Turkish Delight – The Healing Pools of Pamukkale

The Romans founded the ancient city of Hierapolis on top of a hill, which are in ruins today. They visited this city to relax and heal themselves in the thermal pools and natural baths. Legend has it that the Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra had an entire pool to herself which is in use even today.

The locals had a special name for this hill due to its unique geological landscape. They named it as Pamukkale – castle of cotton.

Thermal springs rich in calcium and minerals have been dripping and flowing down the hills of Pamukkale since millennia. The flow of the water has resulted in the formation of  travertine terraces. The water collects in these terraces, creating natural pools rich in minerals.

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Water even cascades down in several places resulting in small waterfalls, rivulets and streams.

The flow of the water, leaves a residue of calcium carbonate or limestone which makes the hills look like snow or cotton. A stark contrast to the green and brown landscape surrounding it.

As the centuries passed, the pools of Pamukkale got commercialized. Hotels and spas were constructed at the bottom of the hill. People came from all over the world, and were happy to pay money to bathe in these pools.  A road was built over the precious limestone and motorbikes were allowed to drive over it. The hill was ruined by tourism and pollution.

The authorities finally put a stop to this destruction, and declared Pamukkale as a World Heritage site in 1988. The hotels and spas were torn down and the hill was made accessible only on foot.

The pools below the hill are now a serene place of reflection and home to several swans and ducks.  There is a single natural walking path up the hill.

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Several of the terrace pools had dried up due to over tourism. They are being restored today, through channeling of the waters into the pools or diverting the water as required.

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The greed of man may have almost destroyed Pamukkale, however it is now on the road to restoration and recovery.

Exploring Turkey with friends, we took a short bus ride from the town of Denizli to Pamukkale village.  As we walked from the village road leading up to the hill, we see a bright flash which breaks the monotony of the scene. Standing before us is a shimmering hill, draped in the color of white, dazzling in the sunlight.

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Pamukkale stands alone but proud, not afraid of its uniqueness. A natural formation that is visually striking, Pamukkale is an experience that will be treasured. Here are a few glimpses.

The calcite terraces that are now dried up as the water is being channeled elsewhere

                   Tourists taking some time out

                       Ringside view of the terraces

                      Sunset views

Paragliding over the white hill and ruins

The flowing water has created natural calcite patterns formed over time

Minerals in the water leave colorful residues on the limestone

 Tips and Essentials 

Pamukkale is a 20 min bus ride from the town of Denizli. Take the mini bus or Dolmus from the Denizli bus stand to Pamukkale village. It costs around 5 TL for one way.  You can also take a taxi which can be ridiculously expensive.

A  20 min walk from the village will take you to the base of the Pamukkale hill. Walking up the hill, is a great way to appreciate the views and take a dip in the pools whenever you please.

Tourist buses and taxis will take you up the hill if you do not wish to walk. However, you will miss out on experiencing the natural calcite formations and views.

Plan at least half a day for this starting early morning if you want to avoid the hot sun. The sunset too is beautiful and not to be missed.

You have to pay an entrance fee of 25TL and an additional 32 TL if you wish to visit the pool of Cleopatra.

You have to remove your shoes to walk around the travertines, so that they stay protected. Carry a bag for your shoes.

You return the same way, go back to the village and get on a Dolmus to Denizli. You can also take a taxi to go down.

Carry water, sunscreen and swim wear. Use sunglasses, as the white calcite floor reflects the light just like snow.

You can wear your swim wear underneath your clothes so it is easy to take a quick dip if you feel like 😊

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