Avoiding Crowds at Pamukkale
Pristine white springs, filled with bright blue water… Obviously this place was way up on my Turkey ‘to-do’ list before I even landed. However, I desperately hate crowds, and Pamukkale is known for being rammed all day long. So here’s how to see it without having to dodge the herds of tourists.
Stay in town
Many people do Pamukkale as a day trip from Kusadasi, Izmir, Antalya or other big cities. However, I’d strongly recommend staying in Pamukkale for a night to ensure you can make the most of it. There’s not really anything else to do in Pamukkale, so one night is plenty.
There’s two key times to go and check out the springs: when it opens and when it closes. Naturally, these are the quietest times of day. Entry is 35TL and if you go in twice, as I’m recommending, you’ll have to pay twice. But I assure you, it’s worth it.
Watch sunset over the pools
If it’s possible, try to arrive in Pamukkale late in the afternoon, giving you enough time to check into your hotel and get your bearings before sunset begins. Sunset always looks best over water, so get yourself all the way to the top of the travertines to get the most impressive views of the colourful sky, while it reflects on the pools.
Given that Pamukkale is one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions, it’s surprisingly quiet at sunset. My guess is that this is because all the tourist buses shuttle everyone in as early as possible to make the most of the day, but then don’t hang around for the evening. All the better for you to find a spot to sit and enjoy it in peace.
It looks kinda spooky and mysterious in the dark – but don’t let that distract you on the way down! Watch where you step. I stubbed my toe and now (almost six weeks later) my toe is still looking wonky! Oops.
Go early in the morning
Return bright and early the next morning when the gates open at 8am and take your time making your way up through the pools; this is the quietest they will be all day. By 9am the big tourist buses will have unloaded and the place will be packed. The pools are only knee-deep at best, so it’s not exactly a spot to swim, but it’s certainly refreshing. You can scrape the clay off the bottom and use it for a bit of exfoliation too, if you please.
For reference, this is what it looks like just a few hours later, with the crowds:
My favourite view was from the very top. You’re not allowed to go into the pools at the top, which I think deters people from hanging around there too – leaving it a bit quieter than the travertines on the way up. I sat here for a long time, just taking in the view.
Once you’ve enjoyed the travertines, there’s a bunch of ruins to explore too. I am much more interested in the natural sites than the historical ones, so a quick wander round was enough for me, but I know others would spend hours there. The highlight of the ruins is the Amphitheatre because it’s still in pretty good nick…due to regular restorations I’m sure.
You’ll probably be done by lunchtime and can then catch an afternoon train or bus to your next destination!