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A guide to visiting Hierapolis

Resting on a plateau above Pamukkale’s Cotton Castle in Turkey are the remnants of Hierapolis ancient city. With views over the dazzling white travertine terraces and 17 thermal springs, this town is home of the original spa break.

Hierapolis and Pamukkale come neatly paired so if you’re visiting Pamukkale I recommend you take a wander through the nearby ruins of Hierapolis as well.

Hierapolis Collonades
Hierapolis ruins, Turkey

A Visit to Hierapolis

We enter the ancient city of Hierapolis at the South Gate having been dropped off at the top of the hill by Mehmet in the hotel minibus. This means no steep climb which is just as well because the late September sun is screaming down on us and Mister’s wasp sting is looking pretty angry.

I leave him with his foot in a shallow spring (will the waters work their magic?) and head up the hill to investigate the well-preserved theatre.

Hierapolis Theatre

The Theatre, Hierapolis
Theatre at Hierapolis

Constructed around 200 BC the theatre held up to 20,000 spectators, the stage buildings are decorated with detailed reliefs and there is VIP seating at the front; the views from the Gods at the top across the Lycos Valley are stunning.

Over the centuries the city of Hierapolis has been hit by several earthquakes and in 1334 a huge quake led to abandonment of the site, however, the theatre withstood the tremors due to the strength of the vaulted passages underneath.

Hierapolis – the gate to hell

Gateway to Hades
Gateway to Hades – photo credit Wikipedia

I leave the theatre and follow the path down past the remaining foundations of the Temple of Apollodedicated to Apollo Lairbenos founder of the city.  Had I crossed to the other side of the temple I’d have confronted the Gate to Hell – I’d have definitely sneaked a peek even if just to tempt fate! 

Named the Plutonium this small cave was believed to be the domain of the Roman god Pluto (Hades in Greek). Toxic gas was, and still is, emitted from an underground spring. The eunuch priests were the only ones with the power (or the savvy to hold their breath) to enter the cave and emerge unscathed. 

The small animals and birds they took with them didn’t survive. In recent years two tourists have died here and the subterranean entrance is now closed off – the fumes can apparently be heard bubbling through the underground spring as they rise to the surface.

Hierapolis Antique Pool

Antique Pool at Hierapolis

We bypass The Antique Pool – it’s warmed by hot springs and the water holds segments of ancient marble columns.  You can also visit Doctor Fish to get your feet nibbled – but not really our thing.  I hope it looks a little more antique inside…

Plateia, Hierapolis

We head down Plateia, the main street of Hierapolis, which runs for half a mile from the south gate to the monumental Arch of Domitian which serves as the northern entrance to the city.  It has three arches and two towers, and was originally two stories high.

The gate led into a colonnaded street known as Frontinus Street which was the centre of the city during Roman times.

Arch of Domitian, Hierapolis
Plateia, the main street of Hierapolis

To the left of the gate are the pillars of the latrine – the most public and the most ornate gent’s toilets I’ve ever seen – not that I’ve seen many gent’s toilets.

Hierapolis Necropolis

We pass through the Gate of Domitian and come to The Necropolis or graveyard which has three different areas, north, south and west. The north is the largest with more than 1200 graves including tumuli, sarcophagi and house-shaped tombs from the Hellenistic, Roman and early Christian periods.

Tombs at Hierapolis
Tomb with a view… the necropolis at Hierapolis

As long ago as 190 BC people travelled from afar to Hierapolis to take the waters and heal their ailments; although looking at the size of The Necropolis – the largest in Anatolia – it would seem that the waters were somewhat lacking.  

They certainly didn’t help Mister’s wasp sting – at least not half as much as the large, ice-cold Efes we had when we got back to Pamukkale town…

Hierapolis and Pamukkale visiting information

Entrance fees to Pamukkale and Hierapolis are 42TL to both attractions and entrance to the Hieropolis Museum of Architecture is a further amount.  It’s also an extra cost to swim in the Antique Pool

Visit in spring or autumn to avoid the high-season crush. Start your visit with a stroll through Hieropolis and save your descent down the travertine for just before sunset. It’ll be quieter, cooler and the white terraces will glow golden in the last rays of the sun as the moon rises behind the plateau.

Looking back to the Travertines
Looking back to the Travertines

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Thursday 28th of May 2015

Looks like a good adventure. How busy was it and did you do it in a tour group or did you do it on your own? Can you do it on your own?

Suzanne Jones

Thursday 28th of May 2015

Hi David, yes we did the tour on our own although our B&B dropped us up to the gate at Hieropolis. The travertines were very busy with coach parties when we arrived (late morning) so we spent a few hours at Hierapolis and then went to the travertines when the crowds had died down. Definitely stay until sunset.


Saturday 13th of December 2014

I want to go back now - Been about 11 years since I have been!

Suzanne Jones

Saturday 13th of December 2014

Coupled with Pamukkale it's a fabulous place to visit - I'd like to go back soon as well :)

A Mini Tour of Turkey | the travelbunny

Tuesday 23rd of July 2013

[…] pools.  People have bathed here for thousands of years.  Nearby is the archaeological town of Hierapolis with amphitheatre, necropolis, monumental gates and ancient ruins. We had just one night in […]


Tuesday 2nd of July 2013

Great memories. About 20 years ago we went for a swim in that antique pool during a massive rainstorm. It was warm and felt like swimming in champagne or at least a fancy mineral water. There are actually columns and relics in the water- quite surreal. The place was a hotel then and cost about $1 for a swim if you weren't a guest. But everything was a bargain then. The nice hotel in the main street of Pammukale was only $4 for a double en-suite. Quite a unique destination. I think I want to go back. Regards Peet

The Travelbunny

Wednesday 3rd of July 2013

Great to hear how it was back then - I'd guess you'll see major changes if you return! Thanks for dropping by :)


Saturday 25th of May 2013

I loved walking through the Hierapolis, it was definitely one of the highlights of my Turkey trip! You got some great photos of the place!

The Travelbunny

Saturday 25th of May 2013

We did too - Pammukale and Herapolis defintely compliment each other to make a wonderful trip

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