The day following our visit to Ephesus found us on another mini-group tour. A three-hour drive took us from Selçuk to the North entrance of our next tour: the ancient city of Hierapolis and the cotton-like calcified springs of Pamukkale. Pamukkale is one of Turkey’s natural wonders with its calcium cascade terraces of snow-white stalactites and is known as 8th wonder of the World by the Turkish people. Pamukkale and Hierapolis together have both been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1988.
We spent the first part of the afternoon walking around the calcium deposits, or travertine, of the Pamukkale springs. The water was so refreshing. The travertine is so fragile that people were required to remove their shoes before walking on the surface. One of the pools and one path were open to tourists. The rest of the area was closed to protect the beautiful formations from the many tourists that visit the area. The afternoon sun against the bright white of the travertine and the reflected water was almost blinding but spectacularly beautiful. There is also a swimming pool on the premises that is unique in the fact that you can swim with and around ancient roman columns. There are myths about the curative and beautifying benefits of these mineral waters, resulting in many tourist visits a year. We passed on the swimming pool because it was quite mobbed and rather expensive.
After walking (and taking numerous photographs) of the Pamukkale springs, we walked up the hill towards some of the ruins of the city of Hierapolis. It was like wandering in an ancient bone yard for broken buildings and columns. Our visit to the well-preserved ruins was brief as the afternoon sun was becoming quite intense. After hooking back up with the rest of the group, we headed down the mountain to our hotel in the village of Pamukkale (but not before an obligatory stop at an Onyx factory…yawn).
The town of Pamukkale is quite small and pretty funky, with an interesting mix of locals and budget backpacker travelers. After a quick dunk in the hotel’s refreshingly cold swimming pool, we wandered about town looking for a local eatery. We were immediately attracted to a little hole-in-the wall place that had the family’s grandmother grilling pides (kind of a Turkish pizza) just outside the door. Our experience has been that anytime grandma is at the front of the restaurant, you can’t go wrong with the food. We weren’t let down this time either – grandma made the best pides we’d had on the trip so far! We found a nice table in the back of the restaurant with a great view of the Pamukkale travertine terraces.
As we watched the light of the setting sun shining on the white stone, a massive thunderstorm quickly rolled in, providing a spectacular lightning show for us as we dined on grandma’s homemade pide. The lightening lit up the calcified walls of the Pamukkale springs to the point of almost being blinding, while the rain dumped just outside our safe cover. A leaking roof on one side of the canopy made the floor soaking wet, but we were mostly dry, so we relaxed, sipped some Turkish tea, and watched the storm, hoping the rain would stop long enough for us to saunter back to the hotel.
When we finally decided to leave the restaurant, it was lightly raining, but the lightning was still going strong. As we walked down the street, there was a bright flash, a boom of thunder, and all the power in town went out, making the street completely dark. It was so dark we couldn’t see a thing, including each other. This was going to make navigating to our hotel a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, the bright flashes of lightning lasted long enough for us to see the signs on the buildings. And, we hadn’t wandered off the main road so we knew the general direction we needed to head. As we crept down the dark street, a blinding flash of light revealed the sign for our hotel. Like everywhere else, the power was totally out at the hotel. It was a good thing I brought a headlamp as it came in handy finding our way around the room. However, to find my headlamp, I had to turn on my computer to provide a bit of light while I searched for the headlamp.
Here’s a short video of Pamukkale and Hieropolis: