Turkey is a country rich in history and natural wonders and a trip here will give you no shortage of fantastic things to see. Pamukkale is one such place close to the Aegean coast (kind of) with its beautiful travertine pools, and a grand city ruin waiting for you to explore at the very top. For all the information on the logistics of this place, scroll to the “Travel Tips” section at the bottom.
Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish (thanks Wikipedia!) and as soon as you get into the little town, you can see why. You start at the ticket office at the bottom, then march up to the point where you are asked to take off your shoes to preserve the beautiful structures. As you enjoy the gentle inclined walk up to the top of the hill, you step into a completely white platform floor with inviting pale blue pools of water beckoning you to get in and take a dip. The brilliant white colour is due to the carbonite deposits left from the water, and as you walk, you can definitely see a consistent stream of water flowing on the left side just before the cliff.
What might be the most beautiful part of this whole site is the iconic pools on pools that are over the cliff. Theoretically, over the cliff you should be able to climb down to the large flat pools of water for a panoramic view of the little town. In reality, the pools were empty when we were here and they did lose some of their magic without the pale blue water to compliment the white brims. Regardless, it was still a wonderful experience.
Once you reach the top, the ruins of Heiropolis await you. This is an absolutely massive complex dating to the 2nd century BC. It enjoyed Greco-Roman patronage, where people came to live and enjoy the healing hot springs. Later, it became a Christian site, before falling to ruins in 14th century after a massive earthquake. Of note are the wonderfully excavated promenades, gates, and the supposed site of the Apostle Philip’s crucifixion.
The town of Pamukkale doesn’t really have much claim to fame aside from the travertine pools and Heiropolis. We arrived at our hotel kind of surprised because it looked like a construction site. The owners, although friendly, seems completely caught off guard at the site of guests. Apparently, they had shut down for the spring to undergo renovations, but this was after we had made the booking. The family took us in anyways and even prepared a delicious home cooked meal of meat and cheese casserole, eggplant grilled on charcoal, and a fresh cucumber and tomato salad. This was easily the best meal we had in Turkey. They were extremely accommodating, and even woke up early to take us to the mini bus stop and wait with us to make sure we got to the right place. The final treat was the trip to the local bakery for freshly baked French style bread common in Turkey. The whole loaf was gone within 10 minutes.
In tourism heavy Turkey, it can be exhausting to deal with pushy vendors and shopkeepers. The genuine generosity of the couple running the guesthouse was palpable and a welcome change to the hustle and bustle of Istanbul. It is also important to remember that the Turks have done a fair bit in taking in refugees in recent years, notably from Syria. If not taking in, at least having to spend considerable resources on the whole situation. This, I would assume, has put a bad taste in some people’s mouths for the influx of refugees. Regardless, it is important to keep in mind that tourism in the middle east is touched hard by the instability there. It is the people who serve our beer and run the guesthouses are often indirectly footing the bill to manage these unfavourable situations, which inevitably will affect their outlook on the current world situation.