November 8, 2011

Turkey : Pamukkale

Continuation from here ...

As early as 6am, we woke up and got dressed. Had breakfast at the hotel and checked out soon after. The driver sent us to Kusadasi bus station.

Got on an 8am bus and 3 hours and a half later, we arrived in Pamukkale. This is a small town that receive a lot of visitors due to its natural wonders, the beautiful travertine and the hot springs.

Our next tour guide was already waiting at the bus station, and straight away drove us to our destination. Pamukkale means cotton castle in Turkish, and from afar, that’s exactly what the travertine looks like. It also looks kinda like snow covered hill.

The driver drove us uphill. Entrance fee to this area is 20TL. We were first brought to an ancient city of Hierapolis. This ancient city is adjacent to the hot springs. It is believed the Hittites (2000BC – 1000BC) was the first empire to form a city here and they chose the location because of the hot springs.

We walked around the ruins. I’ve seen a lot of ruins over the last 2 days but the fact that a lot of the ruins are still somewhat intact after thousands of years, well I can’t think of a word to describe how incredible that is. One that caught my eyes was this Theater.

Not as big as the one in Ephesus, but still, it is impressive. Perched on the slope of a hill, we had to walk to the top to enter the Theater but it was well worth the effort. The stage area was being restored during my visit but overall, it was in extremely good condition. Sitting at the Theater, we had an amazing view of the valley below.

Walking down the hill, we stopped at the Cleopatra Baths.

You can swim in the ancient pool for 25TL. The water in the pool is the same hot, mineral water that feeds the pools in the travertine.

They had also sunk some of the ancient columns from Hierapolis into the bottom of the pool to give it a more ancient feel.

Finally, just a couple of hundred metres from the Hierapolis ruins and the ancient pool, the amazingly beautiful pools and the white stone waterfalls lies before our eyes.

Oh my God. Seriously I was speechless upon seeing the natural beauty in front of me.

The terraces were formed by running warm spring water, at a temperature of 35°C containing calcium bicarbonate. The warm calcium-rich water bubbling out of springs on the hillside has cascaded over the rocks for centuries; as it cools it leaves mineral deposits which form a series of natural shelves and pools.

Not surprisingly, its popularity with the tourist in the past had put much of its beauty in jeopardy. People used to soak themselves in the pools as the hot springs were believed to have healing powers. It must not have created a problem when it was relatively small numbers but over time, more and more people taking advantage of the healing waters.

This increase, coupled with the extra drain on resources caused by the construction of some new hotels built at the top of the mountain caused serious damage to the pools. UNESCO has worked with the local authorities to rehab the area, first tearing down the hotels at the top, then by closing off sections of the travertine so they can recover, and finally by limiting where and when people can access the terraces.

Not wanting to miss the opportunity to soak ourselves in the pool, we walked to the bottom of the falls. Walking downhill through the pools with water running down, barefooted, I was expecting the rocks to be slippery but fortunately, it wasn’t. We manoeuvred our way without any problem.

I had time for a little facial too. Hehehe...

They say the water and the mineral deposits are good for the skin. :D

Alternatively, you can start walking from the bottom of the hill. There’s another entrance there. Do note that shoes need to be taken off because they aren’t allowed in order to protect the mineral deposit.

The experience was totally awesome. This is certainly one of the best natural wonders I’ve ever seen in my life.

Anyway, both the Hierapolis and Pools of Pamukkale are listed as World Heritage sites of UNESCO in 1988. It’s easy to see why isn’t it?

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