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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrA dramatic hillside location consisting of hot springs and travertine terraces, the stunning natural phenomenon of Pamukkale has been used as a spa for thousands of years. Situated in the southwest of Turkey, Europe, the name aptly translates to ‘Cotton Castle’.
HistoryLocated in the Denizli Province of Turkey’s Inner Aegean region, Pamukkale sits in the valley of the River Menderes. It was actually the shifting of a fault in this valley that caused the hot springs to rise. The subduction of the tectonic plates took place around 400,000 years ago, and the travertine terraces have been forming ever since.
Seventeen calcium-rich thermal springs cascade over the hillside, and the water leaves deposits of carbonate minerals that form the travertine terraces. Travertine is a type of limestone that arises through the rapid precipitation of mineral deposits. The travertine terraces of Pamukkale are pure white, and as such, look almost like they are made from snow and ice at a distance.
SettlementA city was founded at the top of the hill at the beginning of the 2nd century BC, and the thermal springs became renowned for their healing properties. Numerous temples were constructed, and because of these, the city became known as Hierapolis, which translates to ‘holy city’. Severe earthquakes destroyed the city in 133 BC, and again in 60 AD. Following the latter, Hierapolis was rebuilt by the Romans. Another earthquake in the early 7th century caused significant damage but the city was only abandoned for good after the earthquake of 1354. What remains is predominantly the ruins of the Roman city.
The Onset of TourismExcavations were undertaken in 1887 and, more thoroughly, from 1957 onwards. Hotels were erected over the ancient city ruins during the 1960s and a rudimentary approach road was built over the terraces. The hotels drained thermal waters to fill their swimming pools and dumped waste water on the terraces, staining them brown. Additional damage was caused by motorcyclists riding on the slopes, and by people wearing shoes and using soap products whilst bathing in the pools.
When Pamukkale and Hierapolis were jointly declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, the hotels and approach road were demolished, as they were causing considerable damage to the site. Artificial pools had to be constructed to hide the destruction caused by the road. Today, Pamukkale is one of the most popular landmarks in Turkey and is visited by millions of tourists every year.
Visiting PamukkaleIn order to protect the terraces, visitors must traverse them barefoot, but this actually makes it less likely to slip, so is not bad thing. Be sure to observe the rules when visiting, as bathing is only permitted in certain smaller pools, and this is again for the preservation of the site. The hot springs have temperatures ranging between 35° and 100° Celsius, and visitors will find the accessible pools and channels pleasantly warm and refreshing on their bare feet.
Pamukkale can get extremely busy during the peak season, so if visiting between June and August expect large numbers of tourists during the day. The crowds can be largely avoided by visiting later in the afternoon, and by doing this, it is also possible to avoid the searing heat on the exposed hillside.
The pure white travertine terraces with their pools of turquoise water are a spectacular sight. The beauty is not limited to the site itself, however, as from the terraces, incredible panoramic views can be enjoyed. Not only is this natural wonder unusual but it is incredibly beautiful, and as such, Pamukkale is a must-see for visitors to Turkey.
How to Get ThereMost public transport options like air, rail and bus will take you to the neighboring town of Denizli, and from there, a minibus to Pamukkale is available that will cost around 10 TL per person. This is the equivalent of approximately £3 or $5. Alternatively, there is a dolmuş that seats about ten passengers. his is a cheaper type of minibus that departs from Denizli bus station and will charge only 3 TL per person.
If driving to Pamukkale, follow the main roads towards Denizli. Once you have reached Buldan, if coming from the north, Sarayköy if travelling from the west, or Karşıyaka from the east or south, look for the smaller roads leading to Pamukkale. These are very picturesque and wind through farmland and quaint villages.
Other Landmarks You May LikeIf you like Pamukkale, you might also be interested in the Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park, United States of America, North America.
Whilst in Turkey, you may also want to pay a visit to the beautiful beach resort of Ölüdeniz.
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Author: Ruth Hayward. Last updated: May 25, 2015