Let’s face it, you can’t Google Turkey without the pure white landscapes of Pamukkale Cotton Castle gracing your search page. Dripping like wax down the hillside of the quaint little town of Pamukkale, creamy white travertine pools of carbonated water and solidified calcium make it one of the top destinations in the culturally rich country of Turkey.
Pamukkale Cotton Castle Turkey is a UNESCO world heritage site combined with the ancient Roman city of Hierapolis, situated directly behind the iconic Pamukkale hot springs. Located between the bustling city of Istanbul and the hot air balloon capital of Cappadocia, it makes a great stop on any road trip or Turkey itinerary.
This complete guide on the Pamukkale thermal pools Turkey gives all the information you need on how to get to Pamukkale in Turkey, the best time to visit cotton castle Pamukkale Turkey, where to stay near the Pamukkale thermal pools, what to expect at the Turkey cotton castle and more.
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About Pamukkale Cotton Castle Turkey
Before you visit Pamukkale, it’s always a good idea to get acquainted with this world-famous destination before visiting. Here are a few things you should know about Pamukkale Turkey:
What Does Pamukkale Mean?
Pamukkale in Turkish translates to cotton (‘pamuk’) and castle (‘kale’), meaning cotton castle.
How are the Pamukkale Travertines made?
The mineral pools (or travertines) are a famous Turkish site going back millennia. The Pamukkale travertines are made of hot springs found approximately 300 meters below the earth’s surface. The presence of underground volcanic activity brings hot water to the surface.
The water itself has carbonate, minerals and depositing calcium creating a bubbly brew of hot turquoise water. As the water runs down the side of the hill, the minerals harden creating the white calcium pools Turkey has today.
How are the Pamukkale Hot Springs Used?
Discovered by the Romans, the Pamukkale pools have been considered to have healing properties. The site of the Pamukkale hot springs itself was the centrepiece of the ancient Roman city of Hierapolis.
Known for curing illnesses including chronic disorders, eye and skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis, and bodily issues like digestive and circulatory, the Pamukkale cotton castle has become a sought after spa destination.
One of the most famous calcium pools was visited by Cleopatra herself.
Is Pamukkale Worth Visiting?
Is Pamukkale worth it? In my experience it is. I spent the entire day at Pamukkale and Hierapolis from sunrise to late afternoon and can say it’s definitely a natural wonder worth visiting.
Do note, that the level of tourism at the Pamukkale thermal pools is very high. I visited Pamukkale cotton castle in November and there were still hundreds of people there.
So I would say if you have the ability to still enjoy an attraction surrounded by many many people, it’s for you. Even if hoards of tourists make you cringe (like me), I’d still encourage you to visit. Make sure to visit at sunrise and in the early hours of the day to avoid the crowds.
Plus, don’t forget to visit the ancient city of Hierapolis!
Where is Pamukkale Cotton Castle Turkey
Situated in the southwest region of Turkey, Pamukkale is a small town located about 20km outside the large metropolis of Denizli. The Pamukkale thermal pools are located on the hill above the town of Pamukkale on the side of the Menderes River Valley.
Most, if not all, visitors will either land or be dropped by bus at the Denizli city centre and will have to make their way to Pamukkale by taxi or shuttle. If you rent a car in Turkey, obviously you will be able to drive directly to Pamukkale from anywhere in the country. I’ll go into more detail about this later in this post.
You can reach the Pamukkale cotton castle by foot from any hotel in Pamukkale (max 15 minutes walk) due to the small size of the town.
Best Time to Visit Pamukkale Thermal Pools
Best Time of Year to Visit Pamukkale
Pamukkale best time to visit is in the shoulder months of March-May and September-November. Most blogs will say that November is not ideal, but I visited the Pamukkale cotton castle in November and can personally recommend it. During these ideal months, temperatures are moderate and comfortable from morning to evening.
If your trip to Turkey doesn’t line up with these months, don’t fret. I’ve outlined Pamukkale weather for every month of the year so you can enjoy your trip to the Pamukkale thermal pools no matter what!
Pamukkale Weather Breakdown
June – August
The busiest and hottest time to visit Pamukkale. The peak of tourism is during these months, so you will be amongst hoards of tourists on your visit to the Pamukkale hot springs. Mornings and evenings will be an average of 22°C and the strong sun in Turkey will have you experiencing temperatures upwards of 40°C at midday.
