Pamukkale & Hierapolis

I don’t recall how I came to know about Pamukkale. I just knew that I had to visit once I saw pictures of it. It reminded me of rice terraces in Southeast Asia, except it’s brilliantly white with beautiful clear blue water. It looked like something from another planet.

Pamukkale, AKA cotton castle

Travertine pool formations involve calcium carbonate deposits from hot springs. Colors can vary from white (my personal favorite) to cream, to tan colors as can be seen at Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs. Pamukkale’s hot springs is closely associated with the nearby ancient Hierapolis, as these thermal spas were already in use back in the 2nd century BC by the inhabitants of Hierapolis. Unfortunately, the pools sustained significant damage when hotels and roads were built above the pools in the mid 20th century, and it was only after Pamukkale was declared a World Heritage Site were the hotels and roads then demolished and removed. Now there is ongoing restoration of the travertine. Large portions are off limits, and only a section is open to tourists.

The pools undergoing restoration are dry. The thought is to use the sun to bleach the limestone to restore the color.
Here’s the section that is open to tourists. It’s low season right now, image what this place looked like during peak season pre-COVID days?
Most were here for their instagram feed
Yes, that’s a parrot on her heel. This world is getting a little crazy.

The first pool is the only one that is warm as the hot spring feeds directly into that pool. The others were all cold. As you can imagine, most people were in the first couple of pools. We ventured further down to enjoy the view in peace and quiet.

View of the village at the pool’s edge
The vastness

Since we had entered through the South Gate, which is at the top of the terraces, we decided to walk down to the North Gate where all the restaurants are. The plan was to have lunch, walk back up the terraces, and check out Hierapolis.

Tried Gözleme, which is similar to scallion pancakes but with fillings such as spinach & cheese, or meat.
The meat ones tasted like Jamaican patties, and were quite delicious
The owner served us tea on the house, and chatted with us for a bit.

As we all know, tourism is taking a hit, and the travel industry is anxious for people to start traveling again. What’s interesting is that the biggest group of tourists who visit Pamukkale are the Chinese (as evidenced by the 4 Chinese restaurants in the small town, and the fact that the vendor approached us speaking better Mandarin than Joe), and we were asked when the Chinese will start visiting again. The owner admitted that there were too many Chinese last year, and now there are none. Perfect example of “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.

After lunch, it was time to check out Hierapolis. Where there are hot springs, there will be earthquakes, and that is the story with Hierapolis. Ever since 7th century BC, Ancient Hierapolis had been repeatedly destroyed by one earthquake after another, but it was always rebuilt until it was ultimately abandoned in the late 14th century AD.

The theater built after the 60AD earthquake has a capacity for 15,000.

The people who lived in Hierapolis included those from the Phrygian, Seleucid (Greek), Roman, and Seljuk (Persian) Empires, as shown by the various artifacts excavated from the necropolis (now housed in the Hierapolis Archeological Museum).

This is hard to see, but this is their imagination of what Hierapolis looked like back then.
Statue of Triton
2nd century AD statue of a Roman Emperor
Elaborate sarcophagus

It was a long day for us – a 3-hour drive to Pamukkale, 6 hours spent at the travertine pools and Hierapolis, and then another 3-hour drive back to Marmaris. However, we both enjoyed it, and agreed that driving ourselves was way better than either taking the bus or joining a tour, as it allowed for greater freedom.

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