“Whoever has not seen Pamukkale has not seen Turkey.” The representatives of the Turkey’s travel agencies and hotel guides use these words to invite the travelers to have an excursion to Pamukkale. EcoTourism Expert figured out whether such a tour is worth the money paid for it, in what order it is better to see the attractions and whether it is possible to avoid going shopping at ‘must-visit’ stores.
It should be mentioned that the above saying is absolutely true.
And it’s really worth seeing the so-called ‘Cleopatra’s pool’, the natural pools in the “cotton castle” where you can swim in mineral water, and the town founded in the 6th century B.C. with its famous amphitheater. The saying is true because it is also a very long excursion.
Going on a trip at dawn
Usually, tourists go on a 200-kilometer trip early in the morning. If you start from Kemer, for example, the bus arrives at the hotel at 5 a.m., and the tourists return to the hotel around 8 p.m.
During this long trip, you have a chance to see the ‘real’ Turkey! It’s a country where rather small, sometimes tiled roof adobe houses (or houses made of sun-dried bricks) with a barrel filled with water on the roof can be often seen near the highway, and the southern sun heats the water for a shower. And very often, there is a great mess in the yard where a new latest model BMW car easily ‘coexists’ with a beautiful modern house, and such a mess is around that it seems that even Hurricane Katrina could not leave so much garbage.
In fact, this is the real Turkey.
The ‘real Turkey’ includes that your guides always bring you to various shops on the way to Pamukkale. During a standard trip to Pamukkale you are usually taken to three shops (an onyx shop, a textile one, and a winery). By the way, there is no way to refuse as the retail outlets are included in the program and the only way not to visit them is to stay in the bus, or choose a rented car for a trip.
A rented car, of course, costs more. A trip to Pamukkale for two persons costs about $70, but renting the simplest car in Turkey can cost minimum $100 for three days (you won’t be able to take a car for one day only due to a daily mileage limit of 200-250 kilometers). The cost of gasoline should be added to this sum, at least 30 liters of fuel are normally used for a road to the world-famous attractions and back. As a result, it turns out that going by car, you do not spend money at shops, but you pay more for the comfort - the sum that equals the cost of one more excursion. For those tourists who are of opinion that money should be spent wisely, this is serious money.
At the same time, these shops, no matter how demanding travelers criticize them, can be quite interesting. At least, tasting of fruit and berry wines in the morning (and they offer almost a dozen of wines in Turkey made from cherries, blackberries, melons, even cornel-cherries and kiwis) makes you feel romantic. At a store where onyx items are sold, you probably shouldn’t take it because various souvenirs made of this stone can be easily bought in Russia. But people cannot help buying a sultanite jewelry piece, especially if you go to Pamukkale with a beautiful girlfriend. It is worth saying that Turkish merchants sell inexpensive, but amazing rings and earrings studded with these semi-precious stones changing their color depending on the lightingfor really affordable money, starting from 3,000 rubles (in the area where the mineral is mined). If your girlfriend is fond of watching the television drama “The Magnificent Century”, it is unlikely that you can avoid such a purchase!
Don’t miss it!
As for Pamukkale, the tour is divided into three parts. The first one includes the ruins of the ancient town of Hierapolis founded in the pre-Greek era, in the 6th century B.C. Not very many buildings have survived, but one of the objects is definitely worth seeing.
If you enter the town of Hierapolis, on the right and on the mountain, there are the ruins of the ancient amphitheater. This is one of the largest ancient ones in Turkey. Its size is amazing and it is surprising how well it is preserved: 15 thousand spectators could be on its steps, and through the telephoto lens of the camera not only mosaic elements and bas-reliefs can be seen, but the inscriptions in Greek can be read. It is interesting that the seats closest to the arena were occupied by common people as the place for gladiator fights was not fenced, and the imperial box was located at the higher rows so that the wild animals often taking part in the performances could not reach these rows.
The opportunity to visit the amphitheater, by the way, depends very much on the tour group. If there are a lot of children or elderly people in the group, a guide often does not insist on their climbing up the mountains and people decide whether they visit this most interesting place in Hierapolis or not. My advice is to look at it because all the other ancient ruins, although no less interesting, definitely do not impress so much.
Travertine terraces and the crowd
After Hierapolis, the guide gives the tourists one and a half to two hours so that they could have a walk and it is highly recommended to start your sightseeing in Pamukkale from travertine terraces - natural and partly artificial terraces, some of which are filled with mineral water.
Your humble narrator is of opinion that visiting these terraces is interesting only to those who cannot live without beautiful photos posted on social networks. To take pictures, you have to ‘elbow your way’ through a crowd of those who are fond of taking pictures, and you should go barefoot. By the way, the travertine terraces are not slippery, but it is very rough and may not be pleasant for your feet.
Therefore, I advise you to take socks, it is more comfortable to walk in socks there. By the way, there is very little water in the Pamukkale’s travertine terrace ‘bowls’ and it is forbidden to approach most of those pools that are filled with water.
However, the photos are really very stunning, of course, if you manage to take them without a huge crowd of tourists in the background.
Bathing in mineral water
The most famous legend the guides try to “sell” to every tourist says that the queen of Egypt bathed in the pool filled with mineral water, and that is why she was famous for her beauty and looking young.
Historians unanimously declare: there is no documentary evidence that Cleopatra took bath in this pool. However, this beautiful fairy tale does not diminish the medicinal properties of mineral water. By the way, you can swim in this pool or fill a bottle for your way back.
The water here is 34-36 degrees Celsius, the pool is divided into three parts - the entrance (an entry ticket is $12), a bathhouse with ancient columns scattered along the bottom, which have been there for several thousand years after the earthquake, and the deep pool, where you can swim holding on to the ropes attached to the walls and enjoy the healing water.
It is known from official sources that the balneological properties of the Cleopatra pool’s mineral water has a curative effect in diseases of heart and blood vessels, limbs, the respiratory system, and digestion. Long bathing may be contraindicated for those who have hypertension, diabetes, epilepsy, oncology problems.