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Pamukkale — A True Natural Wonder

Pamukkale is a real natural wonder. This town in western Turkey is best known for its semicircular, pure-white travertine terraces formed by thermal water. Green farming fields surround the town. It’s not only one of the most picture-worthy spots in Turkey, but also one of the most famous landmarks in the country.

Of course, besides the white terraces and thermal water, there are many other reasons you need to visit Pamukkale. In addition to the porous limestone formation, there are also numerous ruins here. Moreover, thanks to the many thermal springs, it also has a popular spa resort.

In this article, we’ll give you a thorough introduction to this breathtaking place. We’ll let you in on a little secret about which attractions you can find in Pamukkale.

The Travertine Terraces

Limestone deposits from the area’s hot springs created the dazzling white calcite rocks. Just as stalactites develop in limestone caves, the deposits grow on the steep slopes, crystallize, and gradually form natural terraces.

The name Pamukkale is derived from the travertine terraces and can be translated as “cotton castle”. To be honest, the name fits perfectly, because the white color of the travertine looks like cotton and its natural shape is indeed reminiscent of a kind of fortress.

The best way to visit the travertine is on a hiking tour. However, to protect the porous limestone, you must take off your shoes. So, it will be a barefoot hike! But in your bare feet, you are allowed to walk up the entire ridge of this calcite mountain. On the upper-level terraces, you will also find water pools that you can sit in and relax.

Pamukkale Castle

This castle dates to the 11th or 12th century and is located right on the road leading from Pamukkale up to the Hierapolis-Plateau. Even if you visit this place during peak season, it’s an escape from the tourist crowds, since strangely enough, only a few travelers stray this way.

During your visit to the ruins of this once imposing castle, a magnificent view over the travertines will greet you. This view alone is worth the trip here.

We especially recommend that you visit during sunset. This time is the best time to watch the changing light make the travertine glow. This is a truly unforgettable sight.

The Antique Pool of Pamukkale

In the hot springs, you can enjoy a relaxing bath, just as the Romans once did. Pamukkale’s Antique Pool is located next to the Temple of Apollo and has mineral-rich spring water with a temperature of about 97 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the pool, there are also half-submerged columns and pieces of marble. Thanks to the remnants of ancient cultures, this hot spring probably gives off the most historical feeling you will ever experience in your life.  

The Ruins of the Ancient City of Hierapolis

Hierapolis was originally founded by King Eumenes II of Pergamon as a fortified military colony shortly after 190 BC. However, it was destroyed by an earthquake in 60 AD. After the reconstruction, the colony experienced its best years.

This city’s prime was during the second and third centuries when it became an important spa resort thanks to its natural hot springs. The remains of a great columned street run parallel to the travertine below. It stretches between the necropolis to the north and a Byzantine church at the southern end.

If you take the eastern path from the church, you will reach the Temple of Apollo and its famous Plutonium.  The latter is a cave beneath the temple that was a source of toxic gas. The priests of Hierapolis consulted the oracle here, bringing birds and small animals as offerings. The rising gas likely killed these animals. Today, however, there is not much left of the remains.

On a slope above the rest of the ruins of Hierapolis, there’s a magnificent theater. It has a 100-meter-long facade and two rows with 26 seats each. The theater was built during the reign of the Roman Emperors Hadrian and Septimius Severus.

The theater is still to this day in unbelievably good condition. The imperial boxes and some decorative panels along the stage are still nearly perfect. Furthermore, you can enjoy a fantastic view from the upper rows of the seats.

The Hierapolis Museum

This small museum is in the ancient city’s former Roman bathhouse. The exhibits showcase some of the greatest works of art and the cultural heritage of this once meaningful city. In addition, here you can discover numerous artifacts from the site.

The exhibit pieces include, among others: stunning stone reliefs, sarcophagi, and statues. The museum also has a collection of statues from the nearby archaeological site of Aphrodisias.

Laodikeia

The lovely city of Laodikeia is located approximately 12 kilometers south of Pamukkale. This city of the Roman Empire used to be a bustling center of industry, medicine, and trade.

As Christianity began to replace the earlier pagan religions, many Christians and Jews lived here. Today, only the ruins of the city remain.

The ruins are indeed sparse, but extremely picturesque and worthy of a visit. There’s also an interesting mix of temple and theater remains from the early Roman settlement to the later Byzantine era.

However, Laodikeia is a little out of the way when it comes to the typical tourism route. If you’re interested in ditching the large crowds of tourists, you should definitely put this site on your bucket list.

Aphrodisias

Aphrodisias is one of the most important historical sites in Turkey and is located about 97 kilometers southwest of Pamukkale. Some time ago, archaeologists found traces of civilization from the 4th millennium BC. In addition, there are pottery findings from the early Bronze Age, which suggest that there was an Assyrian trading colony here.

However, the settlement’s golden age was during the Hellenistic and Roman eras, in which it became the center of the Aphrodite cult. The temple of Aphrodite was built around 100 BC. Today, 14 of its columns are still standing, two of which even have architraves. In the 5th century, the Byzantines rebuilt the temple into a three-aisle basilica.

To the north, there is also the huge and well-preserved stadium, which had seats for about 30,000 spectators in ancient times. South of the temple, you can find the best-preserved monument of the site: the Bouleuterion, decorated with reliefs and statues.

The Caravanserais

A caravanserai was a type of accommodation where travelers could stay and rest from a journey. These roadside inns helped to support trade and commerce in the region. The caravanserais are a relic from the days when this area was part of an important trade route to Central Anatolia. You can find them in the region around Pamukkale.

One of the Seljuk caravanserais is the Akhan. It is located on the road from Denizli to Dinar and was founded in 1253 by Emir Karasungur. It has a marble-clad eastern facade and an arcade court.

Near the city of Çardak, located 55 kilometers east of Denizli, is the Çardakhani. This caravanserai has two massive towers and an inscription flanked by two lions above the gateway. It was donated in 1230 by the general Rasideddin Iyaz.

The Excavation Site of Beycesultan Tepesi near Çivril

First excavated in the 1950s, the Beycesultan Tepesi site is located 10 kilometers south of the provincial town of Çivril. Evidence of a prehistoric settlement was discovered here.

In the Bronze Age layers of the earth, archaeologists found traces of a shrine with sacrificial vessels, a blood altar, and statues of the goddess Cybele. They also discovered the remains of a palace here.

Denizli

Although everyone passes through Denizli on their way to Pamukkale, few visitors stop here. But, this city has a lot to offer.

This modern-looking city is significantly older than it may appear at first glance. It was destroyed twice by earthquakes – once in the beginning of the 18th century and again in 1899. For that reason, there are no more historical buildings left in this city to discover.

Although there aren’t any historical buildings left to discover here, it’s still a great place to stop and take a break. In the center, you will find excellent restaurants and cafés where you can treat yourself to a delicious drink. There are also numerous parks where you can relax and re-charge from your journey.

Conclusion

While Pamukkale is a fairly well-known travel destination, it still has some surprises in store for its visitors. Beyond the famous travertine, history and culture of another time await you in this special region of Turkey.

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