I have written before about Salda Lake that named as Maldives of Turkey. Salda Lake is too close to Denizli. So I had many questions about Denizli is “What is Denizli like?” I now would like to write about this city where I take great pleasure in walking around just like a tourist.
Denizli, however, has thousands of years of history and has been a home to tens of civilizations which makes it hard for one to write about it in a single piece. I will firstly talk about what you can generally do in Denizli followed by pieces on Denizli’s archeological sites, touristic areas, and its surroundings.
Historians state that the first historical remains pertaining to Denizli were found in Eskihisar, 6 km outside of Denizli, and the city was founded by King of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire Antiochus II Theos who reigned between 262 and 245 BCE and was named Laodicea after the king’s wife Laodice. Hittite, Phrygian, Lydian, Ionian, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman civilizations reigned in the city within the historical process. When the city was seized by the Turks, the center was moved to the current Kaleiçi area as it was abundant in water resources. The city center is still located around Kaleiçi.
What to do?
There is a long list of things to do in Denizli, so I will be talking about these in categories.
Ancient Cities and Museums:
- Ancient City of Hierapolis
- Ancient City of Laodicea
- Ancient City of Tripolis
Other than the ones I listed above, there are other ancient cities and ruins like Tabea, Colossae, Eumania, Herakelia, and Attuda which are too many to be listed. Some of these cities have not yet been excavated or completed. I suggest that those who have limited time to visit Denizli should visit Hierapolis in Pamukkale and Laodicea that is rather close to the city center.
You can also visit Aphrodisias in Aydın’s Karacasu district after a short drive.
- Kaklık Cave
- Güney Waterfalls
- Keloğlan Cave
You should definitely see these sites, which I will be talking about in detail in my next piece, when you visit Denizli.
Denizli is extremely rich in thermal springs. It is known that healing waters have been used in Anatolia since the Hittites. The ancient city of Hierapolis located in Pamukkale is also rich in thermal waters and thermal springs in Karahayıt, 5 km outside of Pamukkale, are substantial mineral resources. 35 C-degree thermal springs in Pamukkale have been hosting health tourism activities since the 2nd century BCE. Today you can also benefit from this thermal spring in the ancient pool where Cleopatra allegedly had swum in. The water pouring out of this spring settles and engenders snow white Pamukkale. Moreover, the knocked-down capitals in the ancient pool take you to utterly different worlds. This is an open pool but you can swim in it even during the winter as the water temperature is at 35 C degrees in all seasons. I had swum in this pool in one February when it had been raining and it proved to be one of the most pleasant moments in my life. Swimming in company with rain dropping in the pool, the bubbles it created, and the rising steam is a completely unique pleasure.
The red colored thermal springs in Karahayıt are quite different than those of Pamukkale. You can benefit from these springs on the spot or enjoy them in pools and baths at various hotels of different services and classes located around Karahayıt. If you want to have an on the spot experience, I would suggest that you should be careful about the water temperature. The outlet temperature of the water is about 60 C degrees and you might get yourself burnt if you dive in a pool that has not been cooled down.
Natural Environment and Activities:
There are forests around and even in the city center in Denizli. You can go to Çamlık any day and enjoy the fresh air and sunlight beaming through the pine trees.
You can hike on different tracks but I will talk about these tracks in my next piece.
You can ski at the Bozdağ ski center 12 km outside Nikfer Neighborhood in Tavas Province.
You can go up to Bağbaşı Highland about 10-15 minutes away from central Denizli by an aerial railway.
You can paraglide in Pamukkale.
Many provinces of Denizli have a touristic potential of their own accord.
Buldan is one of these provinces with its natural urban landscape, its highland, and especially with its unique textile products which have become musts for visitors. It is a great pleasure to walk about the streets of Buldan listening to the sounds of handlooms and traditional looms. You can go up to the highland when you get tired and have lunch and dinner with the view of the lake at restaurants if they are open.
Babadağ proves to be another province known for its textile products but the province was scaled down in the face of landslides and the remaining streets were renovated and painted in many colors. Babadağ is one of the provinces that photography enthusiasts should definitely visit. You can also go up to the Babadağ highland and entertain the thought that you are in the Black Sea region.
You can see Güney waterfall in Güney Province.
Where to Stay?
Since Denizli is a quite developed city in terms of both tourism and industry, there is an ample number of accommodation opportunities for visitors to choose from.
Local hotels, branches of chain hotels, and bed & breakfast facilities are located in different parts of the city center. You can decide where to stay depending on what you want to do and/or how much you want to pay.
Likewise hundreds of alternatives await you if you want to stay in the Pamukkale-Karahayıt area. You can select the place you want to stay depending on what you want to do and how much you want to spend again but note that there are not many food and beverage alternatives in the area in case the hotel you choose does not offer food or you do not like the food at your hotel. If you are sensitive about what you eat, I would suggest that you choose your hotel accordingly.
What to Eat in Denizli?
You can eat anything you like in Denizli where you can find food that appeals to each taste, palate, and cuisine but of course Denizli has some unique tastes that you definitely need to have a bite of.
Denizli’s Yoghurt: If you are a yoghurt-lover like I am, you should certainly try Denizli’s special yoghurt. This strained kind of yoghurt made from sheep milk is not sour and has a smoky smell. You can also taste the non-smoky cow yoghurt.
Denizli Kebab: This is a taste you need to try at Denizli kebab houses in Kaleiçi. Restaurants run out of this kebab by afternoon as it is cooked once a day and is profoundly loved. The kebab shops are generally closed on Sundays. One should eat Denizli kebab with his hands and if you ask for a fork and a knife you might encounter faces looking at you as if you were an alien. The most well-known ones are Kocabaylar and Kebapçı Enver. We prefer Kocabaylar.
Semolina Halva with Ice-Cream: I recommend that you should have a taste of this warm semolina desert with ice-cream made famous by Hacı Şerif, which is one of the oldest halva places in Denizli, but now can be found at other places as well.
Zafer Soda Pops: Those who know about it will firstly ask “the old or the new?” For me, it is the old one. J You definitely need to taste this cult soda pop.
You can also find many fine restaurants and cafés other than traditional tastes. There are an ample number of options that you can go for according to your palate and budget. One of these, however, is a must if one is to write about Denizli: Garson Şükrü. Garson Şükrü has maintained an admirable consistency in taste and service quality which I think is the main problem with many places. It is always familiar, sincere, and tasty. Your trip will not be complete if you return without having dinner at Garson Şükrü which, I think, can be listed among the best meat restaurants in Turkey. You need to make reservations at this restaurant which is closed on Mondays.
Finally, although Denizli is an Anatolian city it has many opportunities that metropolises have. Of course you do not have weekly symphonies, a full theatre program, or artistic activities so frequent that you cannot decide which to attend to but the opportunities offered by the city are of a high quality that cannot be compared to other Anatolian cities. To live in and travel about the city is rather easy and comfortable other than the unending road works. I recommend that you should savor Denizli and Pamukkale for a few days rather than engaging in very short-term programs.