Guide To Visiting Hierapolis Ancient City In Turkey

Hierapolis Ancient City

Hierapolis, Turkey is an extraordinary place that should not be missed when traveling to this beautiful country. The historic sites blend beautifully with the area’s natural beauty to create an unforgettable travel destination. You can explore some of the best-preserved Greco-Roman ruins while visiting the Hierapolis ancient city. And on the same day, you can also enjoy the stunning travertine terraces of Pamukkale’s famous Cotton Castle.

Curious to know more about the ancient ruins of Hierapolis? Keep reading to learn more about the site’s history, key places to visit within Hierapolis, and other valuable tips to guide you during your visit. We’ll detail everything you need to know to upgrade your adventure to Hierapolis’ ancient city!

The Basics Of Visiting Hierapolis Ancient City

Where Is Hierapolis, Turkey?

Hierapolis is located in the Denizli Province in the southwestern Anatolia region of Turkey. It is located in the town of Pamukkale, right next to the Instagram famous Cotton Castle.

These are the distances from other famous Turkish destinations for you to have as reference:

  • Istanbul to Hierapolis: about 350 miles (570 km); 7 – 8 hour drive.
  • Denizli to Hierapolis: 12 miles (20 km); 20-minute drive
  • Izmir to Hierapolis: about 150 miles (242 km); 3 – 4 hour drive.
  • Antalya to Hierapolis: about 150 miles (242 km); 3 – 4 hour drive.

How Do You Visit Hierapolis Ancient City?

There are several ways to enter the visitor area that includes the Hierapolis ancient city and the Cotton Castle. In any case, you will be paying for access to both, the ruins and the travertine terraces. They are a packaged deal and will leave you 110 Turkish Lira lighter (that’s how much we paid in October 2021).

The three main entrances to Hierapolis Ancient City are:

  • Western entrance: you will need to walk over the travertine cliffs to reach Hierapolis from here.
  • South gate: easy to access if you have your own car. Closest entrance to the most famous ruins in Hierapolis.
  • North gate: pretty far from everything. This is not the best option for visiting the Hierapolis ancient city.

How Much Time Do You Need At The Ruins?

Hierapolis is one of the biggest archaeological sites in Turkey due to its size and significance. It takes about 45 minutes to walk between some of the major sites within Hierapolis. If you want to see the ruins well, you could easily spend north of two hours wandering around this historic area.

Ready to visit Hierapolis and the travertine terraces? Make sure to read the 37 things nobody tells you about visiting Pamukkale! (must read before you visit!)

What Is the History Of The Hierapolis Ancient City?

Guide to visiting the ancient city of Hierapolis

Hierapolis was initially settled in the 2nd century BC by the kings of Pergamon. These kings were the rulers of an ancient Greek state that ruled much of Asia Minor during this era. The area was valued because it could be used as a thermal spa. How cool that spas were also a thing 2,200 years ago?

However, shortly after being founded by the Greeks, Hierapolis was brought under the control of the Roman Empire. This is why Hierapolis is accurately referred to as Greco-Roman ruins.

The ancient city of Hierapolis peaked in its importance during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Eventually it became one of the great cities in the Roman province of Asia Minor.

The construction of this ancient city next to famous mineral springs is no coincidence. The thermal waters in this area have been considered to have unique therapeutic benefits for centuries. Hierapolis was a popular place to live for elderly and ailing individuals with means.

Can’t-Miss Places To Explore While Visiting Hierapolis

1. Hierapolis Theater

Hierapolis Theater Turkey

There are few things in this world more breathtaking than a beautifully preserved ancient city. Hierapolis’ most notable and well-preserved structure is its theatre. Built in the 2nd century AD, this old theatre boasts some of the best-preserved interior details from any ancient Roman ruin. The elaborate carvings and statues that decorate the area around the main stage are stunning.

The theatre boasts 45 rows of seats that could hold up to 15,000 spectators. The central seating area in the front was reserved for priests, special guests, and high-ranking officials.

2. Antique Pool (Cleopatra’s Pool)

The one-and-only Cleopatra visited Hierapolis to enjoy the thermal waters. But she didn’t bathe with the common folks. Nope. Cleopatra has her own pool in the interior of a temple dedicated to Apollo. The temple was destroyed following a massive earthquake. However, the historic and therapeutic bath still remains. Ancient pillars are stills scattered at the bottom of the pool.

While historically impressive, the Antique Pool is very touristy. You will probably find large tour groups soaking in the hot springs at any given time. It’s worth experiencing if you can get there early, but it doesn’t have a very historic feel in its current state.

WOTW Tip: an additional payment of 100 Lira is required if you want to enter the Antique Pool.

3. The Main Street & Gate Of Domitian

East to find if walking on a parallel path past the travertine cliffs, the main street and the Gate of Domitian showcase an impressive mix of ancient ruins. The gate with its three beautiful arches must have been a grand entrance during the Hierapolis’ glory years.

You can also find the public toilets near the Gate of Domitian! I don’t know why ancient restrooms are so fascinating, but it totally is something you have to check out.

4. The Necropolis

Beyond the gate on the main street is the ancient city’s necropolis. There are a huge number (over 1,200) of large and elaborately carved tombs. It’s amazing the see how the ancient Romans sent the dead into the afterlife with such glorious tombs.

Interestingly, the number of tombs does not reflect the size of Hierapolis’ ancient city. Because many people moved here when they were older in age, there are many many tombs 😉

5. Apollo’s Temple

Apollo was the most important god during the Hierapolis’ greek period. And even though the temple isn’t in the best shape, it is still worth a visit while exploring the ruins.

Apollo’s Temple was constructed on top of a natural fault line. This was not a lapse in judgment by the designers, but rather a conscious decision to create the impression that the temple had access to the underworld. Keep reading about Devil’s Gate to learn more!

6. Devil’s Gate (Plutonian)

Apollo’s Temple contains an area known for being the gates leading to the underworld. The fault lines underneath the temple released a toxic gas that would kill any living creature exposed to it for too long. Ancient priests claimed that it was the gates to the underworld! And the tricky priests knew of ways to enter the toxic part of the temple without breathing in the lethal gases, thereby proving their holiness to the people of Hierapolis.

Hierapolis’ ancient city wasn’t all about good times at the spa. The characteristics of the volcanic environment also led to unique religious practices!

Is Hierapolis Ancient City Worth Visiting?

We had a wonderful time exploring the beautiful Greco-Roman ruins of Hierapolis during our visit to Pamukkale. Many people completely ignore this ancient city when visiting the cotton castle. But we think that the ruins are totally worth a visit!

Part of the appeal of visiting Hierapolis is that nobody actually seems to care to adventure out to many of the more remote structures. That means that you will find yourself walking along ancient pathways with nobody else in sight. I mean, how often do you get to have beautiful Roman ruins to yourself?

So yes, Hierapolis’ ancient city is totally worth visiting! If you have any questions, leave them in comments below. We are always happy to help!

Thanks for reading!


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