Dazzle Me: the White Terraces of Pamukkale

I hopped on a bus from Selcuk to Pamukkale, the site of some amazing, glistening white calcium terraces and travertines at the foot of the ruins of the Roman spa town of Hieropolis. It was supposed to be a direct bus, but we actually had to change in the nearby town of Denizli. I had read that from Denizli one should take the regularly scheduled bus (which I think is free when transferring from the big intercity one) and to try to avoid the dolmus. I asked the conductor on the Metro intercity bus where to go and he pointed in one direction. It was only when my bags were loaded and none of the other tourists heading to Pamukkale were on my bus that I realized I’d been had – I was on a dolmus. At least I got the real dolmus experience where they cram people in even after all the seats are filled!

I arrived at the hotel and sat poolside until it got a little cooler before heading out to the travertines. When it came time to head out, one of the people at the pension offered me a ride. He went to move his motorbike, and I was so flustered when I found out that he wasn’t just moving it, it was our mode of transportation, that I got on the bike! Check one item off the list of things to try – we puttered along pretty much at a bicycle’s speed, but it still counts as having ridden a motorbike (I think).

Despite my having waited till 4, the sun was still incredibly strong, so I didn’t wander around Hieropolis as much as I would have otherwise. Most of the ruins are far away from the entrances and you have no idea how big it is until you walk for a ways. Then it’s rather impressive, in a grassy, still excavating kind of way

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But it’s the travertines that make this place jaw-droppingly one of a kind, a place where you stop to give thanks for being alive and privileged to see it. The hot spring water has a high calcium concentration which has turned the entire hillside into a giant stalagmite. I gather the terraces used to all be full of water, but now only some are so that others can bleach in the sun to kill the algae that would otherwise grow and discolor them.

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The terraces are lined with powdery calcium (and a number of pebbles, every single one of which my feet found when I hiked down), and so the water is this incredible light blue

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If you take off your shoes, you’re allowed to hike down. Most of it is smooth going on the calcified…er, calcium deposits, except for the bottom of the terraces. As you hike down, you are walking through the warm thermal spring water that is also flowing downhill (though most has been diverted).

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I headed back to the hotel and enjoyed one of the best meals I’ve had in Turkey (koftes and eggplant) and headed happily to bed.

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