Lonely Planet Writer

Why this Unesco World Heritage site is becoming a health tourism spot

For many travellers, January inevitably means the start of planning getaways for the year ahead, with wellness and health often being on the agenda following the overindulgence and merry-making that comes with the month of December. One location that has proven particularly popular in recent times is Pamukkale in western Turkey, a Unesco World Heritage Site famous for its white calcite travertines, petrified waterfalls and terraced basins, and the mineral-rich water that attract bathers seeking its therapeutic properties.

A tourist swimming in Cleopatra's Pool at Pamukkale, Turkey.
A tourist swimming in Cleopatra’s Pool at Pamukkale, Turkey. Image by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Originating from springs on a 200-metre-high cliff, the unique landscape of Pamukkale is also home to Hierapolis, once the home to a Roman and Byzantine spa city, and the ruins of monuments, ancient baths and temples that were built on the site can still be seen today. Despite holding Unesco World Heritage status since 1988, a unique aspect of the experience is that tourists can pay to have a dip in Cleopatra’s Pool at the site, and swim around the ruins.

Layers of travertines form terraces of carbonate minerals in Pamukkale, Southwest Turkey.
Layers of travertines form terraces of carbonate minerals in Pamukkale, Southwest Turkey. Image by ©Image Courtesy of Jennifer Hayes/Getty Images

Speaking to Turkish media site Anadolu Agency, Gazi Murat Sen, President of a tourism and hotel management association based in Denizli said that the upcoming season has proven to be particularly popular, with all facilities and hotels booking up extremely quickly. Stating that Pamukkale had recently regained a reputation as a centre for health tourism, Gazi also said that he hoped all of the positive attention would result in a long-lasting strengthening of tourism in the area.

A drone photo shows ancient city of Hierapolis and hot spring travertine pools and terraces at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pamukkale in Denizli, Turkey.
A drone photo shows ancient city of Hierapolis and hot spring travertine pools and terraces at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pamukkale in Denizli, Turkey. Image by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Pamukkale boasts five thermal springs, with water temperatures that are constantly between 35 and 36 degrees Celsius. Nearby, the Karahayit hot spring also draws crowds, and a range of hotels and thermal spas offering packages and experiences where guests can benefit from mineral-rich water are available.