What to do
The town is right next to the hot springs (although they’re not so hot). Because of the devastation that has been caused at the feet of thousands of trampling tourists, they are now seriously restricting access to the area. As you follow a stream up the mountain, you can go bathing in various concrete supported areas that hold the water. It is mandatory to remove your shoes, and the rocks under the feet can get painful at times. (fortunately they’re not hot). Once you make it to the top of the path, you can walk around the paved paths with overlooks on to the original thermal bathing pools.
We’re sure it used to be beautiful before they tried to make it tourist friendly. There is still some of the former beauty, but all the cement and the dried off pools they caused, it’s all a little bittersweet.
At the top, there are the ruins of Hierapolis. Although the ruins cover a large area, they are not very well preserved. We quickly toured the archaeology museum.
To get back down to the town of Pamukkale, it is necessary to walk the way you came up. We were told by the tourist office at the top that there is another trail that winds down the other side of the mountain, but after exploring for 30 minutes we couldn’t clearly see a trail. (although we did spot some thermal pools that they were not policing that people were swimming in). A minibus driver told us he’d take us to the town in “10 minutes” but it ended up taking over an hour, by which time we’d missed our bus eastwards, and ended up stuck in Denizli, but we won’t get started on that again.
Don’t be fooled by all the natural, lovely pictures of Pamukkale you will find on the web and in your guidebook. They are no longer there. The thermal pools are fenced off, and the walk up the mountain is hardly natural. If you’re looking for a day to kill and you’re in Kusadasi, it’s worth doing. But it’s not really a natural site any more.