Pamukkale, which has been used as a spa since the second century BC, literally means "cotton castle" in Turkish.
The travertine features have their origins in the shifting of a fault in the valley of the Menderes river (between here and Denizli). As the fault shifted, very hot springs with a very high mineral content (notably chalk) arose at this location. Apart from the slightly radioactive minerals, the calcium and hydrogen carbonate react to create calcium carbonate (also known as travertine) and limestone. This is what gives Pamukkale its whiteness and created the pools.
It can get quite hot in summer, a hat and especially sunglasses will certainly be very helpful against the sun and the reflecting sun rays from the chalky cascades.
The nearest major city is Denizli, where you will likely arrive first before getting to Pamukkale.
Closest airport is Denizli - Cardak Airport is 65 km or 1 hour away and there are flights twice daily to Istanbul.
Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport is another alternative to the area. Pamukkale is 252 km from the airport, a drive of about 4 hours (4-1/2 to 5 hours by bus)or 6-7 hours by train. (Check TCDD  for train schedule.)
The nearest train station is in Denizli, which currently has services from Izmir only. The Istanbul service (Pamukkale Express) was suspended in 2008, presumably because of track renovations, and it is not certain when/if the services will re-start.
Bus to Pamukkale/Denizli can be found from almost all the cities of Turkey. Bus services include water, hot drinks and a snack.
There are virtually no bus companies that take you directly to Pamukkale despite what the ticket sellers tell you. The bus will drop you in Denizli and then you have to get on the free minibus to Pamukkale (about 20 km away).
From Denizli bus station, take a dolmuş, a type of cheap communal taxi that usually seats about 10 (but it's possible they'll squeeze in more), from nearby Denizli. Frequent mini-buses serve the village of Pamukkale in a 20 minute ride. It cost 2 YTL per trip.
Even when you're way on the edge of the village, you can reach everything (the village center and the travertine pools) on foot in about ten to fifteen minutes.
The Travertines of Pamukkale
These are a set of bizarre calcium cliff bathing pools overlooking the town of Pamukkale. You can access them via a toll-booth, however tough pollution control regulations require removing your shoes in order to walk on them (so bring something to put your shoes in!), so the travertines stay white as ever.
These petrified waterfalls/travertine are a UNESCO World Heritage site. The admission costs 20 TL per entrance. This price includes addmission to nearby Roman city of Hierapolis as well. Lower parts of the travertine cascades are reported to have better views than the top.
Day tours are offered for around 45 Lira (as of January 2010) including English-speaking guide, entrance fee to Hierapolis and the travertines (this alone costs 20 Lira) and buffet lunch. Different companies seem to offer similar tours, ask around. Such tours leave from the Pamukkale bus company office on the main street opposite the travertines, and the Koray Hotel. There may be tours starting from other places around the town as well. For those who rather not visit the travertines under the scorching sun, there are also night tours, which start from small guesthouses as well.
Other than the travertines, places worth a look around Pamukkale are:
The great (12,000-seat) Roman amphitheater of Hierapolis should not be missed.
Another lesser known site, but one that holds a considerable significance Biblically is Laodikya, just 10 km (10 minutes on a local dolmuş) from Pamukkale on the Denizli road. It's mentioned in the Bible as one of the 7 Churches of the Revelations and even though it hasn't been reconstructed as much as the more famous sites like Ephesus, is a great place to experience the Roman history without the crowds. A peaceful way to spend a day looking at ruins but also the beautiful scenery there as well.
Karahayit, the red spring is also 5 minutes from Pamukkale, not as big as the calcium outcrop, but worth a look.
Kaklik caves are like a small version of Pamukkale, but in a cave, underground and are about 30 minutes from Pamukkale.
You can walk down barefooted in the waterfalls from the village on top. The place is crowded when the tour-buses arrive. As aforementioned, you should use slippers—no shoes are allowed on the travertines. If you don't want to walk back to top, you can use the buses dropping off people back to top, which depart from near lower end of the travertines. You should wear swimming suit. A lot of people bath in the baths here.
It is also worth making the effort to get to the remains of the ancient city of Aphrodisias—one of the best preserved Roman sites in southeastern Aegean. You can rent a van from Denizli to get there. Or the local hotels run tours for approx 25 lira.
Of moderate interest might be visiting Denizli. It's a bit dull but there's a lively market.
