The gleaming white mineral terraces of Pamukkale are world-famous and one of the most famous postcards of Turkey. It is a stunning sight and a magnet for Instagrammers from around the world. But is better thought of as one of three attractions in the area (all part of the same day trip). These are the mineral terraces of Pamukkale, the Greek and Roman ruins of Hieropolis, and the Roman ruins of Laodecia.

Visiting Pamukkale is one of the highest things on anyone's itinerary - along with flying in the iconic hot air balloons in Cappadocia. Not only it is a beautiful destination, but it is also a historical one. The most historic destination in Turkey is the truly ancient neolithic ruins of Gobekli Tepe in eastern Turkey.


The Travertine Pools of Pamukkale

In Turkish, Pamukkale means "cotton castle" and is famous for the travertine pools formed by carbonate minerals left by the flowing thermal springs. They have been formed and shaped over the millennia by the calcite-rich spring dripping slowly down the mountainside.

  • Name: Turkish for "Cotton Castle"

Most of the pools are off-limits to tourists in order to protect and preserve them (many have suffered damage and pollution from tourism). But some are open and visitors can paddle in the water and indulge in their Instagram pics. It is no extra charge to get into these pools. For those seeking to spice up their Instagram pics a bit more, there are even "angel wings" for rent at the site.

  • Access: Some Of the Pools Are Open To The Public

Inside the ruins of Hierapolis is "Cleopatra's Pool" where one can swim in the hot spring water. This is a developed thermal natural pool and one that has included some of the ancient ruins in the design of the pool. One can enjoy the thermal waters just as the ancients in Hierapolis once did - plus numerous ancient pillars have been placed in the pool to add to its exotic ancient feeling.

  • Cleopatra's Pool: A Developed Thermal Pool Inside the Ruins In Hierapolis
  • Cost: 100 Turkish Lira (Around $8) - As Of February 2022

Related: 20 Reasons To Plan A Trip To Turkey’s Breathtaking Travertine Pools

The Greek City of Hierapolis

Immediately behind the thermal springs, stretches the ancient Greek (later Roman and Byzantine) city of Hierapolis. The ruins in this ancient city are truly impressive.

  • Name: Hierapolis Means "Holy City"

Hierapolis contains one of the most impressive necropolises (city of the dead) in the ancient Roman world. The necropolis stretches for miles with the ancient road being filled with countless impressive tombs, mini mausoleums, and sarcophagi. There are so many that it's often a challenge for people to even explore them all - plus only a fraction have even been excavated.

  • Necropolis: Hierapolis's Necropolis Is One of The Most Impressive

The thermal springs of Hierapolis have drawn people to them since the time of antiquity and were even alluded to in the Book of Revelation in the letter to Laodicea.

Today both the terrace pools of Pamukkale and the ruins of Hierapolis are world heritage sites.

  • UNESCO: The Travertine Terraces and Hierapolis Have Been UNESCO Listed Since 1988

Notably, Hierapolis is also the site of the supposed burial of the apostle Philip. According to tradition, Philip was martyred in Hierapolis. The tradition states that both he and Bartholomew were crucified upside down but Philip continued to preach from the cross.

Overcome by Philip's preaching, the crowd released Bartholomew, but Philip insisted they should not release him. He died on the cross (another tradition has it he was beheaded in Hierapolis).

  • Visit: The Supposed Tomb of St. Philip

In 2011, the tomb of St. Philip was claimed to have been discovered by archaeologists and visitors can visit it today. The supposed relics of St. Philip are in the crypt of Basilica Santi Apostoli in Rome.

Related: Where The Ancient City Of Troy Is Located Today, And What Visitors Can Do There

Ruins of Laodicea

Laodicea is just a 15 or 20-minute drive from Pamukkale (the travertine terraces are easily visible from Laodocia).

This was once a notable Roman city that was damaged and destroyed in earthquakes repeatedly. Today the ruins are all very impressive and very much worth a visit. The ruins boast not one but two very interesting amphitheaters.

One of these amphitheaters is partially restored meaning that one can see the amphitheater (as it would have been), while the other is completely untouched (as the archaeologists would have found it).

  • Combined Ticket:
  • Laodicea & Hierapolis: 130 Turkish Lira (About $10 in February 2022)

When John wrote the book of Revelation, he included it as one of the "Seven Churches in Asia (then a Roman province)." While John wrote some nice things or a mix of good and bad things to the other churches. He was only scathing to the church in Laodicea.

Next: This Basilica Is The Main Attraction In Vatican City (And The Largest In The World)