Travel Magazine

PAMUKKALE and Turkey's Ancient Greek City of HIERAPOLIS

By Carolinearnoldtravel @CarolineSArnold

PAMUKKALE and Turkey's Ancient Greek City of HIERAPOLIS

The hot springs at Pamukkale have been used as a spa since the 2nd century BC

A year ago in May I was in Turkey, first in Istanbul, and then for a short tour in southern Turkey. Our tour base was Selkuk, the modern city at the ancient site of Ephesus.  On our first day, we visited Ephesus and other ancient sites around the city. (See my post for June 10, 2013.) On our second day, our guide took us to Pamukkale, a three and half hour bus trip through the verdant Menderes river valley, so we could visit the ancient Greek city of Hierapolis and the hot springs and travertine terraces on which the city was built.

PAMUKKALE and Turkey's Ancient Greek City of HIERAPOLIS

Hierapolis was built on a plateau above the Menderes River Valley

It seemed like a long way to go, but was worth the ride. We stopped on the way at a rest stop (where I bought an absolutely delicious glass of fresh squeezed orange juice) and for lunch at a tourist restaurant where we selected food from a long buffet.
PAMUKKALE and Turkey's Ancient Greek City of HIERAPOLIS
Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish and refers to the immense white terraces formed of calcium carbonate that rise above the city.  Seventeen different hot springs flow to the surface of the ground in Pamukkale and the calcium carbonate, which is dissolved in the water, deposits as the water evaporates, creating mountains of pure white mineral.  It seems otherworldly.  The terraces and the ruins of Hierapolis are a World Heritage Site.  After paying to enter, we went to the pools, which we were allowed to explore after removing our shoes.  So, taking care not to fall on the sometimes slippery bottom, we walked through the shallow water, which eventually fell to a larger pool in the valley below. The view from the terraces was spectacular.

PAMUKKALE and Turkey's Ancient Greek City of HIERAPOLIS

Entrance gate to the ancient city of Hierapolis

We then entered the gate of the ancient city and had a short tour of the ruins.  It was a beautiful day, with blue skies, fluffy clouds, and red poppies on the hillside.  Nature had taken over what once had been a bustling city in Greek and Roman times, so we had to use our imagination to picture what life had been like long ago.
PAMUKKALE and Turkey's Ancient Greek City of HIERAPOLIS
Our next stop was the ancient swimming pool, supposedly built by Anthony for Cleopatra, when they visited Hierapolis on their honeymoon.  The pool, filled with warm water from the hot springs, was once an elegant structure, surrounded by large marble columns.  But in an earthquake in the 7th century, the columns crumbled, and fell into the pool.

PAMUKKALE and Turkey's Ancient Greek City of HIERAPOLIS

Cleopatra's Pool (note submerged column fragments)


I had brought my swimming suit, so I changed and went into the water.  How could I resist the opportunity to swim in a pool where, perhaps, Cleopatra herself might have once bathed!  The water was lovely but the main hazards were the fallen marble columns, which provided underwater seating, but also places to stub ones toes.
PAMUKKALE and Turkey's Ancient Greek City of HIERAPOLIS
While I went swimming some of the other people in our group went to visit “Dr. Fish”, a spa in which you immerse your feet in a tub filled with tiny fish that nibble all the dead skin off your feet.  I was told that after initially getting used to the idea, it felt like a very pleasant massage. I didn’t try it myself.

PAMUKKALE and Turkey's Ancient Greek City of HIERAPOLIS

Ancient Roman road, Hierapolis

At the end of the afternoon we had time to walk by ourselves among the ruins, following ancient paths through the city. Our final stop in Pamukkale was at a factory where they carved stone into cups, vases, plates, jewelry and more.  After watching a demonstration, we were led into the shop.  Despite the commercial nature of the enterprise, it was actually quite fascinating and many of the items were quite beautiful.
The following morning, our last day in Selkuk, we were on our own and I took the opportunity to wander around town, visiting the ruins of St. John’s on the hill, watching the storks at their rooftop nests, visiting a rug shop, buying some books and other souvenirs, and eating lunch at one of the many restaurants, where I had a delicious eggplant and pepper dish.  I wished we had had more time in southern Turkey, but this gives me a reason to return some day.
My other posts on Turkey:
4/8/2013  Room With a View
8/27/2012  Ephesus: Temple of Artemis
8/20/2012  Letter from Istanbul
8/6/2012  Istanbul: A Food Lover's Delight
5/28/2012  Istanbul:  Museum of Innocence


PAMUKKALE and Turkey's Ancient Greek City of HIERAPOLIS

Poppies, Hierapolis


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