September – October
September and October mark the shoulder season for Pamukkale cotton castle Turkey. The ideal time to visit the hot springs since morning and midday temperatures are mild and comfortable and crowds reduce. High of 26°C and low of 13°C.
I singled the month of November out because this is when I visited the Pamukkale springs. I remember finding the mornings a bit chilly. I wore shorts and a sweater for sunrise at the cotton castle Pamukkale thermal pools, and my legs were pretty cold. The peak of the day is warm and pleasant though, so if you dress in layers, November can be a great time to visit Pamukkale. We are talkin’ 8°C during the evenings and mornings and 19°C during midday.
December – February
Pamukkale is experiencing winter during this time. January is the coldest month with 3°C lows and 12°C highs. In my opinion, this time of year is less than ideal to visit the springs. Although if you pack right, it will be the time of year with the least crowds. A dip in the warm pools after wandering around Hierapolis sounds like a really pleasant thing to me too.
March – May
Another ideal time to visit Pamukkale Turkey pools is during the months of March, April and May. Highs of 23°C and lows of 11°C.
Best Time of Day to Visit Pamukkale Cotton Castle Turkey
Sunrise and sunset are the ideal times to visit Pamukkale thermal pools. You can enter the south and north entrance gates at 6:30AM in time to see the hot air balloons fly over this otherworldly attraction during sunrise. An experience not to be missed.
The sky lights up with dusty pinks and oranges in such a beautiful way. Do note that the main Pamukkale travertines will be in shadow at sunrise, so it’s more about the view over the valley and the hot air balloons at this time of day.
Sunset will experience wonderful light directly on the pools, so it’s a great time to get cotton castle Turkey pictures of you and your fellow travellers.
I do also recommend staying around to experience the Pamukkale hot springs during the peak of the day, especially for photography. The electric turquoise of the water and stark white of the pools make for a great background.
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Pamukkale Cotton Castle
It’s very important to know that the Pamukkale thermal pools have more than one main entrance, each with different opening times.
Pamukkale South Entrance
If you are looking to enjoy the sunrise experience at the Pamukkale cotton castle, then I’d advise hopping in a cab (roughly 50TL) and heading to the north or south entrances. You can make your way through the Hierapolis ruins to the Pamukkale hot springs to enjoy sunrise and watch the hot air balloons fly overhead.
South Entrance Opening Times: 6:30AM – 9PM (this is where I entered)
Pamukkale Town Entrance
The town entrance can be reached very easily by foot from any hotel in the small town of Pamukkale. Located just below the hill to the northeast of the town’s boundary, this is the main entrance of the cotton castle Turkey.
Most people don’t realize that there is more than one entrance and wait for the town entrance to open at 8AM, disappointed that they are missing the sunrise experience.
Ideally, you would enter the south entrance at 6:30AM and exit through the town entrance when you are done with your visit to the Pamukkale hot springs.
Town Entrance Opening Times: 8AM – 9PM
Pamukkale Cotton Castle Turkey Entrance Fee
The cotton castle turkey price is 110 TL as of 2022. Admission includes entrance to the Pamukkale baths, the ancient city of Hierapolis, and the archeology museum. Visitors under 8 years of age are free.
There is an additional cost of 33TL to swim in Cleopatra’s antique pool for up to 2 hours. You’ll need to bring your own towel and lockers are an additional 5TL.
If you plan to spend some time in places like Istanbul as well, I’d recommend purchasing the Turkish Museum Pass. It costs 600TL ($45USD), and you will get access to 300 museums and attractions in Turkey. The pass is valid for 15 days.
How Many Days in Pamukkale
Cotton Castle Turkey
If you decide not to visit the cotton castle in Turkey via a day tour from Cappadocia or Selcuk, then you will need to spend at least one night in the town of Pamukkale, a maximum of two nights. Ultimately, how long to stay in Pamukkale is up to you.
There are three ideal scenarios for getting the most out of your visit to Pamukkale Turkey.
One Night. Two Visits.
Arrive in the afternoon. Enter the town gate for sunset. Spend the night. Enter the south entrance for sunrise and spend the morning in the pools and explore Hierapolis. Leave Pamukkale in the afternoon.
