The Getaway
Visit Pamukkale, Turkey's Cotton Castle

Pamukkale is a must-go destination for any excursion to Turkey. The town and the surrounding area date back to the era of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. The diversity of cultures and religions that settled in Pamukkale has left an incredible collection of religious and architectural artifacts. If that wasn't enough, the town of Pamukkale is home to a number of natural wonders such as thermal baths. Plan your trip to this fascinating, awe-inspiring historical sight and learn why people call Pamukkale the "Cotton Castle" of Turkey.


01 Step Back to Antiquity at the Hierapolis City Ruins

A shot of the famous Hierapolis ruins wildart / Getty Images

During the era when Greek explorers and settlers spanned the Eastern Mediterranean, Eumenes II established the city of Hierapolis in 190 BCE. Hierapolis marked the first major settlement in the vicinity of Pamukkale and the start of the town's rich history. Despite the area changing hands many times, the remnants of Hierapolis provide a remarkably well-preserved look into the past.


02 Marvel at the Old Roman Theater

This theater is older than most nation-states me_storyteller / Getty Images

The theater of Hierapolis is one of the principal attractions of the Classical era ruins around Pamukkale. The construction began during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and was completed under his successor, Septimus Severus. The magnificent, massive theater could fit as many as 15,000 people. Not only that, but the stage and seats are so well intact that it's easy to imagine it supporting a play and housing a captive audience to this day.


03 Visit a Shrine to the Goddess of Love

The Tetrapylon, the gateway into Aphrodisias minemero / Getty Images

Not far from Pamukkale, a collective of religious Greeks founded Aphrodisias, a town dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite. They created the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias and worshipped her at a number of old temples. Much of the old town stands to this day, including the gate town dwellers would have passed through. Aphrodisias is a fairly small, walkable area, and exploring the ruins is an excellent way to spend an afternoon.


04 Observe the Famous Travertines of Pamukkale

Layers of travertines form terraces of carbonate minerals in Pamukkale, Southwest Turkey. petekarici / Getty Images

The name of Pamukkale translates literally to "Cotton Castle" in Turkish. This is because of the rare travertines formed by the thermal pools beneath Pamukkale. Pure, heated calcium dissolves into the underground springs of Pamukkale, and the creeks and rivers deposit calcium around the river beds. These calcium deposits appear as white as snow, and much of the area floods periodically. When this happens, the calcium cover over the earth refreshes and the land takes on a fantastical white sheen.


05 Rest in the Soothing Mineral Waters of the Karahayit Springs

The Karahayit hot springs FSYLN / Getty Images

Pamukkale owes its eventful history to the plentiful hot springs around its location. In particular, the Romans cherished the Karahayit Springs for their perceived restorative, healing powers. To this day, locals and visitors alike take mineral water hot baths and claim to find relief from arthritis, gout, and countless other ailments. However, you don't need any ailment to relax at Karahayit and let your worries drift away on the steam.


06 Visit the Ancient Roman City of Laodikeia

A scenic view of Laodikeia and the surrounding mountains Claudiovidri / Getty Images

Just off the Road to Pamukkale, you can drop by one of Turkey's largest and most important archaeological sites. For the first five centuries of the millennia, Laodikeia was a thriving city in Southwestern Anatolia. Laodikeia held great significance during Biblical times and held one of the seven major churches of early Christianity. However, the city entered a steep decline as the result of numerous, successive earthquakes. Nonetheless, Laodikeia is subject to an ambitious restoration project aimed at unearthing and repairing structures across the area. It offers an incredible look into Biblical history, which will only improve further as the years go by.


07 Enter the Original Cotton Castle

The old Byzantine Northern Gate of Hierapolis Gelia / Getty Images

While Pamukkale, or "Cotton Castle" now refers to the entire town, it originally referred to a formidable fortress overlooking the area. Although the walls have tumbled down in many places, the Pamukkale fortress still stands imposingly atop a hill. It's an especially worthwhile destination for someone looking to break away from the crowds and the tour buses, as most tourists don't bother visiting the old fortress. You can vividly imagine the lives of the soldiers who made this fortress their home over eight hundred years ago.


08 Visit the Once-Great City of Colossae

An aerial shot of Pamukkale emreyen / Getty Images

The remains of Colossae are a bit further away from Pamukkale than the other attractions, standing a few hours drive to the east. However, visiting it and exploring what remains of the Greek city is a rewarding and private experience. The visible remains are quite sparse, but you have unparalleled freedom to explore and examine what you can find there. Who knows if you might make some great discovery there?


09 Visit the Highlights with a Tour Group

A traveler viewing the Hierapolis Amphitheater BONDART / Getty Images

Given Pamukkale's popularity as a tourist destination, there are many tour companies vying to provide you a better visit than the next. An expert tour guide will not only take you to the most famous destinations around Pamukkale, but they'll provide in-depth information on each of them. What's more, you'll be able to share good times with other people who share your passion for travel. What could be better?


10 Enjoy the Modern Comforts of Denizli

The autumn landscape around Denizli tunart / Getty Images

Not far from the mineral baths and Antiquity architecture, you can stop in the thoroughly modern city of Denizli. While earthquakes have destroyed many of the old buildings once found here, the city has many cafes and options for accommodation. Denizli is a friendly, cozy city that serves as a perfect base for your Pamukkale trip.


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