Cotton castle. Velvet white rocks. White paradise. Magically healing hot water springs. What a way to advertise Pamukkale! It sounds more like a fairy tale than a real place. Add on top of that a beautifully photo-shopped picture to the brochure and you definitely have a good amount of visitors coming your way!
I have to admit, it also caught my attention. Would those sparkling white terraces with their hot springs really look like the back garden of the Snow Queen’s palace? Or would it turn out to be a mucky, yellowish and overrun place due to the many tourists that go there daily? And are the hot water springs really as miraculous as they say? One thing was for sure, it made Niko and I curious enough to go there and investigate it.
Pamukkale is tucked away in the hills of the Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey. Already from a distance we could see the reflection of the sun against its white rocks. We were only allowed to enter if we would take our shoes off (and of course after paying the entrance fee of € 6,5). To preserve the whiteness of the rocks, people have to walk around barefoot. The white color comes from the travertine, a sedimentary rock deposited by the water from the hot springs. I expected to feel an icy ground but it wasn’t too cold. I got more the impression I was walking on some cotton ground and enjoyed the softness of the stone on the soles of my bare feet. That’s when I realized why the Turks call this place Pamukkale, which means “cotton castle” when you translate the word in English. And I don’t know why but I kept saying “cotton candy castle” (you’ll notice it when you watch the video at the end of this article). Maybe it’s the sweet tooth in me craving some sugar? I even had to correct myself again while writing this down. Maybe it’s my brain that is partly made out of cotton candy…
a “frozen’ leaf
We were happily surprised to see that everything was still very white and clean. The reflection of the sun on the white rock was at times so bright that we wished we owned some sunglasses. So it wasn’t too much of an exaggeration to call Pamukkale a white paradise. We also didn’t see that many people around us. We were still outside the tourist season and could enjoy its beauty without selfie bombing someone by accident.
The only thing we still had to investigate were the magical powers of the water. There is a legend that tells the story of a young ugly girl who lived in a little village near Pamukkale. She was so ugly that nobody wanted to be with her. She became so desperate and lonely that she wanted to kill herself. She jumped off the highest cascade but instead of being crushed to death, she fell in one of the water pools. The magical powers of the water washed away her sorrows and she became a very attractive girl. When she climbed out of the pool, she met the lord of Denizli and he was so mesmerized by her beauty that he fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. They lived happily ever after.
I love legends and definitely when they have a happy ending. But does the water really have curing and beautifying effects? They say that bathing in the pools will cure illnesses such as nutritional and chronic disorders, digestive and circulatory problems, eye and skin diseases, etc. Because of this, Pamukkale has been a flourishing spa resort since ancient times. Even Cleopatra bathed in the healing pools. Nowadays people still visit it regularly for beautifying reasons (it’s probably cheaper than plastic surgery). Niko decided to try it out. The water was cooler than expected and when he came out, he was shivering all over. He didn’t really notice any changes (it might have been to quick, although I find him handsome anyway). The only thing he discovered in the pools, was a mixture of grayish mud, soggy band-aids and human hair. Or maybe these are the secret ingredients of the hot springs?
We have to be honest, those were the public pools. If you want to swim in the antique pools, where the water is a lot warmer (36 degrees), cleaner and more nutritional, you have to go to the top of the cascades where you will also find the ruins and amphitheater of the ancient city Hierapolis. Instead of paying the extra €10 fee (per person) for swimming in those private pools, we decided to have a closer look at what was left of this once flourishing healing center and spa city.
I’ll give you a quick history class. Hierapolis was founded as a spa in the 2nd century BC. It became a healing center where doctors used the thermal springs as a treatment for their patients. In 17 AD a major earthquake left the city completely in ruins. The Romans rebuilt it and added a big amphitheater. Thousands of people came to benefit from the healing water pools. The city grew and became very wealthy. But over a period of hundreds of years there were a lot of earthquakes and eventually the city never fully recovered and got completely abandoned around the 14th century. In the 20th century the ancient city was rediscovered by travelers (I wish we will do a major discovery like this one day) and the hot springs became famous again. Sadly enough many hotels were built on the ruins on Hierapolis and a motorbike road was built over the terraces of Pamukkale. It caused huge damage and the white cliffs turned into something filthy. Luckily Pamukkale was made a World Heritage Site in 1988 and the road was taken out and replaced with artificial pools. The terraces recovered quickly and are looking stunning again.
The power of Mother Nature! She surely did a great job while creating Pamukkale. We didn’t have high expectations but were pleasantly surprised to see this unique place. It might not be as spectacular as the brochures describes it but if you like to see something different from the turquoise blue sea, then this is the place to go. Don’t forget your sunglasses!
Have you been to Pamukkale before? What were your experiences there?