The Pamukkale/Denizli area is famous for its cotton and the homewares. These are becoming sought after world wide (Arnold Schwartzenegger decked out his house in curtains and furnishings specially made in Denizli - so the story goes!) and the best place to go is the town of Buldan, about 30 minutes drive from Pamukkale. Many of the other souvenirs and traditional Turkish wares that you can find in other parts of Turkey are cheaper around Denizli/Pamukkale because they are produced there.
The best and freshest food is to be found in the small family run pensions, but for a great open air restaurant where you can eat 'borek' the Turkish pancakes and gaze across the valley, try Alis on the main highway just before you come into the town.
Mehmets Heaven, on the main street near the Travertines has an excellent view of Pamukkale from his porch out back. Great food and well priced. Super nice owner as well.
Kayas Wine House, Kale Mah. Ataturk Cad. No 3 (centre), ☎ 0090 258 272 2267. Recently started serving food, not only Turkish but also international (Korean, Japanese...) in traditional but trendy surroundings. Located in the centre of town, close to all the major hotels.
Lamuko's Lokanta, Main Street Pamukkale, ☎ 0090 542 390 8175. Japanese and Korean food in the centre of Pamukkale, next to Pamukkale Bus Company office. Delicious!
You should try Turkish national drink called Ayran, which is very healthy. It is an acquired taste though. The wines produced in the Pamukkale area are becoming quite famous and are winning awards for the quality and standard.
Raki!! or lion's milk as it is known, again an acquired taste. Great with fish or any long meal as it is meant to open up your appetite.
There are small family-run pensions at the village south of the travertines. Most have swimming-pools filled with the warm greenish milky water from the travertines. They also offer very delicious Turkish food.
Artemis Yoruk Hotel, Atatürk Cad. 48/A, ☎ +90 258 272-26-74 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +90 258 272-26-75), . Hotel just opposite the bus stop with a pool and a nice garden, and a rooftop restaurant which serves traditional Turkish food. Rooms with en-suite, TV, and air-con. Owners can speak English.€ 12/€ 20 single/double rooms, including breakfast. € 5/€ 7 pp dorms without/with breakfast.
Hotel Dört Mevsim (they also go by the name Four Seasons though neither affiliated nor has any similarity to the hotel chain), ☎ +90 258 272-20-09 (email@example.com, fax: +90 258 272-26-32), . checkin: 7:30AM-11:30PM; checkout: 11:30AM. Hotel with free wi-fi, swimming pool, free car park, babysitting service, and air-con. They allow pets at no extra cost. They also have a campground on their yard.€ 14/€ 17 sinlge/double rooms, € 10 pp dorms, all including breakfast. Visa, Euro/Mastercard are accepted.
Kale Hotel, Kale Mah. Atatürk Cad. 16 (on the main street in the centre of town), ☎ +90 258 272-26-07 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +90 258 272-26-07), . checkout: 11AM. A family-run guesthouse. Rooms with satellite TV. Roof-top terrace, swimming pool, free wi-fi, Ottoman Corner, restaurant, day trips and excursions.€ 12. (37.9175536,29.1211402)
Koray Hotel, Pamuk Mah. Fevzi Çakmak Cad. 29, ☎ +90 258 272-22-22 (email@example.com, fax: +90 258 272-20-95), . Friendly and family-run, with garden bar and restaurant and a large swimming pool. Rooms with satellite TV. The hotel can organize day tours, express bus tickets, plane tickets, and offers a transfer service.
Melrose Allgau Hotel, Vali Vekfi Ertürk Cad. 8, ☎ +90 258 272-22-50 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +90 258 272-31-20), . A nice family-run pansiyon at the eastern end of town with nice rooms, all of which have air-con. The friendly owners serve cheap but tasty home cooked meals. There's a laundry service and a pool filled with spring water. They also used to allow campers to put up their tents.€ 20/€ 25 single/double rooms, including breakfast. Credit cards are accepted.
Öztürk White Hill Hotel, Pamuk Mah. Fevzi Çakmak Cad. 31. A small family-owned hostel.
Venüs Hotel, Pamuk Mah. Hasan Tahsin Cad. 16, ☎ +90 258 272-21-52 (email@example.com, fax: +90 258 272-29-93), . A comfortable hotel with wireless internet access, a swimming pool filled with thermal water from travertines. Rooms with en-suite, and air-con. Staff can speak English.€ 20/€ 28 single/double rooms, including breakfast.
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