One Night. One Visit.
Arrive in the evening. Enter the south gate in the morning for sunrise. Spend the entire day exploring Hierapolis and the thermal pools. Stay for sunset. Leave Pamukkale later in the evening.
Two Nights. One Visit.
Arrive in the evening. Enter the south gate in the morning for sunrise. Spend the entire day exploring Hierapolis and the thermal pools. Stay for sunset. Spend the second night. Leave Pamukkale bright and early.
What to Wear in Pamukkale
Depending on when you visit the Pamukkale thermal pools, you will need something a little different. In general, layers are a good idea. I wore a sweater and shorts over my bathing suit and brought a throw-over sundress for after bathing in the pools. Of course, a towel is essential.
A good-fitting pair of sandals was just fine for exploring the Hierapolis ruins and Pamukkale pools. Due to the brightness of the sun reflecting off the stark white travertine pools, you will need a proper hat and sunglasses.
How to Get to Pamukkale Cotton Castle Turkey
Travel to Pamukkale is easy, especially from most larger cities and tourist hubs in Turkey like Istanbul, Cappadocia and Antalya.
There are numerous ways to get from each city to the cotton castle in Pamukkale of which flight, rental car, organized tour or bus is the most common.
How to Get From Istanbul to Pamukkale
How to get to Pamukkale from Istanbul is simple because both destinations are high up on the list of popular tourist spots in Turkey. Flying from Istanbul to Pamukkale is the most popular, with driving as the second-best option.
Istanbul to Pamukkale Flight
If you are looking for the fastest way to get between the two, a flight from Istanbul to Pamukkale is your best bet.
Turkish Airlines and Pegasus both fly direct a few times a day from Istanbul (both IST and SAW) to the Denizli Airport, approximately a 20-minute drive from the town of Pamukkale. An Istanbul Pamukkale flight time clocks in at roughly 1.25 hours
Istanbul to Pamukkale flight price starts at $20USD.
Driving from Istanbul to Pamukkale
Driving in Turkey is one of the best ways to see the country. Rent yourself a car through DiscoverCars and have it waiting for you at the Istanbul airport when you arrive.
But, how far is Pamukkale from Istanbul? you may ask, well the Istanbul to Pamukkale distance is approximately 615km from the airport to the Pamukkale thermal pools. It will take you roughly 7 hours to complete the drive via the O-5 if you don’t stop to admire the scenery, which you probably will.
>>>> CHECK PRICES + AVAILABILITY OF RENTAL CARS IN TURKEY
Day Trip to Pamukkale from Istanbul
If planning transportation and accommodation just sounds like a hassle to you, I’d recommend booking a day tour from Istanbul to Pamukkale. You can get private or group tours, for one full day or longer. Depends on how much time you have available.
Private Day Tour
If time is limited try this private day tour from Istanbul to Pamukkale that includes hotel pick up, flights and entrance fees. What’s great about an organized tour is you get a knowledge guide to tell you all about the history and culture of Pamukkale and the ancient ruins of Hierapolis.
Istanbul Pamukkale Bus
If you are looking for a more economical option, taking a bus from Istanbul to Pamukkale is the way to go. With multiple itinerary options daily, and leaving from several different bus stations in Istanbul, a bus ticket starts at $17USD. If you sleep well on busses, you can even opt for the night bus. Bus ride durations range from 8-14 hours.
I used the GetbyBus website to search and book by busses a few times during my six weeks spent in Turkey, and it worked quite smoothly. Make sure to search Istanbul to Denizli, since there are no national bus lines that go straight to the town of Pamukkale.
To find the shuttle from the Denizli Bus Station (‘otigari’) to Pamukkale, find platform 76. The shuttle will cost 5TL and take approximately 30 minutes.
Istanbul Pamukkale Train
The Istanbul to Pamukkale high-speed train departs from the Kadikoy neighbourhood (Pendik Station) on the Asian side of Istanbul and arrives in the city of Denizli via a transfer in the city of Eskişehir. The trip duration is approximately 11 hours.
Since you can make it from Istanbul to Pamukkale (Denizli) by flight in just over 1 hour, and by bus in 8-12 hours, taking the high-speed train should be your last choice. You can check prices and availability here. Make sure to search and purchase tickets from İstanbul to Eskisehir and Eskişehir to Denizli separately otherwise it throws an error.
