Travels / Turkey

Turkey: Pamukkale & Laodicea

The next morning straight after breakfast we checked out and headed down to the otogar to find a bus to Pamukkale (Pam-uh-KAH-lay or Pam-oo-KAH-lay, depending on where you’re from). I had read and we’d been told that there are such frequent buses going that there’s no need to book one in advance. Sure enough we found a company (Kâmil Koç) with a bus leaving in about half an hour, so we bought tickets and waited around for the bus to arrive. The bus only went as far as Denizli, which I knew to expect. None of the coaches go all the way to Pamukkale. They only stop in Denizli and then you have to get a shuttle bus to Pamukkale. Sometimes the coach company will have a shuttle bus for you and sometimes you need to get one of the local dolmuşes (DOL-moosh).

To be honest I don’t remember a lot about that bus ride, which indicates it was good. I do remember after one of our later bus rides we were longing for the good conditions we’d had on this bus! When we got off the bus in Denizli, a handful of us who were going on to Pamukkale were met by a man who immediately shepherded us through the otogar to where a shuttle bus was waiting on the other side. It was about 15 minutes to Pamukkale, and staff at the Kâmil Koç office gave us directions to our hotel (and also tried to sell us local day trips). The walk was a little bit further than I anticipated but not too bad, and we found the Melrose House Hotel easy enough, only to be told we were staying in a different hotel. “What? No, I booked for Melrose House Hotel,” I told the reception guy. He nodded and made some excuse about being full and that we were being accommodated in a different hotel, “very nice hotel, new, nice views” we were told. I held up my printed reservation confirmation but this didn’t concern him in the slightest. I decided to wait to see this other hotel before making a scene over our transfer. We were ushered into a waiting van and taken to the ‘other’ hotel.

It turned out to be the newer hotel owned by the same people, Melrose Viewpoint Hotel. I am sure it was considered an upgrade. It was clearly very new and modern, and it was very clean – everything was white or blue. There were a few shortcuts in the interior decorating and installation of appliances (common in Turkey). But our first hotel looked like it had a lot more character. The outside had a mediterranean-style patio by the pool, and judging by the photos online each of the bedrooms was styled differently with different colours and furnishings. I’m sure everything in the new hotel was the same, although not to the degree of a boring cookie-cutter bedroom in a Travelodge or Premier Inn room. Our room was on the bottom floor so no views there, although the dining room upstairs had very good views of the Pamukkale travertines and there was an outdoor terrace beside it. I really couldn’t complain too much.

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After getting settled we headed off to find some lunch and found cheap chicken doner kebabs again in a little cafe in the village centre. We had a chat with the owner who also runs a tourism business and tried to sell us a tour but we decided against the tour. When we told him we wanted to visit Laodicea though, he recommended we do that in the afternoon and leave the next day to go up to the travertines and Hierapolis (the Roman town on top of the travertines). He said he would put us onto the next dolmuş coming through town, told us how much it would cost and gave us directions on where to get off to get to Laodicea. So after lunch we got on the next dolmuş that came past. We had not paid the man anything and I assumed we would just pay the driver directly. The dolmuş was pretty crowded so it was standing room only. I watched as other passengers who got on and off would just hand their money to the driver at either the beginning or end of their journey. So I indicated for Andre to have money ready for when we got off at our turn-off.

I was keeping an eye out for the Laodicea turn-off sign (I had seen it on our way from Denizli to Pamukkale), but our driver was already pulling over by the time I spotted it. We thanked and paid the driver before heading off up the road towards Laodicea. The man we’d spoken to in Pamukkale told us it was about 300m after the turn off; it’s more like a kilometre. It’s an easy walk though, with a bit of uphill at the end. Laodicea is a far less touristy spot than other ancient Roman and Greek cities like Ephesus or Aphrodisia (a more common side-trip from Pamukkale than Laodicea). It is still largely an archaeological dig and a lot of what has been excavated has not yet been reassembled (although some has).  I was interested to see it because of its biblical significance though, and we have already seen lots of ancient Greek and Roman ruins like Rome, Ephesus and Troy. I thought a ‘work in progress’ site would be interesting to see.

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Andre sitting in one of the ruined theatres

And it was! It’s still touristy enough to have an entrance fee, and you can also get an audio guide. Aside from a small guided tour, we were the only people there. I also really enjoyed seeing the theatre in its ruined, un-reassembled condition. We must have spent at least two hours there. We watched small rain cells pass us by but we never got rained on. Once we decided it was time to head back we walked back down to the main road and waited by the side of the road for the next dolmuş to come past. We hailed the next one we saw and jumped on – again, very crowded, although I suspect someone vacated a seat for me because Andre directed me to an empty seat but he was not the only one standing when we set off again.

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