Turkey Tales: Pamukkale

Turkey is a country of many shades. One side there are the gorgeous landscape of Cappadocia, then a 12 hour journey from there brings you to a small village of Pamukkale which is at the foot of beautiful terraced pools and the ruins of the Greek town and thermal spa called Hieropolis. Pamukkale means ‘cotton castle’ in south-western Turkey. The hot springs were used as a spa since the 2nd century BC. Ancient legends say that St Phillip came here to convert the locals and was crucified here.

Pamukkale

Pamukkale

There was a major earthquake in the 2nd century BC, which resulted in fissures producing hot water springs. As it flowed off the mountainside adjacent to an ancient city called Hierapolis, calcium and magnesium crystallised to form smooth snow-white, stalagmite-like formations and pools, known as Travertine, in steps down the hillside. This is the only place in the world there is anything like this.

One has to remove the shoes before entering the area. This is to keep the travertine clean as well as to protect the deposits. The in the various pools are said to have therapeutic powers. you can sit/swim in these terraced pools too but since the water level is not that high it gets a bit difficult. For those who wants to swim in hot spring water can do that in once of the ancient pools above which charges 30 Turkish Lira ( 1 TL is close to 28-30 INR). The mineral water of Pamukkale helps recovering from high blood pressure, kidney stones, stroke, rheumatism, nervous and physical exhaustion, eye and skin diseases, circulatory problems, digestive maladies, nutritional disorders and chronic disorders.

After a 30-40 minute climb you reach the top of the cotton castle where you can put your shoes on and explore one of the best ruins of Hierapolis. You get the best view of the whole area from the top and wait till sunset which looks beautiful with rays falling on the terraced pools.

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Hierapolis means Sacred City in Greek and is said to be founded by god Apollo. Hierapolis was dedicated to Apollo Lairbenos, who was said to have founded the city. The Temple of Apollo that survives in ruins today dates from the 3rd century AD, but its foundations date from the Hellenistic period. There is a lot to see and lot to walk among the ruins. Most of what you is left today to see is from the Roman period, as the original Hellenistic city was destroyed by successive earthquakes in 17 AD and 60 AD. The site is surrounded by Byzantine walls, outside of which is an extensive necropolis.

Among the other sites to see I loved the theater of Hierapolis the most. It is well preserved and is over a hilltop behind the Ancient Bath.Constructed around 200 BC, the theater could hold 20,000 spectators at a time. One can only imagine the crowd gathering to go to theater. The Stage is very well maintained with the huge statues on it which makes it look ever more magnificent

Theater of Apollo

Theater of Apollo

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The whole is area is picturesque that even the pics I took don’t do  justice and one has to experience it to believe it. Other things you can see around are the Temple of Apollo, Gate of Domitian, the huge agora, Byzantine Gate and the old ruined church. Though at a lot of places there are still excavations going on and you can see the excavators around digging and researching.

Near to the cotton travertine is the Sacred Pool which is warmed by hot springs and filled with underwater fragments of ancient marble columns. One can swim in these waters which claims to cure skin and many other diseases. My friend thought the fee was too high for a swimming pool but I think it’s worth the experience as the water is extremely nice and warm. During the Roman period, columned porticoes surrounded the pool which toppled into the water due to the earthquakes.

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The Temple of Apollo, the patron god and divine founder of the city has hardly anything remaining. All that remains are the foundations, platform and entry steps and same is the case with other relics too.

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South of the temple is the Plutonium, a sacred cave believed to be an entrance to the underworld, the domain of the Roman god Pluto (the Greek Hades). The cave emitted poisonous vapors in ancient times, and still does! For this reason, the entrance is sealed off.

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You can do the whole area in a day if you start early. You might not even require a guided tour if you have a guide book or you have read in advance (and there you save some money for your beer on the site 😉 ). All the sites and ruins have information panels which will quench your thirst for knowledge.

Pamukkale is a small  village and is easily accessible. With affordable staying options at the bottom of the cotton travertines, its easy to go around the place. We stayed at Artemis Yoruk Hotel near the entrance of the UNESCO Heritage site where the dorm costs 10-12 Euros a night. The entrance fee to the site is 15 Turkish Lira except for the museum and the sacred pools

Pamukkale was once even more beautiful than it is now it is said, as the area is drying up. Still it is one of the most amazing natural wonders I have ever seen in my life and is a must visit for anyones trip to Turkey.

Sunset by Cotton travertine

Sunset by Cotton travertine

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