The well-maintained site of Hierapolis is lovely proof of how long the magical springs of Pamukkale have drawn eager travelers and pilgrims to partake of the waters' supposed healing powers. The ruins that can be seen today date from the time of the Roman Empire, but there are references to a settlement here as far back as the 5th century BC. Because the sights are spread over about ½ km (¼ mile), prepare for some walking—or hop on the open-air shuttle (3 TL). Near the North Gate is a macabre indication of the former popularity of the healing springs, a vast and beautiful necropolis (cemetery) with more than 1,000 cut-stone sarcophagi spilling all the way down to the base of the hill. Continue on to reach a well-preserved gate, public bath complex, and market street. Near the high theater stand the ruins of a Temple of Apollo and a bulky Byzantine church. The monumental fountain known as the Nymphaion, just north of the Apollo Temple, dates from
the 4th century AD. Especially intriguing is the Ploutonion, built over a cave that leaks poisonous fumes from the bowels of the earth, so deadly that the Romans revered and feared it as a portal to Underworld. Unfortunate birds still occasionally suffocate in the fumes. Below the theater, near the Sacred Pool, the stone building that enclosed Hierapolis' public baths is now the Pamukkale Müzesi (museum) with a fine display of marble carvings found at the site.
If you have no interest in the ruins, you can put your bathing suit on under your clothes, and enter at the site's South Gate (Güney Kapı) on Mehmet Akif Ersoy Bul. and wade your way up through the travertine pools, and over the crest of the cliff to the Sacred Pool. The South Gate is easy walking distance from Pamukkale town. If, however, you want to see the ruins before getting wet, get a lift to the North Gate (Kuzey Kapı) of the site (open 8 am to 10 pm), walk through the site, then go downhill through the travertine pools to Pamukkale town.
Sacred Pool. There are several reasons visitors flock to the thermal waters of the Sacred Pool at Hierapolis: the bathtub-warm water (a relatively constant 95 degrees Fahrenheit), the reputed therapeutic properties of the mineral-rich water (Cleopatra supposedly used it as toner), and the atmospheric marble columns and ancient stone carvings scattered about. The lushly landscaped complex has changing rooms, lock boxes (5 TL) to store your stuff, and a snack bar. Entry to the pools is expensive (you need to pay to get into Hierapolis as well) but floating over ancient ruins in hot, faintly effervescent mineral water is more fun than it sounds. If you don't want to spend the time/money, you can relax at the snack bar with a beverage instead. The pool gets crowded in the summer months so plan your visit for early morning or after the tour buses depart. The pool closes earlier in winter months but it's also much less crowded during the day. Consider bringing your own towel. Hierapolis, Pamukkale. 35 TL. Daily 8–7.