The Brilliant White Terraces of Pamukkale

It was quite a drive we had ahead of us today, driving nearly 250km inland to see the world heritage site of Pamukkale, and then driving back to spend another night in Selçuk.

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To break the monotony, we decided to take a small detour through the nearby town of Tire (tee-reh, not tyre). Lonely Planet described it as a nice countryside town in the foothills of the Aegean mountains, surrounded by farms. It was partially true – it was surrounded by farms, and it was at the foothills of some small mountains. However, it wasn’t such a pretty town. We were perplexed as why it was even mentioned in Lonely Planet, let alone recommended as a place to visit. But, it did get nicer as we got to the old town.

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Also recommended was the drive up the mountains to the nearby town of Kaplan. The roads were some of the tightest that I have ever driven on, and the views down to Tire were beautiful – the town certainly looked nicer from this angle.

The town of Kaplan was recommended because of a famous köfte restaurant (everywhere seems to have a famous köfte restaurant), but it is closed on Mondays. Still, the drive through the hills was something different.

From Tire we were able to take a small bypass road across the hills to join with the major road between Selçuk and Pamukkale. I had a quick look at it on Google Maps yesterday evening, and it looked like it would be fairly simple. However, unbeknownst to me, the route that the non Google Maps application on my phone took us on was another route entirely.

It started out OK, but it quickly turned into a single lane gravel path. It might also go some way towards explaining why people looked so surprised to see us. It wasn’t just us they were surprised to see, we must have been one of the few cars on the road, everything else was tractors, motorbikes and donkeys.

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We had really made our way into rural Turkey, and it was really exciting to see something that isn’t created for tourist consumption. Had we not been on a rather tight timeline, it would have been great to stop at some of the tea houses that were full of old weathered men (the women were hard at work in the fields, or carrying sticks/grass/fruit).

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And, it wasn’t just the fabulous towns, there was some absolutely spectacular scenery. I’m convinced that it was equally impressive as some of the attractions that we detoured to see while travelling around Australia. Spectacular cliffs and caves, and without a tourist (or hawker) in sight.

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We were getting hungry, and thought it could be fun to stop for lunch in one of the small towns, but we weren’t able to see anything that looked like a restaurant, only the tea houses. The scenic detour eventually joined the main highway, and with that we were back in towns. We pulled in to the first town we came to, Köşk, and stopped at the first restaurant that we saw. We were in luck, as it turned out to be a fantastic pide restaurant. Like, really, really fantastic. They didn’t have a menu, just asked what we felt like eating, and then made it for us. And all of this goodness came to less than $10 (including drinks!).

But, we weren’t even half-way to Pamukkale yet, and it was already 2PM, so we had get back on the motorway and get serious.

Running the navigation on my phone had taken a serious hit on the battery, so we turned it off for a while and followed the signs. I was starting to regret it when the signs took us out along a very old road, through small (and closed) towns. But, we could see the white hills in the distance, so we figured that we must still be going the right way.

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Turns out there are two entries, and we’d arrived at the top one. Entry to the site was 25TL each ($12.50), and it was a long walk through the ruins of the old cemetery/necropolis before we could finally see the while hills that the area is famous for. The first section was pretty, but it was void of water. I had read that they alternate the water flow to be able to give the pools a chance to bleach back to bright white.

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It wasn’t much further to the active travertines (what the pools are officially called), though we saw the tourists long before we saw the pools. The water that was flowing down the gutters was a nice warm temperature, so it wasn’t surprising to see everyone seated with their feet in the fast flowing stream.

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First impressions were a little underwhelming. It was beautiful, but much, much smaller than I had anticipated. I don’t know if it was Photoshop trickery, or if they just had a different section irrigated, but it seemed like just one narrow line of pools, not the vast panorama of white terraces with fabulously beautiful turquoise pools.

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As mentioned, the water was quite warm. If it wasn’t already a hot day it may have been a little uncomfortable to bath in, but since the sun was shining and the humidity was rising with storm clouds that were brewing, it didn’t matter that it was tepid. More surprising that the temperature was the sediment at the bottom of the pools. Outside of the pool the sediment was calcified and hard as rock, but inside the pool it was thick and chalky white mud.

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Risa thought it a grand idea to give me a mud pack facial, which I thought was pretty funny until my face started to feel itchy. It was probably a coincidence, not that the mud was caustic and harmful. Surely. Whatever it was, my skin felt smoother and I was at least a third of a shade whiter afterwards (probably).

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The flow of the water seems to be quite carefully controlled, with the majority of it bypassing the pools. You could see the gentle streams that were deviated towards the pools that were slowly creating this fantastic miniature patterns.

We also had a quick look at the Antique Pool, which was a further 35TL to enter. We walked straight inside without paying thankfully, as it was little more than a pool with some of the original foundations.

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I can’t quite remember the significance of the giant cock/rooster, but something to do with the area (I probably should have written something down about it at the time).

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There were massive storm clouds rolling in, and we could hear thunder and see the lightning on all sides. The rain however never came, which was fortunate.

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It was getting late, but we spent an hour or so walking around some of the ruins of the old city of Hierapolis. In my opinion it seemed much grander than the ruins of Ephesus that we visited yesterday. It didn’t have any of the drawcard buildings like the Celsus Library, but just seemed like a much larger area, and was easier to get a feeling of the size and feel of the old town.

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Like Ephesus, there was a massive arena here, too. It was technically smaller at 25,000 capacity, but it felt equally large to me. It did however have a really detailed façade, but we weren’t able to get up close.

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There were dozens of other buildings in various states of decay. The necropolis was especially large, and had a bit of a chuckle about a joke I read in Lonely Planet, jesting that the curative powers of the waters couldn’t have been that effective if there were so many dead here – a valid observation.

It was after 7PM by the time we finally left. With nothing to see or do, we took the direct route back. Luckily it felt much quicker this time. It was a little concerning that the battery on my phone was nearly flat (and with no way to charge it), but I had a rough idea of the road to follow to get home.

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After the success of lunch today, we decided to try stopping in another random town and shop for dinner. I ordered köfte and it was awesome! We were the last customers of the evening, and he still fired up the wood fired oven for us. It was the first time that I’d had köfte on a sizzling pan. And, dinner and drinks for the two of us only came to $12!

We didn’t arrived back at hotel in Selçuk until 10:30… I was exhausted from the day’s driving, but couldn’t rest until we walked to the top floor of the apartment block. I shouldn’t complain, at least it was only four stories.

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3 Comments

  1. Beautiful pictures!

  2. The roosters are special to Denizli. There is a saying “Each rooster crows at its own place … But a Denizli Rooster crows everywhere”. There are roosters EVERYWHERE! It is the symbol of the city 😉

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