We recently left Istanbul for Pamukkale in a backpack. If you haven’t read it yet, check out our travel diary
For tips, addresses and advice, this guide is for you. Enjoy!
PART 1: How to get there
You have different options to get there from Istanbul
On an organized tour
This is the option that I do not recommend because it is so easy to move around on your own.
All agencies in downtown Istanbul will offer you organized tours (with transportation) from Istanbul to Pamukkale(including tour, guide, transportation) for one day, round trip by plane from Istanbul
Please note that tour operators also offer 2-day trips from Istanbul to visit Ephesus and Pamukkale (with one night in Pamukkale included in the rates).
In a backpack
You are coming from Istanbul
- Stage 1 / Istanbul => Denizli by plane : it’s the easiest and quickest solution, the ticket costs only from 16€ one way. Be careful, there aretwo airports in Istanbul, the closest is IST (7km from the city) and the farthest (30km from the city) is SAW. Take the plane from IST airport.
- Step 2 / Denizli Airport => Pamukkale: Arrange with your hotel to send a shuttle to pick you up at the airport. The shuttle costs about 40TL/person. You can choose the cab (125TL)
You come from Göreme
- Stage 1 / Göreme => Denizli by bus: The bus company Metro Turizm servesDenizli. There are two night buses leaving from Göreme (in Cappadocia) to Denizli at 7:25 pm and 8 pm to arrive around 6:00 am and 7:00 am. Then, it is very easy to go to Pamukkale (see below)
- Step 2 / Denizli bus station => Pamukkale by mini-bus: As soon as you arrive at Denizli bus station, you will see a lot of white dolmus (mini-bus) with Pamukkale marked on them. They leave every 20 minutes or so. The trip will cost you 4,5TL/person. You will be dropped off in the middle of Pamukkale village. It is a small village, you can do everything on foot afterwards.
You come from Ephesus / Selçuk
The Pamukkale Turizm bus company serves Pamukkale directly. You will certainly have to change buses in Denizli, but everything is included in the price. Be careful, the change of bus is quite fast so be ready to take your luggage and get out of the bus quickly. Many tourist agencies will sell you this bus ticket, don’t worry. You can see the timetables on their website here: https://www.pamukkale.com.tr/
Here are the timetables recorded in October 2018 for the Selçuk => Pamukkale line
PART 2: Which accommodation to choose?
in Karahayit: a city 9km away from Pamukkale, it is also the city where Chinese tourists spend the night because Pamukkale does not have the infrastructure to accommodate such large groups. The main interest is that the thermal water in Karahayit is much hotter than in Pamukkale (spring at 60°C, so swimming pool at 40°C), you can swim there in any season, while the hotel swimming pools in Pamukkale (outside) are a bit cold. There is a super nice market here, and more choice of restaurants than in Pamukkale. Hotel: Doga Thermal Health & Spa ( Booking link ) 451TL/double room, very luxurious, many thermal pools, Turkish bath, sauna etc. Breakfast included. I recommend.
in Pamukkale itself: See the huge white thing on the map below? Well you have to be as close as possible to this white thing. The best is to have a hotel with a view on this cliff. We went toHOTEL ALIDA PAMUKKALE (Booking link) 158TL/double room with heating/clim, breakfast included. I recommend it. It has a nice terrace with view on the Pamukkale site, a nice swimming pool, and only 2 minutes walk from the entrance of the Pamukkale site (entrance of the village).
PART 3: How to visit the Pamukkale Ferry?
As you can see on the map below, and on this Google Mapsthere are 3 entries to the site:
- Entrance from the village
- South entrance
- North entrance
Here are the details of these entries:
Entrance from the village
Accessible on foot, this entrance leads you directly to the water-filled travertines. You must walk barefoot (and take your shoes with you). I recommend that you take an extra pair of socks, it will hurt your feet less. The ascent can be a bit hard because the water can be icy. This path was dug in the 70’s, all the travertines on this path are made of concrete. Therefore, you are allowed to swim in it.
Accessible by cab for 30TL (or on foot but it’s too tiring, 4Km uphill), it’s the entrance of tourist buses and day tours . The path is flat and you reach the natural travertines on the upper level first (these travertines can be completely empty or filled, it depends on your luck). And then, to wade into the concrete travertines, this time you only have to walk 10 meters (and not 300 meters like the entrance from the village).
Very far from the village, and little frequented, it is nevertheless the entrance that I recommend. It’s really really easy to get there. You just have to take one of the many mini-buses from the village (I have marked the starting point of the dolmus on the Google maps) in the direction of Karahayit. And when you see the flags (and realize that you aren’t far from the North entrance, which I also marked on the Google maps), tell the driver STOP and hand him 3.5TL/person. Once inside, visit the necropolis and then pay for a shuttle (5TL/person) to take you to Antique Pool. Visit the rest, then return to the village down the 70’s excavated path (in socks, so as not to hurt your feet).
