Pamukkale Travertines and the Hierapolis

Pamukkale Travertines is one of the greatest tourist hits in Turkey and being a first time Turkey visitor, I surely wouldn’t want to miss this place.  Pamukkale, meaning “Cotton Castle” in Turkish, is known for its natural cotton white travertine terraces.

Just above the travertine is the Hierapolis or “Sacred City”.  The ruins had, likewise, attracted visitors, and together, the travertines and Hierapolis had been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As always, I’ll share with you my photos to help me tell my Pamukkale story.

pamukkale travertines

Getting there

From Selçuk, we took a tour bus ride and drove for 3 hours to Pamukkale.  Before this, we were considering taking a train ride from Selçuk to Denizli, then Denizli to Pamukkale by dolmus or taxi.  However, we thought that although doable and cheaper, this mode will take more travel time.  Our time is limited because we need to go back to Selçuk on the same day.

Furthermore, our hotel owner had a way of talking us into the guided tour. In other words, we bought the idea and so we went.  We did not regret it and had a great time with Sergen, our Turkish guide. Check out Wander Turkey if you are looking for a tour provider.

Pamukkale Travertines

Before seeing Pamukkale’s travertines for real, I googled the images and the white terraces with blue pools simply blew me away.  Pamukkale travertines were formed through thousands of years of natural process.

It’s easy to imagine Princess Elsa singing Let It Go on the white travertines but on the contrary, the Cotton Castle was formed from hot water (about 35 deg Celcius) from volcanic lava emerging from underground spring.  The hot water, rich in dissolved calcium, cascades down the cliff.  As it cools down, it leaves a deposit of white calcium carbonate.  The cascading water formed ridges and natural pools of warm spring water.

Going back to the Google images, I was a bit disappointed to see that some portions of the travertine is dry, unlike those I’ve seen on the internet.  I learned that the release of the water, which used to naturally fill most of the rock pools, is now being controlled.  I’m not sure whether the water is diverted elsewhere for other commercial uses or whether the release is on a scheduled basis, depending on the season.

Inspite of this, seeing Pamukkale travertines up close and personal still brought me awe, as I imagine that this natural beauty was formed gradually for thousands of years.  I began to recall the travertines of Luang Prabang, Laos, which is more like the amazing stalagmites of Sumaguing cave in Sagada, Philippines.  On the other hand, that in Pamukkale is white as snow.

pamukkale travertines pamukkale travertines

The kind of selfie I'm good at

pamukkale travertines pamukkale travertines pamukkale travertines

pamukkale travertines

Shoes should be removed when walking on the travertines.  You need to be careful as some parts are quite sharp.

pamukkale travertines

pamukkale travertines Disappointed to see those terraces dried up


Cleopatra’s Pool

Part of the Hierapolis complex is the Cleopatra’s Pool where visitors can take a dip in the hot springs.  Additional entrance fee is charged if you’ll go for a swim.  It is said that Cleopatra once took a bath in this spa city.

The pool had been known since ancient times as a thermal therapeutic spa, courtesy of the rich minerals present in the water.  Ironically, Hierapolis also has one of the biggest Necropolis or cemetery in ancient Anatolia region.  The logic could be that people chose to retire or spend their last days in this healing environment.

Cleopatra's pool

The marble columns in the pool are said to have fallen into the pool due to an earthquake in the 7th century A.D. and remained there till present time.


Hierapolis, Pamukkale

One of the owners in our Selçuk guesthouse mentioned that after visiting the Ephesus ruins, we may find Hierapolis of little interest anymore.  On the contrary, I find the place very soul searching-ish.  If I lived during the Roman times and was made to choose between staying in Ephesus and Hierapolis, I would probably choose the latter.  The only factor that would likely hold me back is the thought of being neighborhood with a vast necropolis. Hehe.  Setting that aside, tempting are the travertines, mountains, and the natural healing spa that the thermal pool offers.

Hierapolis ruins include the Necropolis, Roman and Byzantine gates, colonnaded street, Roman baths, latrines, olive oil press, temples, the Grand Theater and St. Philip’s tomb, among others.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see the tomb, which lies up the hill.

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

The city walls

Hierapolis, Pamukkale Hierapolis, Pamukkale Hierapolis, Pamukkale

Hierapolis, Pamukkale Hierapolis, Pamukkale

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

Frontinus Gate - the Northern Roman Gate

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

Hierapolis, Pamukkale Frontinus Street

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

The Latrine is divided by a row of columns that supported a roof composed of travertine blocks.  Like that in Ephesus, in front of the seats is a small tunnel into which water runs for hygiene use.

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

Standing inside the center of the large tower

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

An example of a large sarcophagus found in the Necropolis

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

Byzantine Gate

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

The view makes me wanna sing "the hills are alive....."

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

Hierapolis, PamukkaleThe Temple Nymphaeum

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

The Grand Theater with more than 12,000 seating capacity.  This site is perfect for overlooking the Hierapolis.

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

The Theater is relatively still in good condition today

Hierapolis, Pamukkale

Check out other places to visit in Turkey

Pamukkale is one of Turkey’s popular tourist destination for a reason.  The Pamukkale travertines are a striking depiction of the wonders of natural creation.  However, the integrity of the Pamukkale travertines is not spared of being threatened by the influx of tourists.

Policies on the restricted access to the travertines and restricted development of tourist facilities around the area are in place.  What has caught my attention is the dried portion of supposed pools of thermal water.  Whatever the reasons for diverting or controlling the flow of water, the fact is that this has altered the natural processes.   Hence, it is possible that this will have an impact to the natural environment.  Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I am optimistic that conservation and protection of Pamukkale travertines will continuously be monitored.

Accommodations in Pamukkale

We used Selçuk as our base and stayed at Rebetika Hotel.  If you are spending overnight or more than a day in Pamukkale, check reviews and prices of accommodations in and near Pamukkale here.

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