Climbing The Cotton Castle of Pamukkale

Disclaimer: This page may contain affiliate links. Please review our full Terms and Conditions for more information and our Privacy Policy. Note that any pricing, operating hours, or other such information provided below may have changed since initial publication.

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

At first glance, I let out a heavy sigh.


This was it? After a long day of driving in Turkey to reach the park, all I could see ahead was what appeared to be a dirty toboggan hill on a warm April day – when the inviting whiteness of winter snow becomes smeared with soil that has finally been exposed by the hot spring sun.

Pair this with harassing vendors peppering us with offers from either side – 8 postcards for 2 lira! A guided tour of the ruins! Our first impression of the famed Pamukkale was not one of excitement and enthusiasm, but of skepticism and a little disappointment.

what a difference a few steps can make.

Just past the entrance and at the foot of the long, white path to the top, that which wasn’t visible from ground level finally came into view and induced the awe we had been waiting for.

Pamukkale (which means “cotton castle” in Turkish) is a series of terraces (called “travertines“) created by highly concentrated limestone deposits from 17 hot water springs in the area. Since 200 B.C., people have flocked to the area believing the pools to have healing properties.

It is best described as numerous infinity pools that drop off to magnificent views of the town below.


The walk to the top of the hill could easily be done inside of an hour. But with our constant stop for photos, and succumbing to our childlike instincts to just play on our way up, it took us much longer.

Shoes are not allowed when walking through the travertines to prevent damage. The surface was much smoother then expected and we took every opportunity to feel the soft sand squish through our toes and massage our soles. The water got warmer the closer we got to the top.

Footsteps in Pamukkale

There are some unfortunate remnants of abuse on the travertines – hotels were allowed on top and tourists ran vehicles up and down the side until just a couple decades ago. Some spots are stained from this unnatural activity, and the hope now is that over time the sun will bleach it back to it’s stark white glory.

Top of Pamukkale

We lingered at the top for several hours, waiting for the prime photography golden hour and then sunset.

Golden hour on Pamukkale

We took just as much time going down as we did going up, the changing levels of sunlight making the blues that much more dramatic.


Paradise…found? Quite possibly.


Similar Posts


  1. Argh. So, we booked 2 nights at Pamukkale because it’s the one place I really really wanted to see in Turkey and then I just accepted a press trip that conflicts with those days. So Patrick is going to see Pamukkale and I’m going to miss it. I’m so so sad and this post makes me even sadder that I’m going to miss it. Gorgeous post!

  2. This photos are absolutely incredible! I’ve been dying to visit Pumukkale for awhile. This post will certainly satiate my appetite until I can make it here myself! Thanks!

  3. Oh, I’m so glad Pammukale did not disappoint! I first heard about this place about two years ago when a good friend of mine traveled to Turkey; I was stunned by her pictures just as I am stunned by yours now. This is honestly *the* place that makes Turkey one of the “must visit” destinations on my upcoming RTW trip.

  4. Wow, the is spectacular! Now what I would have expected when I first saw ‘cotton castle.’ I’ve seen some travertine stuff but nothing like this!

  5. I laughed at your “dirty toboggan hill” comment, and wondered how many of your readers wouldn’t know what that was! The few steps did make all the difference – that looks absolutely gorgeous!! Thanks for adding a new place to my “someday” wishlist! D xoxo

  6. Holy cow, phenomenal photos!! I’ve heard of this place before, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen photos of it like this! I so want to go here now!

  7. Wow. Wasn’t sure whether to include in my next visit to Turkey…but I am now. Thanks for the nudge.

  8. Just when I thought some other place or photo was the best, then this post comes along. What a fantastic place & photo’s. It’s almost unbelievable .

    1. I think there are two other places in the world like this (although I’m not even sure how similar). It is a pretty unique place.

  9. Both of us want to stay longer next time and get to enjoy it the way you did. We were rushed. Perhaps we’ll take our teenager (or so she’ll be by then) with us! At least we got to enjoy it’s beauty. Great photos and another extremely well written blog.

    1. Thanks Joy! I would have liked to have even another day there, hiking in the mountains behind the ruins up top. So gorgeous.

