It is a beautiful sight from distance (smaller than expected), the white mountain with the water running slowly downwards.
It is still pretty when you approach.
But don't be mistaken by the usual photos of people in the water: It's not a bathing area. The crowds follow the course of the water, here and there put their feet in a small natural pool, and it's done. Anyway, with all those people it couldn't be otherwise.
Limestone terraces and pools tumble down the southern cliffs from the ancient city above. Warm spring water (35 C/102 F) containing calcium bicarbonate has been working to form the terraces for some 14,000 years. Limestone is left behind as the water loses its carbon dioxide. The whitish deposits are responsible for the Turkish name for the location – Pamukkale or Cotton Castle.
The theater sits above the Temple of Apollo and dates to the 2nd C AD and it replaced an earlier and smaller theater that had been destroyed in earthquakes. Further restoration in the 3rd C gave the theater a capacity for some 20,000 people. Many reliefs represent the Emperor Septimus Severus who was the emperor of the day. Additional renovations in the 4th C allowed for water displays in the orchestral area.
The Plutonium is a former shrine to Pluto the God of the Underworld. It was a part of a larger temple complex devoted to Apollo. It was here that Apollo met – legend says – with Cybele, the Anatolian mother godess. The Plutonium was described by the Geographer Strabo:
“The Plutonium was a man-high, very deep opening under a gently sloping hill … the
vapors were so thick that it was impossible to see the floor … but any living creature
that enters will find death upon the instant. Bulls for example collapse and die.
We let some little birds fly in, and they fell at once lifeless to the ground. The eunuchs
Of Cybele are resistant to the extent that they can approach close to the opening and go
in without having to hold their breath."
The shrine was rediscovered in 1964. Several fatalities led to the gate being erected to keep the curious from being too curious for their own good.
There were three nymphaeums – fountains – from which locals and travelers could obtain water from and of the three, this one was the latest to be built –3rd to 4th C AD. The fountain was located on the south foot of the Temple of Apollo.
Legend has it that the Apostle Philip was stoned to death here in the 1st C AD on this hill across from the theater. In his memory, an octagonal building was erected surrounding the site of his supposed tomb. Tradition has it that Philip converted the wife of the proconsul of Hierapolis and he was not pleased. Tortured and then cruxified upside down, Philip continued to preach from his cross. The people were going to release him but he would not let them and died. Another legend has him being beheaded. In the summer of 2011 an Italian archeologist announced he had found the actual tomb of Philip but I am unsure whether this is at the martyrium or another church in Hierapolis.
From the North Gate this main street of Heirapolis stretches just over a kilometer in length with 6 meter wide walks on either side separated from the street by columns which lined the street. An old latrine is located just inside the Frontinus Gate on the left. An old bath complex further on the left was converted into a city basilica.
The gate was built in the 1 C AD by Julius Frontinus, the proconsul of the Roman province of Asia, in honor of the Emperor Domitian. The gate was built of travertine and consisted of a triple arch flanked by two round towers. The gate separated the land of the dead - through which a traveler would first traverse upon his arrival – from the land of the living.
Most people come into Hierapolis from the north. And here is a large necropolis that is one of the best preserved and largest of Turkey. There are tombs of various types dating from the late Hellenistic timeframe to the early Christian times. Three basic types of tombs are found: individual sarcophagi, house tombs for families and tumluli tombs. The first two forms usually include inscriptions which give some idea of the deceased role in life – one tomb near the north gate relates to a mariner who made the trip around the south capes of Greece many times in his career. The tumuli were a form of circular house-like tomb that date to the 2nd C BC to the 1st C AD and were popular throughout Thrace and Anatolia.
I would strongly recommend a day trip to Aphrodisias, a ruined Roman city just over an hour south of Pamukkale. It is a well-preserved site noted for its stone carving and statues, and has perhaps the largest stadium of the ancient world which can seat up to 30,000 people. I also found the intact theatre remarkable, you can sit there and imagine yourself watching a play in Roman times. There is quite literally nothing around for miles except fields and encircling mountains which only adds to the peacefulness of the site.
To get there by public transport is difficult (involving a few stops and changes). More worthwhile is to take a day trip from Pamukkale village and all the big hotels such as the Artemis Yoruk Hotel offer this service. Note that it is not a tour, just a transfer to the site and it takes about an hour and twenty minutes. You get around three hours to look round the site on your own, and there is an entry charge which is extra.
The first place you get to inside the site is the old village square with the museum, shop, and cafeteria. There is also a good map of the entire site. Most visitors take the circular walk around Aphrodisias anti-clockwise but I found it better to go clockwise starting at the theatre. If you go in summer you can look around the site first, then enjoy the air-conditioning of the museum as the midday sun hits outside.
On the left side of the photo, you can see the well preserved theatre of Hierapolis. It has been relocated and renovated during centuries and its present state of ruin is still an impressive structure.
unfortunately,in the past,the site wasn't protected:many hotels dug swimming pools ,taking advantage of warm spring waters!
what was the result of it?
basins became dry...so the magic was gone!
spots began spreading and hiding the whiteness.(as in the pic)
finally,a plan of rescue made by unesco is restoring the natural site:all the hotels have been demolished!
and tourists may walk only in authorised basins!
it was high time!
nowadays,the cliff keeps scars from mass tourism:ancient and modern ruins stay side by side!
maybe,but it'll take a long time,natural whiteness will come back!
Since we were staying the night in Pamukkale we had plenty of time to explore and relax. If you have the time, the travertines and antique pool are much more enjoyable later in the day. My wife almost had the pool to herself after the last tour bus left and we were the last ones on the travertines watching the sun go down.
While the antique pool is a great place to people watch in the afternoon, it would be difficult to navigate the masse of humanity that clamors for the seats on the sunken columns.
The hill has two entrance gates: The North Gate & the South Gate.
Generally, most visitors enter from the South Gate, as it is from this side that you can see the travertines right in front of you.
The North Gate is convenient if you want to head directly towards the Necropolis.
Pay for your ticket at the South gate, start walking up for a while till you reach the signs telling you to take off your footwear. This would be the section where you'll actually walk over the calcite-deposited surfac, with the white scallop-shaped basins of water and small waterfalls around you.
A great tranquil feeling, and a spectacular sight.
The views of both the travertine terraces, and surrounding countryside is stunning & peace-inducing.
Due to water diversion in parts, for preservation of the mineral-rich terraces, not all the terraces have water in them.
Once, the whole area was under threat due to rapid proliferation of hotels in the vicinity that were diverting the waters for their own use (to attract guests). Now, the site is regaining some stability after the hotels were knocked down & removed.