Making up a lattice of bright blue pools supported by walls of shimmering white travertine, and covering a vast area that can be seen for miles, Pamukkale (which means “cotton castle” in Turkish) has been a tourist destination for well over two thousand years. Located near Denizli in South-Western Turkey, Pamukkale is not only a natural wonder, but also a place where you can travel back in time, to the ancient city of Hierapolis. The ruins of the baths, temples and other monuments from this Graeco-Roman spa resort can still be seen today, along with an interesting museums.
Both Pamukkale calcite terraces and the ancient site of Hierapolis were inscribed in the UNESCO World Heriatge Site list in 1988 and are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey.
The Graeco-Roman town of Hierapolis, meaning ‘Holy City’, was founded in 206BC at the top of the hill as a spa town, and was an important hydrotherapy centre idurinng Antiquity. Here, healing waters, superstition and faith were all mixed together in rituals that developed in relation to the successive local cults and religions.
An outstanding example of the relation between waters and ancient cults is the temple of Apollo, built upon a geological fault from which suffocating vapours. The carbon dioxide was forced into a cave, today known as the legendary Plutonium, Pluto's cave.
Visitor to Hierapolis today can still see the ruins of the temple and the spectacular necropolis, watch a production at the ancient theatre dating back to the 206 BC or swim in the Sacred Pool in the centre the complex. Special attention should be paid to the complex sytem of water channels and the museum, which house a signifcant collection of ancient Greek artifacts.
According to local legend, the waters are not only health-giving, but also beautifying, which is perhaps the reason that the large natural thermal pool in the town, full of fallen ancient masonry is named after the famed beauty Cleopatra, (although there is no evidence that she visited).
Pamukkale's waters seeps down the hillsides, supersaturated with calcium carbonate. When they reach the surface, carbon dioxide is released, and calcium carbonate is deposited as a soft gel which eventually crystallizes into travertine, shapping the striking landscape.
At Pamukkale there are 5 thermal springs with water temperatures between 35-36°C, feeding the travertine pools where visitors can bathe.
Nearby Karahayit, with its famous red spring and clay treatments is also well-supplied with hotels and thermal centres for modern-day health-seekers.