View from the top of Old Man of Coniston hike in Lake District National Park, England.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Preston, Lancashire, England.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Wyke, West Yorkshire, England on May 29th!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The travertine calcium pools of Pamukkale, Turkey

When most people come to visit Turkey, they have three things in mind... Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Pamukkale. It's almost like nothing else matters.

Something like visiting Machu Picchu in Peru, or Niagara Falls in Canada.

And normally, a popular tourist attraction is popular for a reason. There is something about each of the places mentioned above that makes it worth visiting. That is, if you can put up with the hoards of tourists and the inflated prices that go along with it.

The main reason we came to the city of Denizli was to visit Pamukkale. However, we also did enough research to figure out that Pamukkale is not the only reason to be in this area. And as you can see, we've managed to keep ourselves busy with interesting things to see and do while we waited for the perfect day to visit Pamukkale.

So, what is Pamukkale? For those of you who don't know, it is a hot spring water source that is so high in mineral content (mostly calcium) that over time leaves a hardened rock like surface that is bright white. This phenomenon only occurs in two known places in the world... Pamukkale in Turkey, and Hierve el Agua near the city of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Ruth and I have been to Hierve el Agua four different times over the years, so we were curious to compare the site to Pamukkale.

We chose a Monday to visit. Better chance of less people being around, and we got lucky that the weather forecast was perfect. Clear blue skies, and a high of about 22C (72F) with no wind. Absolutely perfect.

We got an early start from our apartment in the city of Denizli (only 20 kms, 13 miles away) and arrived at the site at 9:30am.

The road to Pamukkale.

The road to Pamukkale reminded us both of the road at the Huatulco, Mexico airport. It's all fancied up and made to look prettier than any other road because they know the tourists are coming along it.

We saw all the pay parking areas. Not that it's expensive, but we don't see the point of paying to park when the town itself is full of free street parking. So we found a spot and walked the two minutes back up to the main road.

First thing we did was to walk around the duck pond at the base of the calcium deposits.

Goose family.

The majority of the travertine pools and the deposits themselves are all closed to the public due to tourist abuse since the 1960's. It was only when the area became a UnescoWorld Heritage site in 1988 that they began diverting the water source from hotels that had been built above the pools (the hotels up there have since been torn down) so that the damaged calcium deposits could begin to heal. They have opened up one section where the tourists are allowed to play a little in the pools.

They have a path open from the bottom that you can climb up if you do so in bare feet. So we headed that way. The only other option is to drive to the upper parking lot, and pay for the shuttle bus to take you directly to the top.

We paid the 100 lira ($16 CAD, $12.30 USD) per person entrance fee that included a visit to the nearby Laodicea ruins. Alternatively, you could have bought an 80 lira ticket for Pamukkale alone.

We took our shoes off, and began the easy climb on the calcium deposits. It was a little hard on the feet at times, and the water was a bit cold near the bottom. It warmed up as we got closer to the top!

It's a really pretty location.

Especially when there's hardly anybody else around. 

Looks like snow.

It's hard to tell, but there is actually water flowing here.

Looking down on the duck pond and the village of Pamukkale.

Natural infinity pool.

Or is it? They've diverted the water so many different ways and different times that it's hard to tell what's natural and what's not. Still, it's an interesting place to visit. Very pretty.


So we're getting close to the top where most people go for a dip in the pools. And we see this big colorful parrot sitting on the ledge of one of the pools. And there's a pretty girl in a little bikini posing, and a couple of guys with big fancy cameras.

We figured there was some kind of modeling photo shoot going on or something.

But we learned afterwards that these are just tourists who pay the big bucks to have some professional photos taken with the fancy bird at an interesting locale.

We got to the top and let the water dry off our feet before putting our shoes and socks back on.

At the top, there's a long path that goes along the top of the ridge where the calcium deposit begins. Then behind that is the ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis. We will show you some of that in a post later today.

Pretty blue water.

Another attraction is the Cleopatra Pool. This is located at the source where the warm clear spring water comes out of the ground. And of course legend has it that Cleopatra herself bathed here and the pool is named after that event.

If you want to go for a swim in the healing waters. it will cost you 100 lira ($16 CAD, $12.30 USD) extra. Yes, just to go for a swim.

Several people swimming in the clear waters at the Cleopatra pool.

Normally... that is "pre-Covid", that pool would be packed. As would be the attraction of Pamukkale itself. Statistics say that over 250,000 people swam in the pool in 2019. That's an average of about 700 people per day!

A few more people starting to show up.

Definitely worth a visit, and we're happy we went... but we are so glad that we were able to do so without the normal crowds. Compared to the other attraction in Mexico at Hierve el Agua? Well it's a difficult comparison because although they are similar, they are actually quite different. We enjoyed them both. 

Our day didn't finish there. We continued on to explore the ruins of Hierapolis, then we drove to the nearby ruins of Laodicea. But I'm going to break this up into two posts... so you'll have to return here later today to see the second post!

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  1. Replies
    1. Yep, I think that would came out of our mouths a fair bit that day! :-)

  2. Amazing pictures of a beautiful destination!!!

    1. Thank you! I am still not sure that we did the place justice, it is really hard to give people a good perspective of it's size and beauty!

  3. The pretty bird is very pretty. The bird, I mean. Pretty.😊

  4. Just so you know, we are having the same weather in Ontario this week. Going to 23 today, whoot whoot!

    1. Yes, we having been watching the weather back home and it certainly has been beautiful for this time of year but it isn't going to get better in the near future, we on the other hand will still be having decent weather at least it will be, compared to Canada. ;-)

  5. Are the calcium deposits hard like concrete or pliable like sand? It looks hard and slick in the pictures.

    1. Overall, hard like concrete, but not slippery at all unless you are in one of the pools... then you have to be a bit careful.

  6. Replies
    1. Thank you we are glad that you are enjoying them. :-)

  7. Oh my!!!! How very lovely!!!! It looks much larger and grander than Hierve de Agua in my opinion. But yes, these two are amazing and spectacular beauties of nature! You’re one of the fortunate people to have seen these two wonders! Thanks for the fantastic pics! Safe travels.

    1. Yes, it is much larger than Hierve de Agua but we love the scenery at Hierve de Agua so much more, with it being in the middle of the mountains. Each has its special merits and we are happy to have seen them both. :-)

  8. Wow, how pretty! It's funny to see you walking on what looks like snow with bare feet, though. Love all the bright white and pale icy-looking blue water. Glad it wasn't too crowded as that would have detracted from the experience quite a bit.

    1. It really was very pretty, unfortunately not all the pools have water in them compared to 15 or so years ago. Water has been diverted so many times and to some many spots over the years that it just isn't what most pictures of Pamukkale depict. Having said that, it was still a beautiful spot to visit and it helped that while we were there early in the morning and there weren't very many people around which is just the way we wanted it. :-)

      it was funny walking around on it and then looking at the pictures after because you are right it does resemble snow.

  9. Still looks superb but very different to 1997 when we were there. Bet you couldnt help comparing to the travertine pools in Yellowstone

    1. I am sure that they are very different from when you were here. There was probably water in most of the pools whereas when we were there all the artificial pools had water but only a few natural ones did.

      Actually I don't think we once compared this area to Yellowstone, we consider them two very different places but we did compare it to Hierve el Agua in Oaxaca, Mexico as they are very similar, the water is cold to tepid not hot like Yellowstone and both are white not yellow.


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