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Pamukkale Cotton Castle: Thermal Pools in Turkey

View from the top of Pamukkale cotton castle in Turkey.
View from the top of Pamukkale

Sneakers and socks removed, I gingerly stepped onto the path with running water which led down the face of Pamukkale (“Cotton Castle” in Turkish).

My eyes were convinced the ground would be slippery; however, I quickly realized it was only an illusion.

Far from hard and slick, it was soft and spongy, giving a sense of traction I didn't expect.

A natural landscape derived from mineral deposits, Pamukkale (Cotton Castle) has been fascinating visitors and bathers for over a thousand years!

The site was recognized by UNESCO in 1988 and is described as follows:

“Deriving from springs in a cliff almost 200 m high overlooking the plain, calcite-laden waters have created at Pamukkale (Cotton Palace) an unreal landscape, made up of mineral forests, petrified waterfalls and a series of terraced basins.

At the end of the 2nd century B.C. the dynasty of the Attalids, the kings of Pergamon, established the thermal spa of Hierapolis. The ruins of the baths, temples and other Greek monuments can be seen at the site.”


The scene reminded me of a cross between a ski resort melting away in Spring and the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia.

Tourists at Pamukkale
You can walk up Pamukkale from the bottom, but most visitors either experience it at the top only or walk from top to bottom.
Pamukkale landscape
Despite being covered in running water, the ground offers a surprising amount of traction.
Natural springs at Pamukkale cotton castle.
The cloudy water makes it hard to tell the depth of the thermal pools.
Natural pool
A couple enjoys a pool midway down Pamukkale.
Paragliders are treated to epic views.
The otherworldly Pamukkale, meaning "cotton castle" in Turkish.
To preserve and protect Pamukkale, only a limited number of pools are accessible to visitors.
Lower half of Pamukkale
A view toward the lower half; note the empty terraces.
Visitors wade in a pool.
The bottom of the path.
Pamukkale cotton castle from a distance.
At a distance, Pamukkale's mineral deposits look like a ski resort in springtime.


Hierapolis-Pamukkale became a World Heritage Site in 1988. Click here for the complete list of UNESCO sites Dave has visited during his travels.

My visit was in partnership with Turkish Airlines.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:

Trisha Velarmino - P.S. I'm On My Way

Wednesday 24th of February 2016

Surreal topography. The stark juxtaposition with the rest of the terrain is really something to marvel at. I have been to Uyuni and it was an unforgettable experience. I have never seen anything like it. I still have to visit Turkey soon. It seems like it has so much gems. I love how you include the importance of UNESCO heritage sites. Always enjoy checking your blog, Dave!


Thursday 25th of February 2016

I spent 6 weeks in Turkey last year and still have so much to write :)


Friday 5th of February 2016

Hi Dave, such a nice storyline and a good infos you have here.. May i have your permissions to use your photos in my Bahasa Malaysia blogs to publish it to our own country people? Please let me know soon ya.. Thank you...


Friday 5th of February 2016

Hi Ayesha, thank you for asking however I prefer not to allow these photos to be used outside of


Tuesday 26th of January 2016

Wow! Finally, non-heavily edited-heavily photoshopped pictures of Pamukkale! And, I see it as beautiful as i thought it to be. Thank you Dave for uploading these!

I whole-heartedly agree...Turkey is one of the under-rated destinations, it surely deserves more tourists...

Great work with the blog!

Lalit Chandran

Wednesday 16th of September 2015

Hi Dave, Turkey is such a beautiful place that I have often wondered why people don’t travel there more often. I have made a trip to turkey once and I can’t wait to visit back. Your story with the cotton castle took me back down the memory lane and I felt like I lived your experience myself.


Sunday 13th of September 2015

Wow, how cool. I would have guessed it to be very slippery as well. Strange.

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