Have you ever opened up your guidebook and planned your trip solely based on the pictures? Well, Pamukkale was one of those places for me. When I opened up my Lonely Planet Turkey guidebook and saw the pictures of the white travertine terraces with pools of turquois water I knew we had to go. My husband Jason, however, was not as easily persuaded by pretty pictures in a guidebook and I had to do a lot of talking before he agreed to go.
Pictures cannot even being to capture the beauty of Pamukkale. The travertines of Pamukkale are brilliant white calcium deposits left by the waters of the hot springs located here. From a distance it even looks like snow. On the day that we decided to explore the travertines the weather was cold and overcast. Being undeterred we bundled up in our jackets, hats, gloves, and scarves and set off. Shoes cannot be worn on the travertine to help keep the brilliant white color. So, we stripped off our shoes but kept on our socks for padding and extra traction and began walking up. Unfortunately, most of the travertine is covered by water and at the bottom it is a little on the chilly side. Eeek! When we initially stepped into the water, we were all in shock. Our daughter, Sydney, was especially vocal about the chill of the water moaning loudly most of the walk up the travertine. For me it was a surreal experience. My mind kept playing tricks on me. I kept on thinking that I was walking on snow, yet it wasn’t snow.
As we climbed to the top of the travertines, the ancient ruins of Hierapolis came into view. Wow! Hierapolis, a UNESCO world heritage site, was established in the 2nd century BC and in its’ height contained over 100,000 people.
After changing socks and putting our shoes back on, we had fun wandering around the ancient ruins. We especially enjoyed seeing the theater. Hierapolis contains the largest surviving Roman theater in Turkey and the view from the theater is absolutely stunning with a panoramic of the valley below and mountains in the distance. We marveled at the view while eating a picnic lunch on the seats of the ancient theater.
Hierapolis also has an ancient pool in which one can still take a dip and swim amongst columns and pillars. The pool is at a lovely 36 Celsius. Although it was on the expensive side, we decided that we could not pass up the chance to swim in these ancient pools. We enjoyed swimming in the pools and even got to experience a deluge of rain while swimming. Sadly, all good things have to come to an end. Let me tell you, getting out of the hot springs was painfully cold. We nearly froze while trying to dry ourselves off (this was not helped by the fact that our towels were soaking wet from the deluge) and get dressed as quickly as possible.
We so dreaded getting out of the warm pools that we delayed getting out until right at closing time. By the time we got out and got dressed, it was so late that we had to walk down the travertines in the dark. Let me tell you, this is treacherous proposition to do with poorly lighted path and uneven ground. Several times I found myself stepping into a hole full of cold water. I also tripped and fell at one point and profanities slipped out of my mouth that I shall not repeat here. Hopefully Sydney’s moaning about the cold was louder than my profanities.
Despite the cold, we all agree that Pamukkale was one of the highlights for our time in Turkey. To get there you can take the bus or train to the city of Denizli. Most bus companies have a free shuttle that runs between Denizli to Pamukkale. Swimming in the ancient pools is highly recommended and if you want to save money go in the late afternoon when it is half price. Pamukkale is well worth the trouble of getting there and time.