How to Get from Cappadocia to Pamukkale
It’s common to combine a trip from Cappadocia to Pamukkale or even Pamukkale to Cappadocia into a Turkey itinerary. Cappadocia is the hot air balloon capital of the country after all. Ways to get from one to the other are plentiful, with driving being your best option.
NOTE | There are no direct flights from Cappadocia (Nevsehir or Kayseri) to Pamukkale (Denizli). A Cappadocia to Pamukkale flight would have a layover in Istanbul. This is the least ideal option because it takes at least 8 hours.
Driving from Cappadocia to Pamukkale (the best option)
Driving in Turkey is a relatively easy affair. With well-built roads, going from A to B is straightforward and efficient.
Making the trip from Goreme, Cappadocia to Pamukkale by road takes approximately 8 hours. The distance from Cappadocia to Pamukkale is 615km. You can take a break halfway through by spending the night in Konya if you have the time.
>>>> CHECK PRICES + AVAILABILITY OF RENTAL CARS IN TURKEY
Best Cappadocia Pamukkale Tour
If you are looking to visit Pamukkale from Cappadocia, and planning transportation and accommodation is not your jam, then an organized tour is your best bet. This private 3 day Pamukkale + Ephesus tour from Cappadocia combines the natural wonders of Pamukkale with the ancient manmade ruins of Ephesus near Selcuk.
The tour includes hotel pick up, private transportation, flights, accommodation and a personal guide. This tour is done by BellaTurca which I can personally recommend. They took me on a private tour of Cappadocia, and made it the perfect experience!
Bus from Cappadocia to Pamukkale
The bus from Cappadocia to Pamukkale leaves 3 times daily from the Goreme bus station. Use GetbyBus to search and book your trip online. I used this several times during my 6-week stay in Turkey and can definitely recommend it. The Cappadocia to Pamukkale bus takes anywhere from 10-12 hours and is a direct trip.
Prices for the Goreme Pamukkale bus starts at $9USD.
How to Get From Antalya to Pamukkale
After spending some time on the beautiful coastline of Turkey a trip from Antalya to Pamukkale is the next logical step in your Turkey itinerary. An Antalya Pamukkale (or Pamukkale Antalya) trip is best done by car, organized day tour or bus.
NOTE | There are no direct flights from Antalya to Pamukkale (Denizli). An Antalya to Pamukkale flight would have a layover in Istanbul. This is the least ideal option because it takes at least 3-10 hours depending on the duration of your layover.
Driving from Antalya to Pamukkale (and Pamukkale to Antalya)
One of the most common ways to get from Antalya to Pamukkale is by rental car. You can pick up your car using DiscoverCars from the Antalya International Airport and drop it off at the Denizli airport.
How far is Pamukkale from Antalya? The Antalya to Pamukkale distance is approximately 250km. You can reach Pamukkale from Antalya in 3.5 hours directly.
Driving in Turkey is efficient and easy, with well-paved, wide roads, there is nothing to worry about.
>>>> CHECK PRICES + AVAILABILITY OF RENTAL CARS IN TURKEY
Antalya to Pamukkale Tour
If you plan to spend the week lying on the beach in Antalya and want to take an easy-breezy day tour to visit Pamukkale, this guided tour is for you.
This full-day Pamukkale Tour from Antalya includes hotel pick up, transportation, lunch, a knowledgeable guide and entrance tickets to the travertine pools and Hierapolis ruins.
The day trip to Pamukkale from Antalya has a pickup time of 6:30AM to make the most of this exciting trip.
Bus from Antalya to Pamukkale
The Antalya Pamukkale bus departs several times a day from the Antalya bus station. With a cost starting from $6.50USD and a duration of 3.5 hours, taking the bus is a great economical option to get from Antalya to Pamukkale.
How to Get From the Pamukkale Airport (Denizli Airport) to the Hot Springs
It’s important to note that there is no airport in the town of Pamukkale. If you are flying into Pamukkale, you will land at the Denizli Airport (the Pamukkale airport code is DNZ).
