Just Add Water

Our trip into Pamukkale was to see the living embodiment of its glossy travel posters; that famous terraced calcified hill overflowing with jaw-dropping azure pools. 


So it came as a bit of a shock as it seemed we may have arrived twenty or so years too late—they’ve mostly dried up. And when we asked the locals where the water was, they told us they haven’t seen the terraces spill over with mythic postcard-perfect grandeur since they were children.


Somebody get Sarah McLachlan over here right away. 


Though it was sad to discover most of the pools have dried up, there is water diverted from time to time to a handful of natural pools here and there. But sadly no diversions of any kind whatsoever today. 


That said, the snow white calcified hillside is still striking and quite something to see. And there is a warm thermal spring that flows down the ridge line along the path that you’re allowed to walk up or down, and they fill up several suspiciously man-made looking terraced wading pools that hug closest to the mountain side. These shimmering reflective wading pools seem to please the visitors who come here to trudge down in their high-fashion outfits to pout at their cameras. They seemed content that their social media post had not been entirely hijacked by earthquakes or climate change. 


We began the day walking up this ridge line barefoot—no shoes allowed—and enjoyed the thermal stream running along our route to the top and the strange feeling, as Mark said, that we were walking on a giant white cheese grater. When the four of us reached the top, past the public pool, we discovered the massive ruins of the city Hierapolis. 


In its 190 BC heyday, this Roman Spa city, built around the terraces, must have been an amazing metropolis. Earthquakes have destroyed the place and it now resembles the minefield of a young boys bedroom with the jagged edges of scattered jumbo-sized legos all over his floor. 


Here among its wide-spread ruins, is where we spent most of the day. Sorting though miles and miles of ruins, including a theater and a shopping complex that, in its day must have been like Rodeo Drive. We walked far and wide and high and low and still never reached the city’s limits. Toward the end of the day, our feet got tired and the clouds started to roll in, and it began to rain. And then pour.


Since our hotel was perfectly situated just a few minutes from the base of the terraced pools, we headed back down the ridge line tracing our barefoot steps back towards home. As the rain poured down the slope and the white surface sheeted with flowing water, we instinctively braced ourselves for a precariously slippery walk down. But shockingly, the calcium cliffside gripped our bare feet perfectly. Walking on a giant white cheese grater had its perks, though it took some time before our feet felt confident enough to override our brain sending warning signals that we were in slippery peril. And the walk inside the stream full of warm thermal water rejuvenated the drenched four of us as we made our way down.


We discovered that walking up and then back down the white slopes were two different experiences. And the rain actually made it a fun adventure. At the base of the slope we put our shoes back on and took our soaked selves out for a warm meal next to a roaring pellet stove.


There we warmed up and opined over the once-dreamy travertine pools now enveloped by a ruined city.


Our barefoot stroll made us realize just how important it is to bring your own water with you when you’re out adventuring. You never know when you’ll meet up with a world heritage sight that’s super thirsty.

If you’re ever there for a visit, be sure to check out the museum. Marcel certainly enjoyed it.

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