Day 3: Pammukale, Turkey

by - August 03, 2011

After a breakfast described by Lonely Planet as ‘gutbusting’, we packed up our stuff and left Selcuk to head east to the town of Pammukale.  This was one of the few sights on our Turkish tour that mum and dad didn’t go to on their honeymoon so it was a bit of a mystery for all of us.  The journey wast was pretty painless and took about 2 and a half hours - though there was an amusing moment where dad yanked out something that was gangling around the gear stick and threw it at me in a 'why did you put that there?’ kind of way.  It was, to our amusement, the poorly positioned car keys.

The path up the cliff face
Our hostel of choice in Pammukale was the Artemis Yoruk Hotel.  The town is fairly small - approaching village proportions, so nothing is very far away.  The main attraction of Pammukale is part natural and part historical.  An interesting bit of chemistry in the soils near the village, combined with the location of natural hot springs, have created a vast outpouring of water filled with calcium calcite.  The reaction with oxygen when it reaches the surface and falls over the rocks is that they are turned white and the whole cliff beside Pammukale looks like somebody has just dropped white paint onto it.  We had lunch in a cafe at the foot of the cliffs and decided that the steep footpath up the side of the cliff face must be one of the most barren and exposed we had ever seen.  We therefore decided to swim at the hostel pool for a few hours while we waited for the hottest part of the day to end.

The ruins at Hierapolis
When we got to the start of the footpath however, it became clear that the cliff is nothing like as exposed as we originally thought.  This was mainly due to the fact that water was gushing down the hill from the springs and the footpath was essentially a shallow, hugely refreshing, stream.  We had to take our shoes off and were able to paddle in the artificial pools that had been created all the way up.  The artificial pools had naturally filled up with silt and people were covering themselves in the mud to make the most of its healing powers.  There seemed to be a lot of fat tourbus tourists who were hoping the mud would help them shed 50 pounds.  The top of the footpath opened up onto the cliff top.  The path itself, as amazing as it was, was only the entrance and it was at the top that you could properly appreciate what had made the site a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  On one hand it had Hierapolis, a Roman city that had been built as a healing centre beside the natural springs.  On the other hand it had the Travertines, the natural version of the calcite pools.  Its one of those wonderful places that is best described by pictures.  The ruins were remarkably intact considering that they were a bit of a side show to the Travertines.

Antique Pool
After spending several hours looking around, we headed for the Antique Pool for a swim.  This pool had been built to recreate the Roman pools that had once existed at the site and were supposedly full of more healing water.  There were changing rooms and lockers available on site so we got changed and then went for a swim in the 35 degree water.  The pools contained broken columns and bits of rock and were pretty shallow in places, which meant that we ended up doing more crawling than swimming.  By the time that we got out of the pools the sun was starting to go down and it was getting pretty cool, which made the walk back down to the town really pleasant.  We managed to pretty much perfectly time our descent with that of the sun and as we reached the town, the sun had just gone behind the mountains.  It had been a pretty amazing day really and I can say that it is unique amongst my travel experiences.  It is well worth combining Pammukale with a trip to Ephesus, just for something a bit different to ruins.

The Travertines, Pamukkale

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