Our Turkey itinerary was kept open from the beginning to be flexible for some fun side trips and extra days in any cities we particularly liked. After some research, we knew a quick stop to the famous travertines of Pamukkale had to be on our list. These popular natural wonders are the highlight of many unique destinations in Turkey that most travelers wouldn’t otherwise visit.
But as we got to the travertines, along with hundreds of other over-eager tourists who came for the same reason, we quickly realized that nearly all of the visitors completely miss the most beautiful spot in the entire complex!
It is hard to believe, but the most serene spot in all of Pamukkale is the most gorgeous of the entire formation; and everyone misses it.
Complete Isolation in Turkey
To say that Pamukkale is an isolated natural wonder is putting it lightly. As you come in from the city of Denizli (where most major buses and trains travel through), the travertines of Pamukkale stand out from miles away.
They exist as a giant, white mound of calcium carbonate that has built up over the millennium with the mineral rich water still flowing to this day. Cities were built up around it, temples were constructed, abandoned, and left for ruin, and visitors have traveled from all over to bathe in the water ever since.
But other than this one particular attraction (and the ruins on-site), the city of Pamukkale has very few other attractions that would entice a visitor to come. And for being over 3 1/2 hours from the closest “tourist” city, you have to be quite sure you want to go there even if just for a night.
An isolated attraction in the middle of nowhere that is on everyone’s must see lists? The crowds are coming.
Getting Over the Tourist Horde
If there is one downside to being the only major attraction for miles, it would be that there are no alternative options for visitors to help thin out the crowds. The travertines are what people come to see, and people are what you will find if you come during a popular travel season like we did in August.
We loved Pamukkale, but found the visitors to fall into all the negative tourist mindsets one gets after paying an expensive entry fee.
Entitled, rude, and having no respect for the natural wonder that is around them, these visitors treated Pamukkale like a playground that was built for them. Or worse, a fashion shoot set for the next great Facebook photo. (If I see one more person in a speedo bending over seductively…).
As with most popular attractions, it is often the areas away from these hordes of travelers that are the most pristine, even if they sometimes lack the beauty of their congested neighbor. At Pamukkale, the most iconic spot is in a part of the complex most visitors do not even venture to.
Hundreds of Visitors Leave Without the “Postcard” Shot
In fact, we’d go as far as saying that over 90% of the visitors to Pamukkale do not even see the famous postcard shot. This an absurd number, but when you are there you quickly realize that this is an accurate depiction.
The reason for this is simple: people just don’t look around.
Once you arrive to the famous travertines, you are routed on a linear path through the formations either downhill or uphill depending on which way you entered from. The crowds are at these parts, as are the information signs, so it is only natural to follow them while exploring.
That area at the top of the hill past where the formations end? Well, that looks just like a simple park for people to enjoy a lunch. There are no tourists there, so there obviously isn’t anything to see, right?
If you have that mindset at Pamukkale, you’re going to miss the most beautiful part.
When we visited we estimated several hundred visitors playing in the travertines at any given time, but only 10 at the iconic view on the other side of the quiet park.
Only 10 travelers standing at the most beautiful spot in Pamukkale.
It is kind of absurd to us to think that after traveling so far, dedicating a whole day (or several) to see this wonder, that so few actually see the most stunning part.
Sure, there are no signs pointing to it; but a short walk around the grounds would have brought forth a beauty you can’t find anywhere else in the complex. No tourists jumping in the water, no seductive poses for Facebook photos, and no rudeness tolerated. Just a gorgeous vista of the most famous formation of all.
And hardly anyone sees it.