Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish and visitors come to the mineral-rich springs because they believe the waters can ease the pain of arthritis and high blood pressure. We didn´t visit because of that but because there is nothing else quite like it anywhere we have ever been.
It rained just as we arrived and was unbelievably slippery and almost impossible to stay upright, people were slithering around in all directions. However, the journey got easier after the attendant told us “shoes off, shoes off.” We gingerly stepped onto the strange surface and followed a line of people with shoes in their hands along the wide white pathway.
It may look like arctic tundra; the pools are actually created by underground volcanic activity and as the water flows over the travertines (terraces), it forms ridges of hard, white calcium. These are anything but frigid; the temperature in the pools is a constant 35°C so comfortable to splash around in even in winter. Following the path towards the top of the cliff is where the real beauty of the terraces reveals itself. Steam rose off cascading pool upon pool from the water that runs into them.
Nevertheless, our visit to the site wasn’t over. Perhaps what makes Pamukkale unique to similar sites are the ruins of the Roman city Hierapolis that once stood at the top of the surrounding pearly cliffs.
Dating back to the 2nd Century AD, Hierapolis was a spa town until destroyed by the Persian army in the 7th century. The city survived in part until in the the 12th century, it was destroyed by an earthquake and forgotten about until 1887 when it was rediscovered. Today, visitors can still walk through the crumbled remains of the theatre, bathhouses and necropolis.
Making our way back down the travertine hillside in our bare feet just as the sun was setting was breathtaking. It didn´t take much imagination to know why the bride had picked this fairytale setting of dazzling white for her wedding party. The sight (and site) was magical. Pamukkale was a fun and enjoyable part of our trip; we were no longer tourists but kids playing in warm ‘snow’