Pamukkale & Hierapolis

Note: This entry is part of a series about our 2012 trip to Turkey.

Initially when we planned our Turkey trip we had wanted to visit the town of Kaş on the Mediterranean Sea. We wanted to walk a bit of the Lycian Way and see the rock tomb ruins. But as I started researching places to stay, it sounded like many places in Kaş close for the winter. The one good thing that came about from the pushy travel agent who tried to rope us into a package trip in Istanbul was his recommendation to skip Kaş for this trip and visit Pamukkale instead, a place that really wasn’t even on our radar.

Our one, bad bus experience happened when we traveled from Göreme to Pamukkale with the Nevşehir Seyaha bus company. Several times during our bus trips, the larger, long-distance buses had dropped us at regional bus stations, where we were ushered to smaller mini-buses to take us to our final destination, usually a short distance away. When we arrived to the Denizli bus station early in the morning, we were asked if we were going to Pamukkale and then herded onto a minibus. The minibus dropped us off at a hotel (the Artemis Yoruk Hotel) where we were told we could wait until daylight but when we got there, it became clear that they expected us to check in to THAT hotel. We had already booked our accommodation elsewhere and after telling them we weren’t interested in checking in, were promptly kicked out into the dark street with all our baggage. They wouldn’t even give us directions as to which way we needed to head. Apparently, it was this hotel’s shuttle that Nevşehir Seyaha ushered us onto! Another couple from Canada was in the same predicament as us, but we all took our leave without checking in to the bus company’s and hotel’s little racket.


The Venus Hotel, our safe-haven in Pamukkale.

By this point it was a dark 5:30 AM and thankfully, Brian has super-power navigation skills. After deciding there were no open establishments to wait for sunlight in, we headed for the Venus Hotel. Things were locked up so we waited outside and within about 15 minutes, a staff person arrived and kindly ushered us in. She checked us into our room early and we were so thankful for the warm bed to collapse into. After a couple of hours of rest we went down for breakfast. The hotel is a family-run establishment and for a small fee they provide transport service. We took advantage of this for the ride to the “top” of Hierapolis and again to the bus company office with all our baggage when we were ready to head out. After a long day enjoying the ruins of Hierapolis and trying to enjoy the travertines, we walked back to the hotel and had a great home-cooked meal.

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This day was one of the highlights of our trip. We had no idea how excellent the ruins here were, as most of my pre-trip research had been focused on seeing the ruins at Ephesus. By and far, after visiting both sites, we would recommend a visit to Hierapolis over Ephesus. Don’t get me wrong, Ephesus was incredible, but it didn’t have the laid-back and natural feel offered at the less-touristed Hierapolis. And yes, it’s another UNESCO World Heritage Site. After entering the Hierapolis Park, you’re pretty much free to roam freely. You can actually climb on the Roman rubble (though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing so)! We spent the entire day here, barely allowing time to enjoy the site’s other noteworthy attraction–the travertines.

Eumenes II, king of Pergamum, founded Hierapolis in about 190 B.C. Later under Byzantine rule, it gained a large Jewish community and early Christian congregation before being abandoned after an earthquake in 1334.


We met a nice couple from Croatia who offered to take our photo. Behind us is the Roman theater at Hierapolis.

Upon entering the park, the South Gate is one of the first landmarks you come upon.

Upon entering the park, the South Gate is one of the first landmarks you come upon.

I thought Rome had a lot of Roman rubble...

It seems that in every direction you turn, there is Roman rubble as far as the eye can see at Hierapolis.

Egg-and-Dart at Hierapolis

A beautifully carved egg-and-dart piece of rubble (perhaps a portion of entablature?), laying outside the Roman Theater entrance.

View from the top of the theater, looking out over Hierapolis.

View from the top of the Roman Theater, looking out over Hierapolis. Built in the 2nd Century by emperors Hadrian and Septimius Severus, it could seat over 12,000 spectators. Restoration took place in the 1970s by the Italian Archaeological Institute and is ongoing today.


We met these guys, who were on a school field trip, inside the Roman Theater. They made me feel like a super model.

Anything for the perfect shot...

My photographer, perched atop the ruins of the St. Philip Martyrium at Hierapolis. The Apostle Philip tried to spread Christianity at Hierapolis and with his sons founded the first Christian community here. He was killed in the city in 87 A.D. The Martyrium was made as a memorial in his name and his and his son’s tombs are supposedly here, though they haven’t been discovered yet.

What was this magnificent structure? The Latrine, of course!

This magnificent structure was Hierapolis’s latrine! Two channels were cut into the floor–one for fresh water and the other to carry away sewage.



The Travertines

Besides the ruins, the other notable attraction at the park are the travertines. The beautiful, natural features were created by mineral waters of carbon dioxide and calcium, flowing down and leaving deposits. Taking a dip in the waters, which are also high in aluminum and sulfur, has long been considered beneficial to one’s health, making it a sort of spa destination as well. Near the travertines is an interesting swimming pool, complete with sunken Roman ruins. Being a chilly December day, we did not indulge (taking a dip also requires a separate admission of TL25). We did, however, take our shoes and socks off to have our shot at walking down the travertines.

I’d like to say I enjoyed this experience but unfortunately, I found it pretty miserable. By the time we began, the sun was starting to set. If I had known it was permissible, I would have left on some thick socks because I soon discovered I have very tender feet! Several people passed us but then we were last–there were no more people coming down and I began to fear we wouldn’t make it down before dark. The steam rising from the travertines was misleading. In December, most of the water was not warm and the deposits were freezing! And jagged! And slick! The trip down seemed never-ending but we finally made it without having slipped and somehow managed to hobble our way back to the hotel, where the fabulous, home-cooked meal mentioned above greeted us.

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2 responses to “Pamukkale & Hierapolis

  1. Pingback: Turkey – December 2012 | my ahas·

  2. Pingback: Selçuk & Ephesus | my ahas·

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