Last Updated October, 2021
Traveling from Antalya to Pamukkale is possible not only on a bus or private tour. It can be quite an adventure to go by car.
We have just returned from our 3-day mini road trip to Pamukkale and I wanted to write down all the highlights of this trip while it is still fresh in my memory. It was amazing.
First of all, Pamukkale completely blew our minds. And visiting it during the lockdown, when the entire country was on a curfew but tourists are welcome to travel, was once in a lifetime experience.
Second, we didn’t even know how many sights lie out there in the vicinity of Pamukkale.
And third, that was a surprising discovery to find out how much beauty is on the stretch of the road between Pamukkale and Antalya. If we wanted to travel one long week just between these two cities, we’d have lots of activities to keep us busy.
So… to keep my introduction short and to help you get inspired. If you are thinking about the possibility to drive from Antalya to Pamukkale or from Pamukkale to Antalya, don’t think for too long but do it! The drive is absolutely beautiful and has a lot of surprises. More on that below in my post.
NOTE: If you need to rent a car for your road trip then book through MyRentaCar or Discover Cars. It will allow you to find the best price across all car rental companies. We use the services of these companies in many countries, not just Turkey. I explain why and answer all questions about car hire and driving in Turkey in this guide, give it a read.
Also, I have another post dedicated only to car hire in Antalya, also check it out. This post also includes some tips for driving in Antalya.
Is Travel From Antalya to Pamukkale By Car a Good Idea?
When we decided to go to Pamukkale, not Mark, not me wanted to travel there by bus or on a tour. It’s just not our style to hop from one place to another trying to squeeze in one day a number of activities that you need at least 2 full days for. Plus with corona, we feel safer and more confident on our own in a private vehicle than on a big tour.
Also, we love road trips, different adventures, and a sense of freedom. Having a car with us provided an opportunity to have all of that.
I don’t want to belittle day tours and private day trips to Pamukkale from Antalya or any other city in Turkey organized by different companies. They have their own advantages and suit well those travelers who have very little time in the country. They also work better for anyone who would like to travel with a guide who’ll be able to tell stories and share historical facts.
But traveling by car in Turkey is just so awesome. Roads are in excellent condition, there are always authentic cafes along the way where you can stop for a traditional meal and a bit of culture, and the scenery amazes most of the time.
The stretch of the road between Pamukkale and Antalya is very scenic. Even if you don’t want to make any stops, the landscape outside the window is so pleasing to the eye.
Planning Antalya to Pamukkale Tour By Car
The drive from Antalya to Pamukkale is quick and easy and it takes around 3.5 hours one way. As a matter of fact, there are two roads between these two destinations and each of them is scenic in its own way.
One road is a highway E87 that goes through a big city Denizli, a desert, and a few small towns. Another one, mainly a network of country roads and highways, goes by lakes, small Turkish villages, nowadays famous Yesilova town, and beautiful countryside.
Most of the roads in both directions are well-maintained, and you’ll find ample places to stop for gas and food, picnics, and rest areas.
For those who are looking just to drive to Pamukkale, without making any stops along the way, the best route to choose is highway E87 that goes through Korkuteli, Acipayam, and Denizli. In any other case, to turn this drive into an adventurous road trip that includes a bunch of stops, it is better to choose another route through Yesilova.
If you plan to go from Antalya to Pamukkale by car and then return to Antalya, I recommend you take a highway E87 and don’t make any stops on the way there. It will allow you to reach Pamukkale early and spend the rest of the day in travertines (and stay for the sunset!) or nearby sites. But on the way back, follow another road (the one I discuss here below with all the stops) and enjoy one of the best road trips in Turkey.
Pamukkale to Antalya Distance
The Antalya to Pamukkale distance is between 250-300 kilometers, depending on which road you take. The final distance also depends on a departure point, so it can be somewhat longer or shorter.
If you decide to drive straight without any stops and take the highway E87, expect to cover this distance in 3.5-4 hours. On a weekday during the rush time, there may be traffic in Antalya and Denizli or construction (there is always some type of construction on Turkish back roads), so that adds up to the time and I wouldn’t expect to spend less than 4 hours on the road.
If you choose a longer route that I recommend in this post, it will obviously take more time to drive but with a few pretty interesting places between these two destinations, you won’t even notice how fast the time passes. Besides that, the road is so scenic that it will be easy enough not to think about the driving time and distance.
6 Best Stops to Make On Antalya to Pamukkale Road Trip
I am sharing below all the places that we visited and that both of us believe are awesome. They will turn your road trip from Antalya to Pamukkale into adventure!
1. Kapuz Canyon
Kapuz canyon is the closest canyon to the center of Antalya tucked in Gulluk Mountain Termessos National Park. It might seem odd to detour from the main road before even leaving the city, but if you have time, it’s well worth a stop. Especially if you are leaving Antalya in the morning.
The canyon itself is small and has a stream of water exiting it and cliffs on all sides. The water is clear and you can see crabs and fish. Getting to the canyon is a bit confusing (I am leaving coordinates below) but once you know the way, it takes between 10-15 minutes to walk one way while enjoying the sound of nature and beautiful views.