PART 4: What to see in Pamukkale?
Detailed plan for Ephesus and Pamukkale :
Thermal water travertines
So, if you came for the travertines filled with water. Most of the time, you may be disappointed. The travertines can’t be filled with water all the time because the algae will grow and make the site super ugly. So, to keep the beauty of the place and the whiteness of the travertines, they turn off the taps (yes yes) and let the water flow only after the travertines are dry – and during the tourist season. No one could give us an exact date when the taps were opened. We went at the end of October 2018, and looked at the pictures of almost every month of the year, and the opening of the taps seems to me quite random.
However, I think you will have more chance to see water on weekends and during the tourist season. However, even when there is water, it’s not for all travertines, they put some on only a part of it. It is therefore very important to go around the site, via a wooden path, to go through all the travertines and see which ones are filled.
So, if you’re unlucky, you’ll see this:
If you are very lucky, you can see this:
The antique site
With the same ticket, go up a little and you will see the theater, the martyrium, and walking to your left, you will see the agora… etc. Once again, the sites of interest are clearly tagged on my Google maps
It is one of the three places where you can have lunch. Entrance is free, but to bathe in thermal water you have to pay 50TL/person extra. And 10TL for the locker. It is a little bit abused. The water is hot (35°C) but not super clean. In short, go there to look (pictures not allowed).
Fun but expensive activities
if there’s water in the bolsters, it might be worth paying for:
- 1 hour hot-air balloon ride: 95€/person. Be careful, we aren’t in Cappadocia, here we see 2 to 3 hot-air balloons at the same time
- for paragliding : 65€/person
You can opt for this tour that visits
- The ancient city Laodicea, where is one of the 7 churches of the apocalypse (photos of Laodicea in my travel diary)
- Kaklık cave: apparently it’s Pamukkale but in a cave (and the travertines are full)
- Cable car to Denizli to have a beautiful view of the whole region
- Salda Lake: it’s a very nice lake with white sand, turquoise water, and a very nice view of the sea
In high season, you can take this tour every day (I don’t know the prices)
In low season, the demand is less important, count 700TL/person, with departure at 6am.
Alternatively, you can also rent a car to make the exact same trip. Cars can be rented in Denizli. I advise you to take a car upon arrival at Denizli airport if you plan to rent one. I have not seen a car rental company in Pamukkale.
It is also a very pretty ancient city. In low season, unfortunately there aren’t many buses that go there.
On the other hand, in high season, you can take a bus at 9:30 am. Arrived at 11:30 am, we let you discover the site by yourself. And the bus will come back to pick you up around 3:30 pm.
Most tourists spend the night in this city, 9km from Pamukkale. It is accessible by dolmus (very very easily from Pamukkale village).
Search Red Springs – Kirmizi Su on my Google maps to see this and soak your feet (for free). more pictures of this site in my traveldiary
PART 5: Budget
- Bus Selçuk => Pamukkale : 40TL/person with the company Pamukkale Turizm
- Dolmus (local mini-bus) :
- Pamukkale => North entrance to Pamukkale site: 3.5TL/person
- Karahayit => North entrance of Pamukkale site: 2.5TL/person
- Pamukkale => Karahayit: 3TL/person
- Pamukkale => Laodicea: 3,5TL/person
- Laodicea => Karahayit: 4TL/person
- Cab : 30TL Pamukkale village => South entrance of the site
- Shuttle inside Pamukkale City:
- 5TL/person from the north entrance => antique pool
- 6TL/person: antique pool => amphitheater (we can do it on foot but if you are lazy, it is possible to do it by shuttle)
- 10TL/person: amphitheater => martyrium
- Hotel :
- in Pamukkale: HOTEL ALIDA PAMUKKALE (Booking link) 158TL/double room with heating/air conditioning, breakfast included. I recommend
- in Karahayit: Doga Thermal Health & Spa (link Booking) 451TL/double room, very luxurious, many thermal pools, Turkish bath, sauna etc. breakfast included. I recommend.
- Meal: about 50TL/person/meal
- Entry :
- pamukkale site: 50TL/person
- entrance to the pool (Antique Pool): 50TL/additional person
- entrance to the Laodicée site: 15TL/person
- Kirzimi Su (Karahayit): free of charge
- Shuttle to Denizli airport: 40TL/person/go
TOTAL : 908TL per person (excluding airfare from/to Istanbul) or 144€/person for 3 nights, 4 days
Count at least 40€ to 50€ per person per round trip by plane from Istanbul in addition
And to leave Pamukkale?
Either you return to Istanbul, ask for a shuttle to the airport (40TL) which will leave 3 hours before takeoff. Go to Turkey Magic Travel to book (or simply ask your hotel)
Either you take a bus. And we will show you where to take a dolmus to Denizli, from Denizli you go wherever you want.