Standing by the cotton-white travertines as the sun sets in the horizon illuminating the beautiful Meander River valley near the city of Denizli is an unforgettable experience.
Standing right next to the ancient city of Hierapolis, a city that grew from a mere temple to a large metropolis because of the healing hot springs emerging from underground — watching the tourists taking a plunge in the ancient pool makes you feel history repeating. People have always sought healing from the earth.
Pamukkale, means “cotton castle” or “cotton fortress” because of its milky white color. There is nothing that looks like a “castle” or a “fortress” about it except the magnitude of the white travertines. Either way, the name Pamukkale, which was given by the locals, is a perfect fit for this natural phenomenon. It greets you from 15 miles away.
Thousands of years of nature’s magnificent work created an area of petrified waterfalls, stalactites, and pools with step-like terraces some of which can reach as high as six meters . The area is about 9000 feet long, 2000 feet wide, and 500 feet high. From a distance, it looks like a ski hill with powder snow even in the heat of summer.
There are about 17 hot springs in the area. When calcium-carbonate-saturated hot waters from these hot springs reach the surface, they deposit the calcium carbonate on the surfaces it passes. And this has been happening for more than 10,000 years. Such a simple explanation for such a beautifully bizarre phenomenon. But, that is all there is to it.
Since it’s declaration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, there has been a great effort to protect this natural beauty which has been abused by cheesy hotels and thousands of tourists exploring every inch of it with their boots on. Now the hotels are gone. The only structure remaining is the ancient roman pool littered with broken ancient columns that you can pay a fee to swim in. You can walk barefoot on some travertines since shoes are not allowed to protect the site.
There are two great times to visit Pamukkale. I found it fascinating to wake up early in the morning and walk to the park at the bottom of the travertines and feel the sunrise glistening on them. And, of course, there is always the magnificent sunset which turns every pool into a reflection of the sunset colors from the sky.
If you are staying overnight or more, you can stay at a spa hotel that can even bring the hot springs right to your room – a tap in your bathroom.
In addition to visiting Pamukkale travertines, you can also visit the ancient city of Hierapolis, Laodikya (one of the Seven Churches of the Book of Revelations), beautiful ancient city of Aphrodisias, Karahayit for its mud baths, and Kaklik Caves, a small underground version of Pamukkale.