Thermal hot springs, ancient ruins and natural wonders

Pamukkale and travelling around Turkey

The Ottoman Empire; nightmare of the medieval world. Now modern-day Turkey, it has to be said that beyond its rich and diverse history this place holds many hidden secrets and natural wonders that you do not need to go over and beyond to get to. Beauty is part of one of many cultures that Turkey has to offer and a good region to get a taste of this would be in Pamukkale.

Located in the South Central area of mainland Turkey, Pamukkale itself is a sacred site that dates back to the times when Cleopatra used to bathe in its calcium carbonate rich waters. The terraces found here are made of travertine, a sedimentary rock deposited by water from the hot springs. This World Heritage site not only has pools filled with calcium, but it also has a couple of thermal hot springs and pools that can be found at the upper levels of the terraces. The Turks call this area the ‘Cotton Castle’ and it overlooks the village from the mountain. The Romans called this site Hierapolis, once a great Roman and Byzantine spa city. Hence it is not surprising that you do not only have the gleaming white calcite shelves to admire but also a vast amount of ruins scattered around the mountain and a museum to go with it.

Since this is quite a popular attraction, getting here is not going to be difficult. Buses go to Pamukkale during the morning for day trips and taxis would take you here at any given time for a decent price, if you were to flag one down from Denizli. However if you caught a taxi from places as far as Antalya you may have to use the best of your bargaining skills to get the fare down to anything remotely resembling reasonable for this trip. Alternatively there is always the option that I promote the most; rent a car. Jump onto the D585 if you are coming from the West or the D320 if you are coming from the East and the signs will then guide you to your final destination. If you are flying directly to this region, then I advise looking into Turkish Air for flights.

If you do go there by bus for a day tour, you will have a chance to enjoy a quick soak in the calcite pools and thermal spa, get some photo ops and a have a walk through the ruins and museum. However if you decide to stay the night down in the village of Pamukkale, you will find time not only to appreciate the village itself, but also get a chance to enjoy the terraces after most of the tourists have left and watch the sunset over the stunning site. This will most likely be the best photo op of the experience.

“ The terraces found here are made of travertine, a sedimentary rock deposited by water from the hot springs. “

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The village itself is home to a very humble community, not fazed by tourists. There are a number of hostels and hotels, some also with their own small thermal pools. I could guarantee that you won’t be disappointed if you go out for a stroll around the village. Maybe grab a cup of Turkish coffee or tea before you head for your meal at one of the small local coffee shops. If you’ve been there, then you know the good vibe that you will come across. Before hitting the hay, you might want to also check out the mountain and its terraces from the village below under the stars and if not maybe just wake up for sunrise. All these scenarios are quite a sight to take in.

Pamukkale is not alone in things to see, as mentioned previously you have the ancient city of Hierapolis and its ruins can spread quite far. One such ruin, further than the rest, is the mighty theatre, with a facade 100m long and can be found on the slopes way above the travertines. But apart from Hierapolis this region of Turkey is exceptionally rich in history and ruins. One must remember that these lands were once roamed by a great many ancient civilisations.

Not far from Pamukkale you can find Laodikela, once home to Cicero. This was once a commercial centre and a bustling hub of industry, trade and medicine. Though scattered, the ruins present great photo ops and have an interesting mix of remains.

“ These scorching mineral-rich hot springs can reach temperatures up to 55 degrees Celsius”

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An even more highly valued ancient ruin is Aphrodisias. Studies have shown that the area was first settled in 4,000 BC and early Bronze Age finds suggest that it was home to the Assyrian trading colony during the Hittite period. Yes, this is definitely one the more prestigious sites to visit especially if you are a history junky. This area is famous for its Hellenic and Roman eras however, and the city became the centre of the Aphrodite cult and also became famous for its schools of sculpture, medicine and philosophy. One of the greatest ruins that this place holds is the Temple of Aphrodite.

Other important ruins to check out around the area are Caravanserais, Civril and Kolossai. Yet if you are still enjoying the therapeutic feeling from the thermal baths and calcite pools of Pamukkale, might I suggest you check out Karahayit hot springs. These scorching mineralrich hot springs can reach temperatures up to 55 degrees Celsius. Found only 5km away from Pamukkale, these hot springsbubble up from the chalk-coated rocks and the presence of various oxides in the water has tinged the calcium carbonate with a variety of colours. Beneath the springs there is a small bathing pool where you can soak up and chill after a day of sightseeing.

Turkey has an incredible amount of places to visit thanks to its important geographical location, which has created a rich history, and the Pamukkale region is certainly a good place to start exploring.

Until next time, let the world be your playground.

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Marc Casolani