Are you planning a trip to Turkey and wondering how to get from Istanbul to Pamukkale? You’re in the right place!
Located in the southwest region of Turkey, Pamukkale is one of the most unique destinations in the country. Meaning “Cotton Castle” in Turkish, this famous UNESCO Heritage Site features both natural beauty and rich history.
Visitors can soak in the refreshing waters of the travertine terraces and explore the ancient ruins of the Hierpolis all in the same place. There is nothing quite like it in Turkey.
As you have expected, there are many ways to get from Istanbul to Pamukkale. It is one of the most popular routes in Turkey and one that we’ve done many times.
In this article, we’ll be sharing tips and tricks on how to get from Istanbul to Pamukkale, the best mode of transport, approximate travel time, and other essential travel details.
So let’s get right into it.
Planning a trip to Pamukkale last-minute?
Make sure you book your tours and places to stay ahead of time to ensure availability!
Here are our recommended tours in Pamukkale:
- Day Tour From Istanbul To Pamukkale
- 2-Day Tour From Istanbul To Pamukkale And Ephesus (Most time efficient!)
- Pamukkale – Hierapolis Guided Tour (Great for learning more about the history!)
- Pamukkale Hot Air Balloon Flight (EPIC experience!)
Here are our recommended places to stay in Pamukkale:
- The most convenient and quickest way to get from Istanbul to Pammukale is by taking a flight. However, flights only get you as far as Denizli Airport, which is an hour away from Pamukkale.
- Long-distance buses go from Istanbul to Pamukkale, but like the flights, they go as far as Denizli. From the Denizli Bus Station, you’ll need to switch to a minibus to Pammukale. Long-distance buses can take anywhere from 9 to 12 hours because of the numerous stops in between
- Since there is a lot of planning involved, taking a guided tour is one of the best ways to get to Pamukkale from Istanbul. You don’t have to worry about flights, transfers, where to eat, and even admission. Plus you get a guide that helps you learn more about the historic site of Pamukkale.
Distance From Istanbul To Pamukkale
Before you decide which mode of transportation to get from Istanbul to Pamukkale, let’s figure out how far the two places are from each other. Istanbul and Pamukkale are quite far from each other, with one being in Northwest Turkey and the other in Southwest Turkey. Approximately 572 km or 355 miles separate these two famous tourist attractions.
It takes about 6 to 7.5 hours of driving to get from Istanbul to Pamukkale and vice versa, or about a 70-minute plane journey.
From Istanbul To Pamukkale By Plane: The Quickest Way
Flying is the quickest and perhaps the most convenient way to get from Istanbul to Pamukkale. Unfortunately, Pamukkale does not have its own airport, and the closest airport to it is the Denizli Cardak Airport. The airport is located 69 kilometers or 43 miles Southeast of Pammukale, and it takes about an hour to drive between the two places.
Domestic flights in Turkey are relatively affordable, and given that the flight takes 70 minutes to get from Istanbul to Denizli, and then another hour to get to Pamukkale, it is certainly the quickest way to get from Istanbul to Pamukkale. This is perfect for those with a short Turkey itinerary.
Which Istanbul Airport To Depart From?
Because the closest airport to Pamukkale is the Denizli Cardak Airport, travelers must look for that airport when buying their plane tickets.
With the addition of the new Istanbul Airport (IST) in 2018, Istanbul now has two airports. The other being Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW). Flights from Istanbul to Denizli Airport are available from both IST and SAW airport, so visitors can choose whichever one is more convenient for them.
The main difference between the Istanbul Airport and SAW Airport is that the Istanbul Airport is on the European Side and the SAW Airport is on the Asian Side.
Generally speaking, the Istanbul Airport is going to be more convenient because the European Side is where most tourists stay. It is where the historic center of Istanbul, Sultanahmet, and the modern center of Istanbul, Taksim, are located.
Pro Tip: The flights from SAW Airport To Denizli Cardak Airport are usually cheaper than the flights from the new Istanbul Airport.
Both airports in Istanbul offer regular flights to Pamukkale, but Istanbul Airport is generally a little bit more convenient to get to. Of course, if you have a planned airport shuttle, then none of this matters.
Which Airline to Fly With?
