun, I was more than looking forward to my swim in the antique pool (which would cost you an extra 32TL on top of the 20TL site entrance fee) but when I got there, there was nothing bloody antique about it! The pool was surrounded by eateries and coffee shops and people could sit and eat and watch people swim like a public swimming pool! I don’t care how sacred that water was but I wasn’t paying to swim in it while 3 Korean kids looked upon me while chomping on their hamburgers!
So with that missed, I finally went to see the travertines and you sort of walk through and down and out the bottom gate. Well….it comes in three’s and there I was finally disappointed that it didn’t look anything like the photos! So walked around a bit and decided to make the most of what was left and that was find a good spot in one of the luscious gardens and plop down, do some reading, some meditating and just enjoy the mountain views before walking down. I must have lounged for about an hour when it dawned on me, that the sun was setting. I thought to walk around to the other side of the hill to see the sunset and…pow! There were travertines on this side as well..but hardly any people and the sunset on that water was something you could never pay a million bucks to see. It was that beautiful and that made up for the entire trip’s disappointments. Pamukkale has to be seen at the right time and I was just glad that I had stuck it out till sunset. My photos don’t really do it any justice.
Travel Tip –
I had a flight from Denizli Airport to Istanbul at 6.00am the following morning. Something to keep in mind is that Denizli Airport is about 1 hour by car from Pamukkale hence you’ll need to leave Pamukkale at about 3.45am to make it for your flight. If you happen to be there at an off-peak time like me, you’ll find that hardly anybody takes that early flight and you are looking at paying about 120-150TL for private car to drop you off because most shuttles only leave for the 9.00am flight. However I was lucky as a crowd called Hermosa Tours helped me out by taking me to the highway where we waited for a passing airport bus and they put me on it. I strongly suggest if you are traveling solo to save yourself the drama of being picked up at 3.30am and then having all kinds of thoughts race in your head as your driver drives you on an empty highway! Stick with the later flights even if they do cost a little bit more but at least you’re traveling in daylight. You should be fine though in peak seasons, there probably will be shuttles running.