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A White Fairy Tale

For 2000 years, the inhabitants of this region have been indulging in the warm waters of these glistening white travertines. I haven’t seen anything like this before and since I saw some photos of those saucer-shaped white terraces, I knew I wanted to go there.

Pamukkale literally means ‘Cotton Castle’ in Turkish.  From the distance, the mountain  looks like a project from the artists Christo and Jeanee-Claude, famous for wrapping massive buildings and even an island with fabric. Their Wrapped Coast project comes to my mind.

This impressive natural site in Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey can be easily reach by car or plane. The nearest airport is in Denizli and there are 2 regular daily flights with Turkish Airlines from Istanbul. The flight takes forty minutes or approximately 8 hours by car.

There is not much to do in the village at the bottom of the mountain but still   its relaxing, quiet and offers some decent small hotels and guesthouses.

Apart from the travertine pools, the ancient city of Hierapolis is located atop of the mountain, adjacent to the hot springs. I recommend hiring a guide for the day and walking through the ancient city until you reach the top of the Cotton Castle.

I was there with Ali Karci, a local guide from Denizli. His experience and knowledge of the area was spot on. Even better, he was very patient while I was taking photos, can’t think of a better choice. He can be contacted by email at or by phone +905068702962. And no, I’m not getting a commission, I just believe its fair to help people who honestly go the extra mile when doing their job.

View of The Bosphorus from my early flight from Istanbul to Denizli
The village of Pamukkale at the bottom of the mountain. Small but beautiful. Perfect for an overnight stay
An old lady knitting and warming up in the early morning sun in the morning in the village. I was there in mid-October and the temperatures at night dropped to around 10 degrees
Lovely locals in the village
View of the Cotton Castle from the hotel's terrace
While it is possible to bath in the travertine pools, they are not very deep
In order to preserve the unique calcite surface, visitors must walk barefeet
And the moment I was waiting for: sunset. Not many people stay this late. That's why is worth to stay at least one night in the village
The white calcite reflects the pink light of the sunset. It was a bit chilly but nothing that a light jacket couldn't fix
Although the ridges look rough, the constant water flow keeps the ground mostly soft.
A couple walks along the edge of the travertine pools at sunset
Hierapolis, an ancient city on top of the mountain. It became a curative centre when founded around 190 B.C. by Eumenes II of Pergamum
In the mid-20th century, hotels were built over the ruins of Hierapolis, causing considerable damage. An approach road was built from the valley over the terraces, and motor bikes were allowed to go up and down the slopes. When the area was declared a World Heritage Site, the hotels were demolished and the road removed and replaced with artificial pools
Hierapolis was first excavated by the German archaeologist Carl Humann during June and July 1887


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