Cotton and Columns on the Turkish Hillside

Pictures from Turkey's hot springs

By / August 2019

Pamukkale, Turkish for “Cotton Castle,” is an ethereal formation of travertine terraces and cerulean thermal springs in southwest Turkey. The industrial city of Denizli is twenty kilometers to the south. Hierapolis, the ancient Roman retreat, is another five kilometers up the hills. A destination for millennia, the springs, sought out for their healing powers, have launched abiding legends. In the most famous, an unprepossessing woman, miserable in love, hurled herself from a nearby peak. Instead of perishing, however, she landed in one of the natural pools created by the hot springs and was promptly transmogrified into a beauty. As she floated there, so the story goes, the lord of Denizli walked past and fell in love with her.

The tale, however fanciful, has verisimilitude on at least one front: Pamukkale has been a destination for down-and-outers and rulers alike. From a distance, set against a backdrop of lush greenery and sheer rock, Paumkkale looks like an isolated snowscape, but the stone terraces are soft and the waters are warm. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Paumkkale stays open from April to October. Admission costs $9. The ticket also gives you access to the ruins at Hierapolis. Founded by the Attalid kings of Pergamom in the second century B.C.E., the site includes a well-preserved, open-air Roman-style theatre, ancient houses, and tombs set against tall cedars. — A. L.


Aaron La Rue is an EthnoTraveler contributor.