I have seen a lot of canyons on my travels and although Kapuz canyon is not big, I can still admit that it is magnificent. If you have more time in Antalya and don’t want to stop on a trip to Pamukkale, come to see this canyon on another occasion.
Since reaching the canyon is somewhat confusing, I am sharing the coordinates where we parked our car. You’ll need to turn from the asphalt road to a dirt road and drive for about 1.5 km to leave the car. From that point walk towards the canyon through the river for about 10-15 min. The river is usually shallow (unless it’s early spring after the rainy season). But there are also huge rocks in the water to help you cross it.
2. Tefenni Villas
Tefenni Villas is actually a hotel near the next on this list destination which has much more to offer than just accommodation for a night. It is a great place to stop for nature lovers and everyone else who enjoys a very peaceful environment.
The property itself is stunning, contains a big territory with garden and old tractors, a museum, and a mini-farm with domestic animals (sheep, hens, geese, peacocks, horses). There is also a pool and a restaurant serving meals made from local organic produce.
In case you are wondering, yes, you can stop by to visit even if you don’t plan to stay overnight. Although for that, you have to buy something at their restaurant. A traditional Turkish breakfast is served until late afternoon (costs around $5 per person), so it can be another reason why to make a stop here.
Before corona, I know outside guests could come to swim in a pool in exchange for a fee or food ordered at the restaurant. I am not sure if they still allow it today but if you are really up for it, send a message and inquire about that.
Tefenni Villas can be a good stop for families with children, couples, or friends traveling together. A relaxing atmosphere, fresh organic food, a small museum and animals, and very welcoming management guarantee a fabulous time there.
Additionally, it is a wonderful hotel where to base yourself for a night or two if you would like to explore the lake district in the Central Anatolia region or if you are a slow traveler like us. When staying overnight, you are welcome to pick vegetables in the garden or fruits from the trees and eat them. To see more of Tefenni Villas, click here to see reviews, photos and availability.
Note: follow the signs to this hotel since google maps don’t show the right way.
3. Lavender Garden
A small lavender garden that is part of the roadside cafe is a short detour from the main road. On maps, you’ll see it by the name Lavanta Bahçesi (which means lavender garden in English).
The territory of this garden includes a place to relax on the grass in the shade of the trees, swings, decorative elements as a background for photos, and a small souvenir shop. A shop may be of particular interest to many of you guys since it sells essential oil, kolonya (Turkish scented water which has properties of a sanitizer), soap made from lavender that grows in the garden nearby.
Besides that, you can also try lavender ice cream, buy a lavender bouquet for the road and enjoy the lavender scent everywhere. In June and July, when the lavender season is in full swing, it becomes a great spot for Instagram-worthy photos.
In fact, if you are looking to visit lavender fields in Turkey and don’t have much time to travel to the most famous fields in Konya then stop here on a trip from Antalya to Pamukkale. But remember that the lavender season is from late May to early August.
Here are the coordinates for this destination.
4. Salda Lake
Oh, Salda Lake or the Turkish Maldives as many people call it. The popularity of this lake is growing rapidly from year to year since more and more travelers strive to visit this natural “miracle”. And being conveniently located on the stretch of the road between Antalya and Pamukkale, it doesn’t make much time to detour to it and spend a day.
Salda Gölü is a crater reservoir of volcanic origin. Its length is 9.8 km, and its depth is 184 meters what makes it the deepest freshwater lake in Turkey. The composition of the rock of its surroundings contains magnesium and magnesite, the same composition is characteristic of the relief of the mountains on Mars. How amazing is that!
Lake Salda is not big but it is also not small. You can easily spend an entire day on its shores and crave for more. The beauty of the lake is truly striking in any weather. Even if you don’t want to stay for too long, head to one of the beaches to admire the azure colors and turquoise clear water.
The area around the lake has parks, designated beaches, cafes, camping areas, and bathroom facilities. People come here to sunbathe, swim, smear with healing clay, have a picnic, and simply enjoy such heavenly beauty. You can always drive around Salda and pause in more wild and secluded spots in the Northern or North-Eastern part.
5. Kaklik Cave
You can spice up your trip to Pamukkale by a visit to the Kaklik cave, which in Turkish means “stinky”. The locals gave it such a name because of the distinct aroma of rotten eggs from hydrogen sulfide springs.
The cave appeared relatively recently. A warm underground stream washed a high grotto in the soft limestone, the vault collapsed, and the entrance to the cave opened. Local authorities cleared it, built a staircase and pavement, and welcomed tourists in 2002. The new natural landmark quickly became popular, earning the title of “underground Pamukkale in miniature”. There is a small sanatorium built nearby, where visitors can bathe in mineral water and healing mud.
And you know what is the best part about this cave. Until this day, it doesn’t see many tourists and the entrance fee is less than $1 per person (when Pamukkale is around $12). Yes, it is much smaller than Pamukkale but no less unique or magical. I didn’t want to visit at first but in the end, we decided to check it out and I didn’t want to leave! We were the only visitors which was amazing.
The cave is small. If paying a visit to the cave alone, expect to spend at least 30 minutes there. It will include a walk around it and stops for photos. We thought to spend that much time but ended up being there for almost two hours.