There are three airlines that serve the Istanbul to Denizli flight route:
- Turkish Airlines
- Pegasus Airlines
- Turkish Airlines (But operated by AnadoluJet)
Turkish Airlines offer the best quality but since it is such a short flight, it doesn’t matter much. It is worth noting that Turkish Airline is the only airline that flies out of Istanbul Airport (IST) on the European Side.
The other two airlines fly out of Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) on the Asian side.
Getting From Denizli Airport To Pamukkale
Getting from Istanbul to Denizli Airport is the simple part, but now you must figure out how to get to Pamukkale. As we mentioned, it is about an hour drive from Denizli Airport to Pamukkale.
As easy as that might sound, there is no bus or train that takes you from Denizli Airport to Pamukkale. You have the option to take a shuttle bus from Denizli Airport to Denizli city center, and each shuttle bus is timed according to the arrival times of the flights.
Then from Denizli bus station, you can catch a minibus to Pamukkale. We’ll go more into this down below in the section about getting to Pamukkale by bus.
It is quite a bit of a hassle to do that, and we’ve personally found the shuttle buses in Turkey to be quite unreliable. Of course, you can rent a car or get a taxi, but taxi drivers are very likely to scam you, just like most do all over the country.
A more hassle-free way to get from Denizli Airport to Pamukkale is with a pre-arranged shuttle transfer.
Read More: How To Get From Istanbul to Cappadocia?
From Istanbul To Pamukkale By Bus: The Most Economical Way
Because getting from Denizli Airport to Pamukkale is a little bit difficult, getting the bus is a great option.
Similarly, buses going from Istanbul to Pamukkale only go as far as Denizli bus station. From there, travelers will have to switch to one of the minibusses (dolmus in Turkish) that go to Pamukkale.
Even though it would take about 6 to 7.5 hours to drive directly from Istanbul to Pamukkale, the buses from Istanbul to Denizli can take anywhere from 9 to 12 hours. That is because they make plenty of stops along the way. We haven’t even included the time it takes to get from Denizli to Pamukkale, which is another hour or so.
Where To Get The Bus In Istanbul?
Long-distance buses going from Istanbul to Denizli depart regularly from both Istanbul’s European side and Asian side. There are a lot of bus terminals in Istanbul, and it is important that you (more importantly, your taxi driver) get it right.
If you are visiting Istanbul as a tourist, chances are, you’ll be staying on the European side near Taksim or Sultanahmet. The main bus station on the European side of Istanbul is Esenler Otogari, which is accessible by public transportation, namely the Metro.
The buses that depart on the European side often make stops on the Asian side, so if you are staying on the Asian side, you’ll need to double check whether you need to go to the European side or if you can get the bus on the Asian side.
How To Buy Bus Tickets in Istanbul?
All bus tickets and schedules can be found on the Turkish official bus site here. Theoretically, you can purchase tickets through this website, but we’ve never been successful.
If you cannot purchase a ticket online, it is important that you get there the day before and buy your ticket, especially during the peak season. Buses do get full, especially if you buy the ticket near its departure time and date.
There are tour agencies throughout the historic center of Istanbul that can help you buy tickets, so you can save the time and effort of going to the bus station and back.
Alternatively, what we’ve been doing is getting our tickets with BusBud. They are a reliable company and we’ve had only good experiences with them. But it is worth noting that not all bus companies are on their site, especially the more local and budget ones.
Should You Take A Night Bus or Day Bus From Istanbul To Pamukkale?
Because the journey is over 10 hours, we recommend taking the night bus from Istanbul to Pamukkale because you can sleep through most of it. Remember you’ll have to get off at Denizli, but if you leave at night, you’ll arrive at Denizli early morning, which means you can hop straight on the minibus to Pamukkale.
If you take a day bus, you’ll get to Denizli at night, when the minibusses are most likely not going to be running. Unless you catch a cab to Pamukkale, you’ll most likely be going to have to spend the night in Denizli, which isn’t quite a particularly nice place.
If you are traveling on a budget in Turkey, you can definitely save some money. A night bus is cheaper than a flight and you can save on a night of accommodation because you’ll be (hopefully) sleeping on the bus. It also goes to Denizli bus station, which is a huge convenience!
Going From Denizli Bus Station To Pamukkale
Going from Denizli Bus Station to Pamukkale is simple. However, when you arrive, you might be fairly intimidated. Known as Denizli Otogar in Turkish, the bus station is huge and has multiple floors.
