Wonderous White Cliffs of Pamukkale
What happens when calcium rich spring water flows for thousands of years over a series of rock outcroppings? You get the incredible “cotton castle” of Pamukkale, a rocky cliff side covered in an expansive, white layer of calcium carbonate and other minerals. The sight is magnificent in scale and sublime in the natural details.
Amazingly, the Pamukkale cliffs are located just a few hundred yards from the Hierapolis thermal pools. For centuries, the mineral rich water from the thermal spring flowed over these cliffs. Mixing with carbon dioxide in the air, deposits slowly formed coating and smoothing the rocks. In the mid-20th century, the water was diverted to fill swimming pools in several hotels constructed on the archaeological site. As a result of this intervention, the white cliffs became dirty and damaged. But in the last decade, the hotels were removed, the water flow carefully planned and human access limited to conserve the site. Today the travertines are mostly back to their brilliant white and open for exploration!
Visitors are allowed to walk along the cliffs in bare feet. This preserves the detailed texture of the mineral layer. The stone is actually sharp in places so everyone steps slowly and purposefully! Walking through the puddles stirs up some of the silty insoluble particles. You can see our feet in one of the travertine puddles below (and also on the Toemail blog).
Rather than flowing freely over the cliffs, the current water flow has been designed to fill several large standing pools. It is occasionally diverted with smalls dams to wet different sections of site. You are more than welcome to bath in the running water or soak in the cascade of large, calm pools.
Large sections of the white travertines are off limits to people. These small pools and delicate, ancient stones are gorgeous. There formations appear as if they are flowing and dripping today but its only the effect of thousands of years of mineral deposits.
You can enter the white travertines of Pamukkale from the Hierapolis archaeological site. While the cliffs are less crowded and beautiful under the golden light of sunrise and sunset, make sure you see them under direct sunlight to appreciate the whiteness of the mineral formations!