For more photos, details and inspiration, see my post about our visit to Kaklik cave.
If you are traveling to Pamukkale from Antalya through Salda Lake and Kaklik Cave, Denizli will not be on your way. It is a short detour south. In case you are coming to Pamukkale by highway E87, you’ll be driving through Denizli and can stop in the city for several reasons.
Overall, Denizli is not really famous for any big sites. It is a city of “concrete boxes”, parks and wide streets. And it doesn’t differ much from most modern Turkish cities. However, Denizli has its own zest – a huge number of ancient ruins scattered around, wine stores that sell wine from the region, the cable car with amazing views, two restaurants and wooden chalets on the top, and Denizli museum which shows the ethnographic history of the area and is also a tribute to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Where to Stay on Antalya to Pamukkale Drive
Since the distance between Antalya and Pamukkale is short, it is very possible to visit Pamukkale on a day trip and go to the next destination or return to Antalya. However, if you have a car with you, do not do it. Better spend at least one night in Pamukkale and take it slower. With many activities to do in Pamukkale, you can easily spend 2-3 days there. One day is not enough. Two days, if waking up early, is much better.
But if you are planning on making stops and relaxing by one of the lakes, it is a good idea to break this road trip into a couple of nights.
Also, I am not sure if you booked your accommodation in Antalya yet. If not, I want to share the list of my favorite hotels and guest houses where to stay. Over the course of a few years, I was saving them on my map for our possible stay or to recommend them to my clients. And here are some photos from our hotel in Pamukkale. What a stay it was! More on this hotel below:
Pera Boutique Hotel – this lovely budget hotel is a great place to base yourself in the heart of Kaleci (old town of Antalya). It has been recently renovated and the rooms are new and clean. The location is very close to the sea, marina and all main attractions. Click here to see their availability.
Tema Lara Hotel – situated in the most hipster-like location of Antalya. Lara neighborhood is home to luxury-themed hotels and private villas, quirky restaurants, the biggest mall, and a beautiful promenade great for cycling rides or walks. Tema Lara has a very central location as for Lara and within walking distance from Duden waterfalls. It offers a number of great rooms to choose from and an option to include breakfast each morning. Click here to see their availability.
Crowne Plaza Antalya – if you are on the hunt for a bit of luxury in Antalya and want to stay on the first line next to the famous Konyaalti beach, then look no further than Crowne Plaza hotel. Located right off the beach and promenade it has the ideal location for easily exploring everything that Antalya has to offer. They have a range of clean rooms with a view, outdoor pool and numerous other amenities to ensure that your stay is a great one! Click here to see their availability.
The hotel scene in Lake Salda is still developing. There are mainly apartments for rent and guesthouses. A hotel Lago Di Salda which has questionable reviews is one of a few hotels in that area of an average level. If you look to stay in this region overnight, I can recommend Tefenni village. I’ve seen it on many Turkish sources and even saved the following two hotels for our possible stay:
Tefenni Villas – mentioned above. They have a number of clean, comfortable and spacious rooms on offer, a small museum, garden, and barbeque area. Breakfast is included in the room rate each morning. Click here to see their availability.
Green Garden House – another beautiful property in Tefenni village with a swimming pool, sauna, clean green territory, and beautiful rooms with Turkish style touches. They have different types of rooms that will suit budget and mid-range travelers. Click here to see their availability.
Venus Suite Hotel – where we stayed and the hotel I was very happy about. It took us a while to choose a hotel in Pamukkale but after thorough research, we found out that this property has some of the best reviews and within walking distance to the southern entrance of Pamukkale.
Located in a beautiful area with gorgeous views on all sides, they have a number of sparkling clean and comfortable rooms, an outdoor pool, lovely restaurant with a gigantic breakfast included in the rate, and all amenities to make sure you have a great stay. You can see some of my photos below of this hotel. The price will fit travelers on a tight and mid-budget as there are different types of rooms at different prices. Click here to see their availability.
The Cotton House Hotel – another lovely locally-run hotel within the same price range with excellent reviews. If you are searching for a unique stay in Pamukkale on a budget with the views of travertines, this is the place to choose. This lodging has a number of quaint rooms available, a great location and includes breakfast from local farmers each morning. Click here to see their availability.
Hierapark Thermal & Spa – if you are looking for something more sophisticated with a pool with thermal waters from Pamukkale then check hotels in the nearby town of Karahayit. It has some lovely hotels and guest houses for different budgets where besides the room guests have access to thermal pools. Hierapark Hotel, for example, offers comfortable rooms with thermal baths both indoors and outdoors, big clean rooms, and includes breakfast with dinner. Click here to see their availability.
Not quite sure what you are looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Pamukkale!
Are you thinking of either you should go on Antalya to Pamukkale or Pamukkale to Antalya trip by car or not? I will definitely say yes! This is one of the shorter road trips in Turkey that can introduce you to the country in a different way. Did you go on a tour to Pamukkale by bus or in a group? Share with me in the comments how was it and if you liked it!
Would you like to go on another drive from Antalya? Then see my post about 1 week Antalya to Fethiye road trip.