The floor you’ll want to go to is the lower level (B1) where the minibusses depart. Gate 76 is where you’ll find the minibusses that go from Denizli to Pamukkale. They usually depart every 15 to 20 minutes, but they also depart whenever it is full.
Though only 16 km or 10 mi separates Denizli Bus Station and Pamukkale, the journey takes about 45 minutes because the bus makes plenty of stops and detours along the way.
Unfortunately, you cannot reserve your tickets online. Make sure you pay directly to the minibus driver.
The bus drops you off in Pamukkale town, which is a small town with only a handful of streets. From the drop-off point, you can walk to your accommodation! The bus continues onto Karahayıt, another popular town to stay when visiting the historic site of Pamukkale-Hierapolis.
Guided Tour From Istanbul To Pamukkale
Because there can be a lot of logistics to plan when going from Istanbul to Pamukkale, some travelers might prefer a guided tour that includes everything from flights to hotels to where to eat in Pamukkale all sorted.
There are plenty of benefits when getting a guided tour. Getting a transfer from Denizli Airport to Pamukkale is notoriously difficult, and navigating the big Denizli bus station can be confusing. It is no wonder why tours from Istanbul to Pamukkale are so popular.
Pro Tip: If you are taking a tour from Istanbul to Pamukkale, you might want to consider one that includes Ephesus (such as this one), another one of Turkey’s most famous landmarks. It is situated very close to Pamukkale so you can essentially kill two birds with one stone!
From Istanbul To Pamukkale By Train
Another option to get from Istanbul to Pamukkale is by train. Unfortunately, there is no train station in Pamukkale, and the nearest one is in Denizli. Another disadvantage of using the train is that there is NO direct train from Istanbul to Pamukkale.
If you would like to take the train, the quickest option is taking the high-speed rail (called Yüksek Hızlı Tren or YHT for short) from Istanbul to Eskişehir, a city about a 4.5-hour drive or 350 km (217 mi) Northeast of Pamukkale. From there, visitors can switch to the local train called the Pamukkale Express that goes from Eskişehir to Denizli and vice versa.
The Pamukkale Express takes you to Denizli Train Station, which is situated across from the Denizli Bus Station, where travelers can get the minibus to Pamukkale. Unfortunately, that minibus is unavoidable!
As scenic as the train journey might be, we don’t recommend going this route. The so-called Pamukkale “Express” takes 8 hours to get from Eskişehir to Denizli, and there is only one departure daily at 11 AM. This means that you have to spend a night in Eskişehir, which is actually quite a beautiful city with a mix of new and old.
However, it certainly isn’t the most efficient way to get to Pamukkale. That is why we don’t recommend you to take the train from Istanbul to Pamukkale because it’s a multi-day endeavor. Plus, you’ll be off the beaten path, so you’ll find that not many Turkish locals speak English.
You’ll need to you buy your train ticket ahead of time. As expected, you cannot do this online and must go there the day before to secure your ticket. You’ll run the risk of it selling out if you wait until the day of.
Driving From Istanbul To Pamukkale
The last method to get from Istanbul to Pamukkale is by driving. To do that, you would need to have a rental car.
While we usually don’t recommend driving in a foreign country, hiring a rental car and driving to Pammuakle has plenty of benefits in this case. There are several towns and cities along the route that are worth stopping.
If you drive directly to Pamukkale from Istanbul, it takes 6 to 7.5 hours, which is significantly quicker than the bus and probably even quicker than taking a flight (if you include getting to and from the airport).
The roads in Turkey aren’t in bad condition as well. But from our experience, Turkish drivers can get very aggressive when driving, so be extra careful when driving in Turkey.
If you are planning on driving from Istanbul to Pamukkale with a rental car, here are the places we recommend checking out:
- Bursa – Bursa is the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. Travelers will find UNESCO World Heritage Sites in a city surrounded by beautiful nature and a national park. It is one of the best cities near Istanbul to visit!
- Iznik – The birthplace of the famous Iznik tiles, which are used to decorate some of the most famous Turkish landmarks, such as the Blue Mosque and the Harem inside Topkapi Palace.
