The shortest and fastest way from Istanbul to the Pamukkale Hot Springs takes you on a ferry ride – including your car – from Yenikapi to Bandirma. From there a highway takes you straight on to your destination. But if you want to take the more scenic route, you’ll want to take the long way there.
Enjoying the Ride
Gallipoli – It’s a more indirect route but straying from the path is half the fun. The historic fort city along the coast creates an adventurous backdrop that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a wartime movie set in medieval times. But its war story goes further still with the infamous Gallipoli Campaign of World War II that history buffs will greatly appreciate.
Canakkale – Close to the Gallipoli battlefields lies the town of Canakkale of the Dardanelles. It’s another village rooted in war going as far back as the time of the Trojans to becoming a stronghold of World War I. Aside from archaeological treasures and historical importance, Canakkale holds the best of Turkish hospitality. Sample the region’s famous local olive oil, delectable cheeses, seafood, bread and pastries until you can’t eat anymore.
Troy – Everyone knows the tale of the Battle of Troy. But have you seen the actual site where once the Trojans offered their wooden horse as a gift only to ambush their enemies? It’s a totally different experience to stand in the ruins of history that now seem like legend. While the real Trojan horse can’t be found, the city does have a replica you can climb inside.
Assos – The ancient city of Assos contains a mix of cultural influences from the Greeks, Romans and Persians to the Byzantine and Ottoman empires to today’s modern Turkish people. It’s most famous as the site of Aristotle’s School of Philosophy. Temple ruins and the remains of amphitheaters overlook a mesmerizing vista of cliffside and sea, making for an adventure of epic proportions.
Ayvalik – Wander a little further and make your way to the seaside town of Ayvalik for that quaint village feel. Cobblestone streets, stone houses and fisherman boats at the dock create the picture of a quiet settlement you can easily get lost in for hours. And you can’t leave without eating the village’s signature dish, Ayvalik tostu, their specialty grilled sandwich. Made from Russian salad, sausage, sucuk, pickle, salami and kasar cheese, it’s a hearty meal that will make you savor every bite.
Izmir – Stopping in the third-largest city of Turkey brings you close to your final destination and brings you back to the present with its modern feel. Palm trees sprinkled throughout Konak Square let you know you’ve stepped into a destination that mixes the best of cosmopolitan and tropical paradise. From nature hikes to museums to local restaurants and shops, Izmir has something for every kind of traveler.
Exploring the Pamukkale Region
Sardis – Only 56 miles east of Izmir lie the ruins of Sardis, the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Lydia, now in the modern-day town of Sart. The ruins include a gymnasium, baths, synagogue and the famed Temple of Artemis. Along the way find the old Byzantine shops that once lined the road into the entrance of Sardis. Excavations of the site continue, so there are always new ruins to discover and explore.
Aphrodisias – Between Ephesus and Pamukkale lies the City of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. The city has been around for millennia, nestled within the Meander River valley. It’s where the English word meander comes from, and it’s the perfect place to wander and follow the winding path.
Hierapolis – Within the confines of the ancient city of Hierapolis you’ll find the famed Pamukkale Hot Springs and Cleopatra Pools. The natural, limestone formations of Pamukkale create such a stark image it looks like you’re walking in the clouds. Clear waters at the Cleopatra Pools let you dive straight down into the columns of old, making you feel like a royal of ancient times.
Take a winding adventure from Istanbul to Pamukkale on our signature “MAX SHORE: 24-Night Hidden Histories and The Pamukkale Hot Springs” itinerary.