It’s a simple, uncomplicated airport, where you can either rent a car or catch a shuttle, private transfer or taxi to Pamukkale. The distance from the Denizili airport to Pamukkale town is 69km, an hour’s drive.
Here are your options on how to get to Pamukkale from Denizli Airport:
Denizli Airport Car Rental
You can book your rental car through DiscoverCars and have it waiting for you when you arrive at the Denizli Airport.
Denizli Airport to Pamukkale Shuttle
You can book a shared or private Pamukkale airport transfer through the Denizli Airport. The transfer costs 10,00 € per person for a shared transfer.
Denizli Bus Station to Pamukkale (minibus)
If you decide to take the bus from anywhere else in Turkey, you will be dropped at the Denizli bus station (otigari). From here, find platform 76 and talk to the attendant about grabbing a seat on the next shuttle out of Denizli towards Pamukkale town centre.
The minibus will wait until it’s full, so you will need a bit of patience for this.
The shuttle usually leaves every 20-30 minutes and costs 5TL ($0.70USD).
Best Pamukkale Tour Options
A Pamukkale day trip and multi-day tours to Pamukkale from destinations like Istanbul, Cappadocia, Antalya and Ephesus are common. Here are the best-reviewed Pamukkale tours from each place:
Pamukkale Balloon Tour
If you decide to stay overnight in Pamukkale, which I recommend and wait to experience flying over the natural wonder at sunrise, then this Pamukkale balloon tour is for you.
Pamukkale and Hierapolis Tour
You can’t visit the cotton castle in Turkey without including the ancient ruins of Hierapolis Pamukkale on your trip. These tours from Istanbul, Antalya and Kusadasi are perfect day trips to take if you are limited on time and want to see the UNESCO world heritage site of Pamukkale.
All tours include hotel pick up, transportation, admission and lunch.
Pamukkale and Ephesus Tour
It’s not uncommon to include Pamukkale and Ephesus in a guided tour since they are located in the same region of Turkey. These multi-day tours explore the ancient sites of Ephesus, Hierapolis and the natural wonders of Pamukkale all tied into a convenient guided experience.
What to Expect at the Pamukkale
Safety + Restrictions at Pamukkale in Turkey
Once you enter the Pamukkale thermal pools either from the town entrance or from the south entrance, you will be required to remove your shoes. This is to preserve the calcium deposits that form the iconic cotton castles in Pamukkale.
The ground can be slippery and sharp in some areas so be careful!
While walking along the wood boardwalk just above the Pamukkale thermal pools, you will come across cautionary signs that tell tourists to stay off the travertine pools. Due to over-tourism, some of the pools are eroding and drying up. So, please please, heed the signs! And don’t be that person that contributes to destroying a beautiful natural wonder of our earth.
Amenities at Pamukkale Thermal Pools Turkey
At the top of the Pamukkale cotton castle Turkey there are public washrooms and a small cafe. The cafe offers sandwiches and coffee in case you get peckish.
Located at the centre of the park between the travertines and the Hierapolis ruins, you can enter the Cleopatra Pool area. This tourism hub has food, drinks, and washrooms, as well. Here you can enter the Pamukkale antique pool for an additional fee.
Hotels in Pamukkale
Are you wondering where to stay in Pamukkale? Since staying near the Pamukkale cotton castle for one night is all you need, I’d recommend staying in the town of Pamukkale instead of staying in Denizli and travelling to Pamukkale to see the hot springs. That way you can make your way to the entrance as early as possible to see the sunrise dawn over the Pamukkale thermal pools.
Hotels in Pamukkale Turkey offer everything from budget stays to high-end hotels with built-in natural thermal spas.
Pamukkale Whiteheaven Suite Hotel $$$
Pamukkale Whiteheaven Suite Hotel is an excellently rated hotel located a 5-minute walk from the Pamukkale hot springs town entrance. Offering a large outdoor pool, sun terrace and peaceful garden, this Pamukkale hotel offers the best experience in town. The hotel also offers a wellness centre, free parking, and an airport shuttle.
Pamukkale Termal Ece Otel $$
Why not indulge and stay at a Pamukkale hotel offering a thermal spa on site! The best way to relax and wind down. Situated in the small town of Karahayit outside of Pamukkale, you can grab a taxi and be at the Pamukkale entrance gate in 10 minutes flat. It also comes with 4 outdoor pools, a wellness centre, an airport shuttle and a restaurant.