- Izmir – About a 1.5-hour detour, Izmir is a coastal city and with a historic old town and bustling markets. It has a big university population and amazing nightlife because of that. Visitors can also go down to Alacati, one of the most beautiful places in Turkey!
- Ephesus – The UNESCO Heritage Site of the ancient city of Ephesus is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Turkey. It is only a 1.5 hour detour away. Definitely worth it!
- Kuşadası – A beautiful beach resort town next to Ephesus, it has beautiful beaches, great seafood and nice nightlife!
- Sirince – Also right next to Ephesus, Sirince is a charming hilltop village in western Turkey known for its traditional Turkish architecture, local handicrafts, and local wine. It’s got a unique laid-back vibe that we loved!
Can You Take A Day Trip From Istanbul to Pamukkale?
One of the most often asked questions is “Can you take a day trip from Istanbul to Pamukkale”.
The answer is yes. Would we recommend it? Only with a guided tour.
The earliest flight that leaves from Istanbul to Denizli is at around 6:30 AM, which means that visitors can typically get to the door of Pamukkale at 10 to 11 AM the latest. It takes about 4 to 5 hours to explore the entire site, from soaking in the Cleopatra Antique Pools, admiring the travertine terraces and discovering the ancient site of Hierapolis and its amphitheater.
This means that visitors should be done visiting Pamukkale at around 3 to 4 PM (including a short lunch). This gives you some time to return back to Denizli Airport and fly back to Istanbul. The last flight back to Istanbul from Denizli is usually around 8 PM.
The only issue with this is that you must have everything prepared, from transfers to taxis and etc. If you get lost or anything happens to you that eats up your time, you might end up missing your flight or not being able to enjoy Pamukkale properly.
For that reason, if you want to take a day trip to Pamukkale from Istanbul, we highly recommend going with a tour company. They’ll sort everything out – from transfers to where to eat and more. This means you can just enjoy Pamukkale and its beauty without any stress.
How to Get From Pamukkale To Istanbul?
Getting back to Istanbul from Pamukkale is very similar. The tricky part is knowing where to catch the minibus from Pamukkale back to Denizli. There is not exactly a “bus stop” in Pamukkale, so you’ll have to flag it down along its route.
Its route tends to change here and there. We’ve flagged it down in different places (not on the same road) at different times, so we recommend you to ask the local where will the bus be passing by. The locals in Pamukkale speak very good English because the town receives a lot of tourists.
Once you are in Denizli Bus Station, you can take a long-distance bus, head to the airport, or use any of the options we mentioned above to get back to Pamukkale. From here on out, the route is pretty much the same way you came from.
We don’t recommend you to go back from Pamukkale to Istanbul if you haven’t seen the attractions near it, such as Ephesus, Izmir, Kusadasi, Alacati, and more.
Read More: How To Get From Izmir to Pamukkale?
From Istanbul to Pamukkale FAQS
Is It Safe To Drive From Istanbul To Pamukkale?
The drive from Istanbul to Pamukkale is quite safe. The road conditions in Turkey are generally good and the drive is mostly done on a well-maintained highway. However, you’ll need to be careful of aggressive drivers!
When Is The Best Time To Visit Pamukkale?
The best time to visit Pamukkale is spring or autumn (March to May and September to early November). The temperature at this time of the year is mild, so visitors can explore Pamukkale without worrying about getting heat-related illnesses. It is also warm enough to go swimming in the pools! Summer is very hot in Pamukkale, and because most of the site is unshaded, the sun can be quite detrimental.
How Long Is The Flight From Istanbul To Pamukkale?
The flight from Istanbul to Pamukkale is around 70 to 75 minutes, depending on which airport you depart from. However, the flight goes to Denizli Airport, which is about an hour drive from Pamukkale.
Does Pamukkale Have An Airport?
Technically speaking, Pamukkale does not have its own airport. The closest airport is Denizli Çardak Airport in Denizli, which is located 69 kilometers or 43 miles southeast of Pammukale. From Denizli Airport, it takes about an hour to drive to Pamukkale.
Conclusion: How To Get From Istanbul To Pammukale
As you can see, there are many ways to get from Istanbul to Pammukale. For the majority of travelers, taking a flight, a long-distance bus, or a guided tour is the most convenient way.
However, visitors that want to do a road trip in Turkey should definitely not miss the chance to drive from Istanbul to Pammukale!