Getting to know Pamukkale
Travertine formations known as Pamukkale are a natural wonder in the middle of lush farmland. In addition to being one of Turkey’s best-known natural tourist attractions, this pure white hillside is one of the country’s most photographed locations.
Located at the top of the travertine hill, the ruins of the Roman bath town of Hierapolis are a must-see for history-minded tourists in Turkey.
The famous hot spring pool is the centerpiece of the ancient site, but there are also numerous temples and monuments, a large necropolis area, and a large theater.
The Travertine Mountains
Calcium deposits from the area’s hot springs formed Pamukkale’s gleaming white calcite cliffs. A similar process to the formation of stalactites and stalagmites occurs in limestone caves. The name “Pamukkale” means “cotton castle” in Turkish, and the travertines’ brilliant whiteness gives the impression of a strange natural stronghold.
There are two ways to experience the travertines: either walk from the Pamukkale town base up to or down the terrace ridge connecting it to the central entrance of the Hierapolis ancient monument. Travertine walkways are only accessible by foot, and visitors must remain barefoot when entering them.
Wading through pools of water in half-circle shaped terraces is required at the summit (most are ankle to mid-calf deep).
An elevated wooden boardwalk traverses the upper travertine edge to offer a bird’s-eye view of the travertine hill and its surroundings.
Laodikeia, about 12 kilometers south of Pamukkale, was Cicero’s home before he moved to Rome in the third century. Industrial, commercial, and medical activity were all concentrated in this busy Roman metropolis.
Christian and Jewish communities began to settle here as Christianity began to overtake older pagan religions.
The ruins are stunning, with a fascinating mix of structures dating from the early Roman period to the early Christian period and the early Byzantine period.
As a result of its location in Pamukkale, which isn’t as well-known as the travertine terraces and Hierapolis, the attraction is surprisingly peaceful and quiet. Arrive early or stay late, and you’re more likely to have the place to yourself.
Pamukkale has recently introduced paragliding and hot air ballooning as activities.
Ballooning over Hierapolis ruins, calcite terraces, and patchwork farms provides a unique perspective on Turkey’s most famous hot air ballooning destination, Cappadocia.
You’ll need to get up early to take advantage of the early morning balloon rides, which take place shortly after sunrise.
In contrast, tandem paragliding is available at any time of day. Before landing below the site, paragliders take off from Hierapolis’ summit, behind the travertine hill. They then fly over the site and its terraces.
The Antique Pool at Pamukkale
You’ve come to the right place if you want to soak in a therapeutic hot pool like the Romans did, but without the togas.
Relax your aching muscles in mineral-rich hot spring water at a constant temperature of 36 degrees Celsius in Pamukkale’s Antique Pool, located centrally between the museum and the Temple of Apollo on the site.
With half-submerged columns and marble fragments strewn throughout the water, this is one of the most atmospheric hot spring experiences you’ll ever have. However, it’s also extremely popular, so plan ahead of time.
Christian Remains at Hierapolis
Byzantine-era ruins at Hierapolis include the Martyrium of the Apostle Phillip, the largest surviving Byzantine-era structure. In retaliation for his protests against the pagan worshippers of Hierapolis, the saint and his children were allegedly murdered on the site where the church now stands.
Located on a ridge, the martyrium is accessible via a trail that leads from both the theater trail and behind the remains of the city itself.
The martyrium consists of three layers. In order to reach the site, pilgrims had to cross an ancient bridge from the fourth century, so a new bridge was built at the structure’s base to serve as a replica. This bridge leads to the remains of an ancient Byzantine octagonal bathhouse.
In order to get to the pilgrims’ fountain and ruins of the Church of St. Phillip’s Sepulchre, you must take a stairway that leads from the bathhouse complex up to the middle level.
St. Phillip is believed to have been buried in a Roman-era tomb in the church’s ruins, which dates back to the first century CE.
The Martyrion, which is believed to have been built on the site of St. Phillip’s martyrdom, has another set of stairs. The octagonal structure of the church’s interior core can be clearly seen thanks to the archways’ preservation.
Museum of Hieropolis
Located in the ancient city’s former Roman bathhouse, this small but excellent museum is dedicated to Hierapolis and can be found directly across from the antique pool complex and behind the main entrance to the site via the travertine road.
The exhibits here highlight some of the city’s most exquisite artwork and cultural heritage, bringing the city to life.
Exquisite and intricate stone reliefs, sarcophagi, and sculptures are on display in the museum’s three main halls.
Throughout the garden are a number of inscription-covered monuments and carved stone reliefs.
The Necropolis of the North
One of the most fascinating parts of the ancient city of Hierapolis is its northern necropolis, which is a shame because it contains an abundance of tombs dotted across the hillside.
Tombs from the second to third centuries AD can be found in the necropolis. They look like miniature houses, with a lot of rooms and inscriptions on the front doors. The Tomb of the Gladiator has a relief of a gladiator above the entrance.
Northern Hierapolis’s northern necropolis is accessible via the city’s northern entrance. You can begin or end your visit here, as it’s one of the more peaceful areas of the historic site.
Ruins of Hierapolis
Hierapolis was originally a fortified military colony, founded by King Eumenes II of Pergamon sometime after 190 BCE. After an earthquake devastated the original city in 60 CE, reconstruction was necessary before the city’s heyday could begin.
In the second and third centuries, the city’s natural hot springs made it a popular spa destination.
Near the northern end of the Necropolis, there are the remains of a great colonnaded street that ran parallel to the travertines below for more than a kilometer.
Aphrodisias has gone from being a little-known spot to one of Turkey’s most important historical landmarks thanks to recent research.
Chalcolithic artifacts and early Bronze Age pottery found at the site indicate that the area was inhabited in the fourth millennium BCE and that an Assyrian trading colony was established here during the Hittite period.
It was during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, however, that the settlement’s sanctuary became the focal point of the widespread Aphrodite cult, and the city became known for its sculpture, medicine and philosophy schools.
Around 100 BCE, the 14-column Temple of Aphrodite was built (two with architraves in place). In the fifth century, the Byzantines converted this pagan temple into a three-aisle basilica.
30,000 people can be comfortably accommodated in the Stadium, which is located to the north and is kept immaculately. The best-preserved monument on the site, the bouleuterion, is located south of the temple and is decorated with reliefs and figures.
Theater of Hierapolis
With an impressive 100-meter-long facade and two decks of seating, each with 26 rows, the city’s enormous theater was perched on a rocky incline overlooking the massive ruins of Hierapolis.
Since the time of Hadrian and Septimius Severus, this theater has been remarkably well preserved. Even the imperial boxes (from which VIP guests would have viewed the show) and several ornate panels that ran the length of the stage were preserved. The best views can be had from the uppermost tiers of seating.