Posted by: David Stewart | June 12, 2013

Once in a lifetime Pamukkale experience

This is in a series of posts about our Spring 2013 trip
Pamukkale / Hieropolis
Sunday, April 21

On the 21st we bid farewell to Selcuk, the little town where we had spent three days and drove out to Pamukkale.  This drive took us up a large and fertile valley between two very dramatic mountain ranges. It was tempting to think of JRR Tolkien locating his Lord of the Rings trilogy in this landscape, given the forests, mountains and fields of the land.
Pamukkale / Hieropolis
Pamukkale is the home of dramatic travertine terraces, like a limestone or calcium waterfall which is visible from many miles away like a lighthouse. It was well known by the ancients as a source for warm mineral water and like the town of Bath, England, Romans would come from far and wide to “take the waters” for their diseases. The ancient city of Hieropolis has been partially restored on the cliff above the valley. Because the ruins of Hieropolis are so extensive, it finally gives a full scale and scope of a large ancient city. Ruins like Ephesus and the like don’t really seem that big. I surmise that this is because the bulk of these cities were not built of stone and thus are lost to the ravages of time. A larger area of Hieropolis was made of stone, and is spread over about a two kilometer long cutout in the cliff.

Pamukkale / Hieropolis

Part of the vast necropolis, city of the dead

One of the entrances to Pamukkale / Hieropolis is close to the vast necropolis or cemetery – evidence that sick people who came to be cured by the waters died there in large numbers as well. Row after row of mausoleums and burial sites show that these dead folks had some money.

Pamukkale had a very large theater which had an orchestra / stage area which was modified to be flooded as a pool, so naval adventures could be recreated for the audience. There was also a large temple where Pluto was worshipped. One of the springs would spew poison gas, and the local priests would call this the “plutonium” and demonstrate the deadly properties by tossing in birds and small animals and watching them die.
Pamukkale / Hieropolis
You can swim in the mineral waters as well. There is a pool / spa located in the park which will charge you to swim amongst the ancient columns and for a towel as well if you don’t have one of your own. This combined with the entrance fee for non-Turks and it can make for an expensive swim for foreigners.

Probably the most dramatic part of a visit to Pamukkale is the travertine terraces. You are allowed to walk on the terraces if you take your shoes off. The experience is like nothing else. Imagine walking on a frozen waterfall surface with pools of light blue water and a stream cascading down the hill. But the water is warmish and you are barefoot in the stream and the pools. The surface shows tiny ripples that are like the bigger terrace pools. Towards the top of the falls, the “snow” was fairly dirty looking. Since this became a UN world heritage site, they periodically reroute the water and allow the sun to bleach the terraces white again. As you walk along there are pebbles and rocks to walk on, so those with tender feet will experience some pain.

Pamukkale / Hieropolis

Walking on the calcium terraces

From the entrance next to the necropolis, you can walk all the way through Hieropolis, then down the waterfall to the little town of Pammukale. If you do this with your own car, it makes for a long walk back up the terraces and another two kilometers back to your car. I offered to let the rest of my companions walk down the tavertines while I did a little run back to our car. Then I drove down to the bottom of the hill to wait for them. When I met them at the bottom, they insisted that I should walk up the travertine to experience it for myself. Unfortunately this meant paying the entrance fee of 20TL (about US$10) a second time. Interesting that Turkish citizens were allowed to enter the site for free without buying a ticket. I guess it costs to be a foreign tourist.

While we were still at the top of the hill in Hieropolis, we decided it was getting a bit too late to drive further on our trip, so we should find a place in Pamukkale. Consulting our Lonely Planet guidebook, we were advised that their top choice was the Melrose House hotel. They were listed as having a swimming pool, which was a draw since the hot springs pool in Hieropolis was pretty expensive to swim in. We tried calling them (got a recorded message) and reserving two rooms on their website (no response). So we were not sure if we could get in there.

So while I was walking on the tavertines, Susan and Deb walked down to the Melrose House  and checked to see if there were two double rooms available for us, while Court waited for me in the car. After I arrived back from my walk on the tavertines, Court and I drove down to the hotel.  I was able to message Deb on Facebook (we didn’t get any call or texting on our SIM cards), and she said our rooms would be … interesting.

Pamukkale / Hieropolis

Circular bed at the Melrose House

Once we got to the Melrose House, Court and I learned that our rooms both had circular beds! Quite a surprise, but the rooms were very nice, with a make-up mirror and coffee service in the room. We learned from Lonely Planet that they served a good dinner there, so we ate dinner as well as breakfast the next morning. The staff there were very friendly and helpful – good job, Lonely Planet!

 

You can see more photos from Pamukkale and Hieropolis at this Flickr set

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