Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pamukkale: A Cotton Castle in Southwestern Turkey

While in Istanbul, we have decided to visit Pamukkale meaning ‘cotton castle’ in south-western Turkey.  Terraced pools, mineral forests, petrified cascades - did we detour to the moon? No - this is a little village called Pamukkale where waters full of calcite from springs in the cliffs above have surfaced through a fault line to create this unreal landscape. The ruins of the Greek town and thermal spa called Hieropolis can also be seen here and was once built on top of the cotton castle. The hot springs were used as a spa since the 2nd century BC. Ancient legends say that St Phillip came here to convert the locals and was crucified here.

Sadly, the pools are running dry as the natural cycle of the underground springs has been altered partly I think because of the construction of the spa in ancient times and deforestation through the ages. The park authorities now divert water artificially to keep sections of this place wet, alternating water flow throughout the week. I notice that the cliffs above are devoid of any vegetation. I wonder if they focused on planting (rather than plumbing) and improved infiltration in the aquifers in the eroded cliffs above if those underground springs would run freely once more?

It is a stunning place and visitors are allowed to walk in the pools as long as they take their shoes off.  The water is not as hot as I would have accepted but the landscape is stunning and I enjoy walking around taking photos as much as I enjoy relaxing in the pools!  

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