Venus Suite Hotel $$
Venus Suite Hotel is a well-reviewed Pamukkale hotel located 12 minutes by foot from the main entrance to the Pamukkale thermal pools. Besides the spacious immaculate rooms, the hotel boasts, it also offers an outdoor pool, free parking, an onsite restaurant and an airport shuttle.
Bellamaritimo Hotel $
Bellamaritimo hotel offers a thermal water outdoor pool for enjoyment after the Pamukkale hot springs. Situated a quick 9-minute walk from the Pamukkale cotton castle entrance, it’s a great budget option for visiting this popular Turkey destination.
Things to Do in Pamukkale
The small town, (village really), of Pamukkale, isn’t much to write home about itself. But, the Pamukkale hot springs and Hierapolis Turkey are the real draw here anyway.
Here are the Pamukkale things to do:
The pure white travertine pools of Pamukkale are a must-see place in Turkey. A UNESCO world heritage site, combined with the ancient city Hierapolis situated behind it,
When visiting the Pamukkale cotton castle you’ll notice that some of this natural wonder has been closed to the public due to over-tourism. This gives the thermal pools a chance to restore themselves, so don’t be that terrible person that disregards the signs.
If you enter through the main town entrance, you will have to take your shoes off once you reach the white solidified calcium of the thermal pools. This is also a precaution to preserve the attraction.
Make your way up the hill and wade through the pools in your barefoot for a spa-like experience. Once you reach the top, you will be able to put your shoes back on on the wooden boardwalk.
It’s a good idea to bring a good pair of sunglasses and a wet bag to keep all your belongings while trekking up the hill through the pools.
Cleopatra’s Pool Turkey
Cleopatra’s Pool (also known as the antique pool) is a manmade bath located at the base of the ancient city of Hierapolis. The pool connected to a natural thermal water source, and even Cleopatra herself bathed here (hence the name). During an earthquake, parts of the ancient city architecture fell into the pool, resulting in large pillars lying about in the pool.
Cleopatra’s Pool entrance fee is not included in the Pamukkale hot springs fee, so you can choose to do this once seeing the pool. The water itself is known to have healing properties, which brings tourists from all over the world flocking to Pamukkale Turkey.
I swam in Cleopatra’s pool Turkey and highly recommend it! I even drank from the water spouts knowing it comes from a natural resource. The water tasted like a sweet earthy soda. We spent over an hour wading around in the pools and climbing over ancient pillars. It was a memorable experience.
Explore the Ruins of Hierapolis Ancient City
With history as far back as 7 century BC, the Hierapolis ruins are one of the best places to visit in Pamukkale Turkey. Admission to the Hierapolis Archeological site is included in your entry ticket to the Pamukkale UNESCO site. This Roman necropolis features a well-preserved amphitheatre and sarcophagi of the famous Marcus Aurelius.
Make sure to venture off to the left where there is a picturesque old road surrounded by repeating pillars. I also had the chance to visit the Hierapolis Archaeology Museum, where you will find a plethora of ancient artifacts. If you have time, take a peek.
Marvel at the Pamukkale Theatre
The Pamukkale amphitheatre is one of the top Pamukkale attractions besides the travertine pools. Due to its relatively well-preserved state, you can sit and marvel at the architecture of times past. The theatre was built in the 2nd century AD as instructed by Emperor Hadian.
While the exterior of the stone building seems rather unassuming, the interior of the theatre contains one of Turkey’s most complete and best-preserved collections of Greco-Roman decorations.
Sit down at one of the 45 rows of seats and just admire its beauty. Plus the view of far-off Pamukkale town doesn’t hurt either.
Takeoff on a Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride
If you’ve experienced a sunrise hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia and can’t get enough, or don’t plan to visit Cappadocia, a sunrise hot air balloon ride in Pamukkale might be for you.
With dusty pinks and oranges gracing the morning skyline and a birds-eye view of the Pamukkale hot springs, it’s an experience to remember. The Pamukkale balloon ride lasts 35 minutes and comes with an early wake-up call, as early as 4:30AM in the summer.
If you’ve been on the Cappadocia balloon ride, I’d recommend opting out of this one.