Have you ever seen a picture of somewhere amazing looking and thought to yourself, “I bet tourists have ruined that by now”?
Unfortunately that is part of the reality of this super connected world we live in. Pristine beaches and far-flung temples that were untouched 50 years ago are rapidly becoming more and more accessible to hordes of travelers with unprecedented access to the world around them. It’s awesome and disheartening at the same time that there are so few places untouched by DSLR toting tourists wanting to experience different cultures and histories. Popular places are often popular because they are great. That is how they became so popular. But sometimes that popularity can ruin what made a place so special and unique in the first place.
Pamukkale was a destination that looked too cool to still exist as seen in pictures on Pinterest. No way the beautiful white pools are really that color. No way you can soak in peace and solitude.
Pamukkale is a natural site in Turkey where mineral hot springs have flowed over the centuries, leaving behind carbonates and creating a super white, cotton ball looking hillside with natural pools. Visitors cannot actually swim in the naturally occurring pools, but you can sit in manmade versions with naturally occurring carbonate mud and mineral water. On top of the hillside is an ancient city called Hierapolis, and visitors can visit the ruins of the Byzantine City. There is one entrance fee for the pools and another for a mineral pool in the city of Hierapolis where you can swim amongst ancient columns.
When we are faced with situations where we are unsure about whether or not to visit “can’t miss” places we always turn to one of our favorite travel friends, TripAdvisor. Like most popular places, TripAdvior had very mixed reviews on Pamukkale. “Awesome” some people claimed, “overrated” just as many reported.
So what did we think?
We honestly loved it.
We took an overnight bus from Goreme to the sizable town of Denizli, where we were allowed to check in super early in the morning (thank you Yildirim Hotel). After dropping our bags in our room we headed right back to the bus station (which was literally across the street from our hotel) and we able to get to Pamukkale early in the day. BEST DECISION WE MADE. When we arrived the beautiful white travertine’s looked like this:
This of course did not last long, but by the time the tourist buses began to pull up we were sitting comfortably in the Hierapolis pool. The entrance fee to this pool is pretty steep, but how often do you get to swim in a pool with ancient Roman columns while surrounded but huge Russians with their beautiful skinny wives and rambunctious kids? The water in the pool at Hierapolis is crystal clear and warm.
Technically you are only supposed to stay in the pool for two hours, but I’m pretty sure we stayed a lot longer than that. I’m not sure how they would check something like that…
After our long soak in the Hierapolis pool we decided to go back down to the natural pools to people watch and soak a bit longer. We tried to sneak photos of the women we saw posing for ridiculous Facebook profile picture shots, but our creepin’ skills were not quite up to snuff.
Before heading out I made sure to give myself a nice relaxing mud bath, which the kids hanging out in our pool thought was pretty hilarious.
TripAdvisor warns of a high entrance fee, tons of tourists, hard, slightly painful rock, which you must traverse barefoot, and an unnatural feeling that accompanies the manmade pools where you are actually allowed to swim. This is all true. But Pamukkale is beautiful and unique and like nowhere else we have ever been. And we loved it.