I traveled 10 hours to see some water and rocks- and it was awesome.
Pamukkale is not a destination that many people try to get to from Izmir, but it’s entirely doable if you keep yourself on a strict timetable. If you’re interested in how that works, check out this page: http://bit.ly/1L8dWTn.
It’s a long day- up early in the morning for the Izmir-Denizli train (which you ride the entire length), 30 minute minibus ride to the site, 2 ½ hours to explore and walk around, and then another bus/train ride back. You leave Izmir at 7:45am and don’t return until about 10:30 at night.
The train was comfortable and modern, and not too crowded (I sat in the very front car both directions). They offer in-ride entertainment, but it’s a looping series of 4 Pixar cartoons and a Planet Earth episode, which gets just a little repetitive when you watch it 10 times in one day. The train is 100% on-time everywhere, unlike Amtrak back in the states, so there’s not much guessing going on (you arrive in Denizli less than 5 minutes past noon).
After the bus ride, you come to the white cliffs of Pamukkale. It’s a magical site, unlike anything else I’ve ever seen before. It’s nearly pure white, with water running through the pools and rocks freely. I was dropped at the bottom gate (the guide recommends the top, and I agree), but climbing the hill didn’t matter much when there is so much to look at. The hardened calcium has a unique texture to it- sort of like rock, but very smooth and grippy. It towers over the town and the path you take to climb/descend the hill. While I wouldn’t call it a moonscape, when you look out over the horizon, the rest of the area seems like another planet.
Unfortunately, Pamukkale is very dry right now, so they were diverting all the water to one area of the site. Sadly, that wasn’t the panoramic view area, which means I couldn’t take any of those amazing photos that you see in a google search (it’s incentive to come back at a later date!). The area with water, however, is the part you get to walk through, shoes-off. The water is both hot and icy cold, depending on where you are. The spring water feels like a sauna, but the standing pool water feels like it came from the Arctic.
Still, I have no regrets about the day trip, despite falling (phone-in-hand) into one of the pools of water. So a little advice for future travelers: the pools are slippery- don’t walk into them with your valuables! (The phone appears to be fine, by the way).
If you have an extra day and are planning a trip to the Izmir/Ephesus region, try to work in the time to see Pamukkale. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that’s relatively difficult to vacation to, so why not seize the opportunity?