The sprawling, 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 (2 TL), which runs between the North Gate and the Sacred Pool every 15 minutes. The main points of interest are well marked along the path, while other, more overgrown ruins take some rambling to uncover. 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 Nymphaeum, just north of the Apollo Temple, dates from the 3rd 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 the Underworld. Unfortunate birds still occasionally suffocate in the fumes. Below the theater, near the Sacred Pool, the stone building that enclosed Hierapolis's public baths is now the Pamukkale Müzesi (museum) with a fine display of impressive carved sarcophagi and marble reliefs, statues, and funerary stelae found at the site. The nearby remnants of a medieval fortress afford one of the best views of the travertines
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 Bulvarı 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 9 pm), walk through the site, then go downhill through the travertine pools to Pamukkale town.