Having previously experienced the world’s longest queues in Istanbul airport and with us recently missing a flight due to me spending too much time in the toilet, we arrived at Istanbul Sabiha airport four hours early for our journey to Pamukkale, our first big ‘bucket list’ destination. Having refrained from eating McDonalds and successfully hiding our seriously over weight hand luggage from the budget airline staff, we finally got our £13 Pegasus flight to Pamukkale in south-west Turkey, secretly hoping that such cheap tickets didn’t mean they would only be using one engine…
After driving for an hour from Denizle airport with a little old turkish man with a wierd Australian/Turkish accent we finally arrived at the Bellamaritimo Hotel, Pamukkale. Another bargain at only £20 a night and perfectly located next to the famous travertines terraces that we were here to see! As we nodded off, we vaguely mumbled something about getting up early to beat the crowds and grabbing a light breakfast to save time and beat the crowds. Déjà vu.
The next morning, we rolled out of bed at 10 am and proceeded to stuff our faces with the famous Turkish breakfast, Kahvalti, yet again. Olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggs, three types of cheese, yogurt, honey, jams, chocolate hazelnut spread (Turkey produces 80-90% of the world’s hazelnuts and Nutella is now owned by a Turkish company) and the entire village’s supply of bread for the day. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day after all!
If you google Pamukkale, you’ll find the famous travertine terraces at the top of the must see list. These are bright white calcite pools full of warm mineral rich waters. In the winter, you can be surrounded by snow-topped hills whilst bathing in the hot springs and in the summer, the terraces look like a giant iceberg that has landed in the middle of a scorching hot barren landscape, an amazing sight and one of our bucket list must sees!
In short, it didn’t disappoint and it’s a sight worth visiting for a day even if you’re 1-2 hours away enjoying the sea, sand and sun in Izmir!
To enter the terraces, there is a short walk uphill from the box office. When you reach the entry point, it is bare feet only so make sure you bring a bag to carry your shoes as for the next half an hour you will be making your way through warm, slightly slippery rocky pools.
We arrived at the terraces at around midday, the sun was blazing and the white terraces were blinding. It is probably good idea to visit early morning or slightly later in the afternoon if you’d like to avoid potentially losing your eyesight!
At any point on your walk to the top, you can stop and relax in the warm pools. There are pools of different sizes and depths. You can even make it into a mini spa experience and cover yourself in the natural clay found at the bottom of the pools. Science would probably say that putting this clay/ water combo on your face will only leave you feeling a bit muddy but having spotted a LOT of old turkish women filling up 5 litre bottles of the stuff and quickly hiding it in their big handbags, we’re convinced that the mineral waters of Pamukkale are the secret to staying youthful!
Once at the top, you are rewarded with an amazing view of the town and an overpriced café and shop selling the same badly painted magnets you’ll find anywhere in the world… Most people stop there, but if you head a little further down the path you will enter a world of ancient Roman ruins which rival even the best in Italy!
The Roman ruins
The truth is we only came to see the terraces so we were pleasantly surprised when we discovered that our 35tl entry fee also gave us the chance to to roam around some very impressive ancient Roman ruins found dotted across the site.
What’s fun is the complete freedom to walk around and climb these ruins in a way not possible elsewhere in the world. Probably not great for preservation (the Turkish love to scratch their names onto anything old and made of stone), but climbing into the various nooks and crannies of an ancient ampitheatre really allows you to get a ‘real’ feel for how it must have been thousands of years ago.
- Cheap flights are available on Pegasus airlines (book ahead for bargain rates, we fly for £13 each) into Denizle airport, a 45min drive from Pammukale. You’ll first get an airport bus to Denizle town and a taxi/ van should drop you to Pammukale (ask the airport bus driver). If flying from somewhere except Istanbul, be aware that most flights in Turkey connect at Istanbul first.
- Travelling by bus is easy across all of Turkey – probably easier than flying. Buses will drop you at Denizle town (where you can also stay) and the hotel can arrange a pick up from there or you can get a cheap taxi to Pammukale.
Where we stayed
Double room cost: £21 per room (for two people) inc. breakfast directly but worth comparing rates on Trivago.co.uk
Review: Found this little gem on Trivago, great reviews made us want to stay. Really friendly family owns the place and is keen to help you make the most of your stay in Pamukkale, without aggressively trying to sell you uneccessary tours or tickets. We stayed at a time when tourism is seriously down due to the country’s problems so it may have been cheaper than normal, but worth checking online. A big Turkish breakfast (kavahlti) is brought to your outdoor table in the morning and is included in the price. Our double room was clean and comfy, and the owner was generous enough to give us a room to shower when we returned from the terraces, before we headed off on our overnight bus. Oh and the place has a great pool, has an on-site family restaurant and is PERFECTLY located for a short walk to the terraces. Overall, fantastic for a short stay at a very reasonable price!
What to eat
Pamukkale is pretty much a small village with a huge attraction. If you arrive late at night, you might have to settle for a pide, ayran and çay for only 8 lira (£2) each at the only place open at 11pm – just ask the hotel. Nothing to shout about but tasty!
Something to definitely shout about, the Kavahlti brought to our table in the morning by the friendly family at the BellaMaritimo hotel. Given the selection on offer and freshness of everything here, it’s probably a good enough reason to stay for one night.