  10. Man, amazing shots. Love the one at the end. This reminds me of what the pink and white terraces in New Zealand must have looked like, before a volcano erupted and buried both them and a neighbouring village at the turn of the century. Now I think these are one of the last places in the world to have terraces like these!

  11. Wow – I had never heard of this place, paradise indeed! Turkey is such a fascinating country, combining breathtakingly unusual landscapes and a beautifully diverse culture.

    1. The diversity in the landscape is something we never fully expected before we got here. And we haven’t even been to Cappadocia yet! 🙂

  12. Wow… I guess it just goes to show you shouldn’t judge a hill by how gross it looks lol. Great shots – Turkey keeps getting better and better in my eyes!

  13. Never knew that Turkey was such a fabulous tourist destination. But your posts are just an eye opener.
    This seems to be a fabulous place to visit, lovely views from up there!
    Hope you are having a great week:)

    1. Turkey is fast becoming a very popular travel destination and we are so happy to be here to discover why! Thanks Arti. 🙂

  14. I have been waiting for your pictures of Pamukkale and you have not disappointed. Fantastic. Glad you enjoyed it. Definitely going back this summer. I miss it!

    1. Thanks Natalie! I really wish we had taken the extra day to see Aphrodisias, or even just to hike up more behind the ruins of Hierapolis.

  15. I’m over the top impressed with your photos and of course it’s been added to the bucket list – for a photography trip if nothing else.

  16. Gorgeous photos! I love travel blogs for finding beautiful places that I had never before heard of to add to my ever-growing bucket list!

  17. I’ve always wanted to go to Pamukkale if only because I grew up being told New Zealand had a similar natural feature that was destroyed by an 1886 volcanic eruption. Your photos have just confirmed that I really need to get to Turkey!

  18. I would like to thank you so much for these fantastic photos and introducing Turkey and Pamukkale to the world even to me.I can’t do as much as you for this love this country more than me. I love you

    1. Thanks Erica, it’s an amazing place to spend an entire day just relaxing and enjoying all the surroundings.

  19. Absolutely amazing…more fabulous than some of the “wonders of the world”…hoping I will someday see this in person…

    1. I agree Anita. There are so many ‘wonders’ of the world which seem to rival those which are chosen as the top picks.

  20. Gorgeous photos! Andy and I really enjoyed it there, although we didn’t stay for sunset. We started at the top and walked down, not sure I would’ve liked walking up it. It was a really cool place!

    1. We debated on not staying for the sunset, but were really happy that we did. The light shining on the travertines was spectacular. Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

    1. Were the hotels there 20 years ago? I am curious how different things are from then to now. Regardless, you are right that it is an incredible place.

  21. I had never heard of this place before but your beautiful and awe inspiring photographs have now ensured it will one be experienced first hand! It looks absolutely magical and I look forward to one day being able to share my own photos (though they undoubtedly won’t be a patch on yours!). Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

    1. Thank you Hannah, I am happy that our photos have inspired you. And congratulations on booking your RTW tickets!! Going to check out right now where you are heading first…

  22. I love that Turkey’s fascinating landscape continues to impress. They really have everything there, including cotton castles..!

  23. Awesome! I’ve never heard of this place before,looks soooooooo beautiful.I understand how pesky vendors can dampen a good day,we have them here in India,but,in the end you had a great time there and we get to see this amazing place through your pics.Love them all.Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yes, the pesky vendors weren’t even as pesky as some other places we’ve been, but they sure can make a day go from good to bad sometimes. Didn’t matter so much once we got into Pamukkale, they were nowhere to be found! 🙂

  24. Love your shots – beautiful. I’m heading there next month. Did you stay at a good hotel – if you’re happy to recommend would appreciate details.
    Many thanks

    1. We stayed at a GREAT hotel – it was called the Melrose Hotel and it was right in Pamukkale, about a 5-10 minute walk from the site. Enjoy!

  25. Yes, I’ve been there and its an awesome place. It has rich biblical history which makes it more interesting to visit.

  26. Great photos! Did you take a tour or did you go by yourself? I’m tempted to take a your but I’m afraid that my photography time will be highly restricted. Any thoughts?

  27. Just superb. Love the photos, as always and your wording. Careful, yet relating the beauty and fun that you have in most everything you experience.
    Definitely on my list to do!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *