There are few experiences that have the ability to simultaneously captivate the imaginative mind of an eight-year-old and delight the seasoned traveler. The Antique Pool (also known as Cleopatra’s Pool or the Ancient Pool) in Pamukkale, Turkey, however, is sure to enrapture you regardless of your phase of life.
I have had the privilege to experience these underwater ruins frequently throughout my life. First, through the fogged snorkel of an eager, young diver. Ten years later, I would again visit these hot springs with the same childlike wonder and a renewed fondness for its timeless history and health-giving waters. You will inevitably walk away from these mineral waters revived and ready to explore the many sites Pamukkale has to offer.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site once famously served as the spiritual center and spa of the ancient city of Hierapolis. In Cleopatra’s day, a Roman temple to Apollo surmounted this pool, and the waters at its base were used for hydrotherapy and religious practices. Today, the same waters are filled with the remains of this temple, providing an equally alluring experience to those who visit. Surrounded by oleanders, palm trees, pines, and cypresses, and bestrewn with the fluted drums of fallen marble columns, plinths, and the occasional capital from the nearby Temple of Apollo, the pool is constantly refreshed by an inflow of hot calcium-laden mineral water.
The pools open for swimmers at 8 AM, and close at 5 PM. If you want a less crowded swim, be sure to visit earlier in the morning. The temperature of the water is comfortably warm, not hot. The pool is of varying depth. In most places, an adult’s feet can touch the bottom with their head above water. Substantial areas are more shallow and suitable for children. There is also a section to swim which is about 20 feet (6 meters) deep.
Towels are not provided at this site. You must bring your own, buy a towel, or air-dry. If you need to buy a towel, you might want to do it in a shop in the town of Pamukkale or Denizli, where prices may be substantially lower. Paying these fees admits you for a period of two hours, but there is little accountability. In any case, two hours is plenty of time for an enjoyable swim.
There are men’s and women’s changing rooms, toilets, souvenir shops, a restaurant, and plenty of tables and chairs set in sun and shade for those who wish not to swim, only to watch. Those who choose not to swim do not need to pay admission.
One of the most anticipated and enthralling experiences of my childhood was visiting Pamukkale and snorkeling through Cleopatra’s hot springs. Whether you are a family with children, a solo traveler, or a group of friends, this site will surely captivate you.
--By Abigail Goosen