Destinations, Travel Tips

The Pamukkale Springs – Turkey’s “cotton castle”

Turkey has always had its share of mystery and exoticism due to its complex history and rich cultural heritage. However, nature has also cast its gifts on this country, offering a real feast for the eyes of any tourist coming here. And there is no better example than the Pamukkale Springs, a place that can heal both one’s soul and body  with their combination of hot, healing water and snow-white terraces. It’s no wonder this location, together with the ancient city of Hierapolis were recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1988. So what is the history of this unique place?

First of all, people have enjoyed its curative properties for thousands of years, so by coming here you would continue an age-old legacy. The springs started to be famous around 190 b.c. when Eumenes  II,  the king of Pergamon, which was set on the western coast of Turkey, founded the city of Hierapolis on the same plateau with the springs. The city was named this way in order to honor Hiera, Telepho‘s wife, who was the legendary founder of Pergamon. In 129 b.c. the city became part of the Roman Empire and was appreciated right from the start; a large number of emperors, including Nero and Hadrian coming here to enjoy the hot water treatment.

While Nero was emperor, in 60 a.d. an earthquake destroyed the city; a new one was built, more imposing than the one created by the Greeks. The new city had wider streets, an amphitheater and public baths, being very developed for its time. Now, numerous archaeological discoveries come to prove how complex life was here in the past. Curious tourists can visit a museum that has a very interesting collection, which includes statues, medical instruments and jewelry. You can also visit an 1200-grave cemetery that can be found outside the city walls. The graves are some real works of art as they are elaborately decorated ad truly imposing.

Another intriguing find was the discovery of two sanctuaries: Apollo’s, the god of sun, poetry, music and medicine, and Hades’, the god of the subterranean world. The two buildings were set quite close to each other, maybe to compensate the two contrasting powers. Hades’ power must have seemed tremendous to the people at that time as poisonous vapors would come out of one of the caves nearby. Strabo said in one of his works that the vapors were so deadly that they could kill a bull instantly. Now scientists have discovered that it wasn’t a god who was “guilty” of this, but a hot spring, whose vapors can still cause irritations to people’s eyes.

The name of the springs, Pamukkale, means “cotton castle” as a local legend claims that in the past giants would dry their cotton here. It’s not hard at all, however, to explain how the springs got their name. As soon as tourists get here, they are immediately impressed by the surreal scenery: perfectly white terraces with apparently fluffy walls, stalactites with the aspect of  frozen waterfalls… all these while dark mountains rise behind them. The walls and the tarraces cover a surface of approximately 2,5 kilometers long and 0,5 kilometers wide. The unique scenery was created by the numerous volcanic hot springs, whose water has a lot of lime and other minerals in its composition, which infiltrate in the soil. Almost everything that sinks in the water is covered in lime, and any object dropped in the springs seems to turn to stone in just a few days. This is how, over millennia the hills surrounding the springs were turned into the white cream-like formations.

So, if you are tempted either by the landscape, either by the waters (which are said to heal, or at leas ameliorate illnesses such as arterial hypertension, rheumatism or heart diseases) all you have to do is get a plane ticket to Turkey and then in the Denizli Province. The springs are located in the Inner Aegean region, on the valley of the Menderes River. You can come just about any time as this place enjoys a temperate climate most of the year. You should encounter no problems concerning transportation even though it’s preferable to book a ticket in advance. Once you’re in the town of  Denizli you’re just 20 kilometers away from the hot water and one of the most amazing places to see in Turkey.

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