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Swimming in Apollo’s Pool

Swimming with columns in the Hierapolis thermal pool, Pamukkale, Turkey

Every good ancient Roman knew that bathing was important for one’s health.  Thermal springs were seen to be something divine and precious, often visited for their purported healing properties.  But why rely on historical accounts when you can see for yourself?  The thermal spring in the ancient city of Hierapolis, Turkey is active today, open for swimming, and even comes with some very authentic decorations!

Hierapolis thermal pool, natural spring spa with Roman columns, Pamukkale

Underwater archaeology? Not quite.

Swimming with columns in the Hierapolis thermal pool, Pamukkale, Turkey

Swimming with columns from the Temple of Apollo in the Hierapolis thermal pool

Hierapolis, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was an active metropolitan center from its foundation in the 2nd century BC, through Roman rule and well into the Byzantine era.  In addition to several bath complexes in the city, there was a natural thermal spring connected with the Temple of Apollo which attracted visitors seeking divine cures.  Subsequent earthquakes shifted the spring so that today the pool is filled with toppled columns from the Roman temple’s portico.  As if the water wasn’t pleasant enough, it’s fun to climb over and sit on the two thousand year old ruins!

Portico foundation traces in the Hierapolis thermal pool, Pamukkale

Indications of the Temple of Apollo portico foundations in the thermal pool

The heavenly water is warm and clear blue.  The mineral content makes the water thick and soft, while the dissolved carbon dioxide forms little bubbles all over one’s skin.  It is these same minerals that produced the White Cliffs of Pamukkale over centuries of slow crystal growth.  I went swimming after climbing through the dusty and rather dispersed ruins of the city of Hierapolis.  The soothing water was a wonderful treat!

bathers in the Hierapolis hot spring, Pamukkale

Hierapolis Spring water flowing into pool

Natural spring water entering the pool.

For around 40TL, you can swim in the thermal spring and use the modern lockers, showers and changing rooms.  Since the pool is huge, you’ll be able to find space for yourself, even after a few bus loads of Russian tourists arrive.  (True story.)  There is also a nice bar for a beer and snack after your relaxing soak – which is likely also what the Romans would have done after a bath too.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on Art History Ramblings.


    December 20, 2012
  2. Tell us where it is, Daydream! 37.926202 N, 29.125621 E


    December 20, 2012
    • Hierapolis is located in Pamukkale which is about a 3hr drive east from Kusadasi on the Western Turkish coast. Within the archaeological site, the pool is more or less in the center of the city portion and closer to the Southern tourist entrance.

      Hierapolis itself is a very large site with an extensive necropolis. I’ll have to cover all that in future posts. 🙂


      December 20, 2012
  3. katie #

    That looks amazing! I would like to be there right now. 🙂


    December 20, 2012
    • I think the heat of the spring was lost on me in June but would be so nice right now. 🙂


      December 20, 2012

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