Pamukkale meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, is a surreal formation of terraces created by the carbonated minerals left behind from flowing water. I watched a documentary about geology years back and the host spent some time here. I was stunned by the beauty and thought to myself, I’ve gotta go there one day.
The Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis was built above the cotton castle and has been very well reconstructed around some beautiful gardens.
We spent the day cruising north from Olu Deniz and found a campsite on a hill overlooking Pamukkale. The following day we were up early to check out the sites, luckily there is an entrance at the top of the travertine terraces as negotiating them from the bottom would prove impossible with the wheelchair.
It was surprisingly quite as our early start ensured we beat the hoards of tour buses.
The terraces are a very bright white causing the mineral rich water to appear particularly blue. We were amazed at the size of the terraces which covered an area much bigger than what we were expecting. The upper fringes of the terraces are littered with the remains of ancient city of Heirapolis. It’s a great site to wonder around looking at the terraces with a panoramic view of the valley below and surrounded by the rich history of Heirapolis. Where natural beauty meets enchanting history.
The next few hours were spent exploring the rest of Heiropolis and the many remains of the ancient city, including a very well preserved amphitheater and a museum with many artifacts. There is also a hot spring where you can bathe in the crystal clear waters amongst scatted ruins. The mineral rich waters are meant to have special healing properties.
We decided to duck into the museum and check out some of the artifacts on display. We were amazed at the level of detail of the rock carvings which still remained after many millennium. We found Hierapolis to be the best reconstructed site we had visited so far, with the beautiful gardens tying the terraces and ruins together so well. After enjoying an ice cream in the gardens overlooking the terraces we were off again and headed for Ephesus or Efes in Turkish.
We split up the drive west with a nights camping in an olive grove where we cooked our own Turkish style grill on the fire with the ultimate camping hot plate my mate Nick made me.
Efes was established some 3000 years ago by the Greeks. As with most of their colonies it eventually came under the control of the Romans but not until the 1st century BC. The main attraction here is the Celsus library. Built in the 1st century AD to house 12,000 scrolls the building itself is still very much intact. As were the many sculptures and inscriptions that adorned the outside of the building.
It was quite tricky negotiating the unevenly worn large cobble stones through Efes. On top of that the city was built on a slope. Luckily for us we started at the top and rolled down through the ancient streets ending our tour at the great theater. This is the largest in Turkey capable of entertaining 25,000 spectators.
On our way out we passed the graves of many of the famous gladiators who had lost lives there. A stark reminder of how brutal some of the traditions were during the Roman occupation.
Thankfully there was a taxi rank at the bottom of the hill so after the guilty pleasure of another ice cream we were driven back to our troopy with the road to Istanbul ahead.