Pamukkale – the land of risque bikini poses and cupcake icing hillsides…

What do you get if you cross an infinity pool with an iced cupcake and some chalky white cliffs?

You get Pamukkale my friends!

Pamukkale actually means “cotton castle” in Turkish, and when we arrived at the sparkling white cliffside pools after a 4 hour bus ride from Selçuk it was easy to see why. We rounded a corner after a 5 minute walk from the town centre and were greeted with a blindingly white rocky hillside speckled with some flashes of vibrant aqua blue that on closer inspection were actually shallow natural pools.

The Pamukkale rock formations are made of travertine – a sedimentary rock which has been gradually built up after being deposited along the hillside by the natural springs that are spotted within the area. I personally had never even heard of travertine before – and thus was a little confused when we saw the signs to ‘remove shoes once reaching the travertine’ – ‘the what!?’.

The whole spectacle is really, REALLY bright and as the day was extremely sunny we had our sunglasses on well before we even reached the water terraces themselves. We entered through the lower gates, and once getting barefoot we began walking upwards through the shallow water that trickled down over the ridges of coarse white rock.

The rock terraces truly look like something not quite of this world. The rock deposits have built up ever so gradually that at places it almost looks as though a thick layer of white cake icing has been splashed onto the rock and is slowly dripping over the sides. I could definitely see why they garnered a place as one of ‘10 amazing alien-like places in our world’ – check out the link to see the others here – – there’s some pretty crazy stuff on show!

The pools and terraces of Pamukkale have fascinated people since ancient times – the Romans actually believed that the spring waters had special healing powers and built a town centred on spas utilising the water that trickles through the rocks. The ruins of this town – Hieropolis, are located at the top of the hill overlooking and swarms of tourists are bussed in to visit the ruins and have a quick splash in some of the higher pools.

We were lucky enough to spend a lot of time in the lower pools which were almost completely devoid of people. The 10 minute downhill walk scrambling through the multiple layers of rocky terraces seemed to be too much trouble for the majority of the other tourists. Instead of coming down to the lower pools where we were there were a solid 300 or so people crammed shoulder to shoulder in the highest two pools – it was pretty revolting up there! As we walked closer and closer to the higher levels we passed a alarmingly high number of girls practising their very best Baywatch-like poses whilst draping themselves across the ledges and staring seductively into their cameras. It was g-string bikini and euro-trash delight and I couldn’t help but have a sneaky giggle as I got to the view all the hilarious little photo shoots at play!

A section where the pools have completely dried up…

Although I was completely blown away by the magnificence of Pamukkale, it’s sad to know that the beauty of the place has actually been significantly decreased from that of its former. Up until the 80s, masses of hotels were being built right on the hillside overlooking the pools.  A road was actually built directly over a number of the terraces and motorcycles used to zoom across the formations frequently. This combined with an overload of tourists and lack of proper management meant that a number of the springs actually began to dry up – leaving a major portion of the original pools completely dry. You can see a lot of them when you visit and it really is such a shame when you realise how beautiful they would have once been. Thankfully the place was declared a UNESCO world heritage site and all of the hotels were demolished – so hopefully the remaining pools should be safe for years to come.

If you are ever in Turkey and even remotely close to Pamukkale  – GO! The place is remarkable, unique and beautiful – I can honestly say that it’s well worth the detour!

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