Pamukkale: Turkey’s white hot springs

Pamukkale Turkey Sunrise-3

You know that moment when you wake up so startled your heart feels like its going to explode? This was how our morning started, waking up way too early. But there was a birthday to celebrate. And a place I’ve been dying to visit for so long but somehow seemed serendipitous to end up here on Mike’s birthday. Beautiful. Birthday or not, this is the story of the secret to visiting a cotton castle and getting it all to yourself. A here-comes-the-sun Pamukkale, Turkey sunrise.

Peel your eyes open, get up and head outside in the pitch dark. Seriously, it’s worth it. Get in your car (if you’ve rented one- we had since we were house sitting a few hours away and we were on a big road trip) and drive up to the entrance gates to Pamukkale. Don’t bother trying to pay since the guard is still sleeping, he’ll get you on the way out. Hopefully you remembered to pack some sandwiches and snacks the night before- we had banana bread I packed special for this birthday road trip. Don’t blame me, I really love using the oven at our house sit. Who cares if you have food though, get going. You could always grab some so-so food at the cafe….of course there’s a cafe.

We made our way over the dew covered lawns until we reached THE spot (when you know, you know). We split up, Mike heading to the hot spring terraces while I stayed behind to catch the sun come up over the mountains. It was as quiet as night still. We were at Pamukkale, or more affectionately known as the cotton castle.  This place consists of a series of terraces, known as travertines, which are a form of limestone and were created by the water from the 17 different hot springs here.

Pamukkale Turkey Sunrise-1

The manager of our hotel had given us a hot tip: get up early. REALLY early. Apparently, the earlier the better-we stumbled out of our room at 4:45 to get here by 5am. The reward was great. Aside from some friendly stray dogs, it seems we had the entire place to ourselves. We couldn’t believe it. Yea, check out the photo below. Smack dab in the middle, Mike is waving a big hello to you. And me.

Pamukkale Turkey Sunrise-2

Pamukkale Turkey Sunrise-4

I played around with my new fish-eye lens as I wished for a big mug of coffee. Yea, banana bread but no coffee. I know. I know. But I had a front row seat at the mother nature sunrise show. Made that up all by myself, I swear. I kept telling myself that at any moment, we were going to have company, but seriously, no one else showed up for sunrise. THAT IS CRAZY.

Pamukkale Turkey Sunrise-5

Pamukkale Turkey Sunrise-6

With a stray doggy sitting calmly by my side, I sat in silence, watching through still sleepy eyes as Mike swam around and enjoyed his birthday morning peacefully hopping from pool to pool. Slowly. Because since you’re barefoot, it is somewhat slippery. Excuse my just rolled out of bed face. I was so happy that finally, in a country full of people, we decided to do something so unlike us- we are not early morning people- and it actually paid off. Where were all the other sunrise lovers? Still in bed I think.

Check out the puppy dog eyes on this guy. I feel like he was saying, ‘yea, I’ll pose here for you. Make me look good k’. Sure thang cutie. We kinda had a photo shoot.

Pamukkale Turkey Sunrise-7


Pamukkale Turkey Sunrise-9

As soon as I crossed back to the other side of the hot springs and said good morning to the guards I watched as bus loads of tourists snaked up the paved road to the top where we were. As soon as they got off, they literally began running- full sprint- to the edge of the pools to furiously start snapping photos. All I could do was stare. Why were they running. You could fall and hurt yourself! No running! But by that time we had retreated hastily to the other side to have a birthday breakfast all by ourselves at a nice picnic table.

So if you want to visit Pamukkale at sunrise, the best thing to do is stay in the little town overnight and get up super early. You won’t regret it, the weather is nice and cool (in August) and you might even have the place all to yourself. Our hotel manager remarked that he always told people to go early but most people didn’t want to get up that early- they preferred seeing the sunset. We did both. Verdict? Sunrise all the way- but maybe we were biased based on a birthday. One of the only times in our life we’ve picked sunrise over sunset. Other times have included climbing a mountain at midnight to see the sunset. So, there are exceptions.

Besides being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient Greco-Roman and Byzantine city of Hierapolis was built on top of the white castle. After you see the sunrise, you could take a wander through the ruins. There is a lot to explore here. We took so many photos at the ruins. Enough for another post. This one is dedicated to the birthday and the magical sunrise. Fellow travelers, make friends with your hotel personnel. Ask them questions about the places you’ve come to visit. You never know what kind of advice you’ll get. This time it was magic.

Visiting Pamukkale

Check out some of our other adventures in Turkey here.

What do you think? Would you prefer sunrise or sunset? 



  • I went to Pamukkale years ago and it was soooo crowded. You were smart to get there early. :)

    • Mica says:

      I gotta thank the hotel manager for the tip! We were just gonna go for sunset but thanks to his persistence we got to see something special. And on Mikee’s bday!

  • Natasha says:

    We just went to Pamukkale this past December and there was no one there. We were the only people in our hotels too. Loved it! So I guess the secret is to go at sunrise or go during the off season!

    • Mica says:

      That is very cool! Definitely off season works as well. I would not have thought there was ever an off season though, that place is wonderful! And it is way better to go in the cooler months! We housesat in the middle of summer and it was brutal!

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