When most backpackers embark on a trip to Turkey, the automatic go-to city is Istanbul (and for good reason). However, for a well-rounded experience, travelers should consider balancing the popular spots with some of the less-known and overlooked wonders of the world. A detour to World Heritage Site Pamukkale, Turkey is an archaeological venture that you won’t regret. Plus it won’t take time away from your other plans since you don’t need longer than a day to explore its grounds. After having so much fun with Cappadocia, we reached Pamukkale late at night after 10 hours on the road from Cappadocia. We stayed in a small but comfortable hotel that cost only RM60 (USD20) per night.
Pamukkale (which means “cotton castle” in Turkish) is a series of terraces (called “travertines“) created by highly concentrated limestone deposits from 17 hot water springs in the area. Since 200 B.C., people have flocked to the area believing the pools to have healing properties.
Travertine Terraces (Cotton Castle)
We left our hotel early next morning and made our way to the travertine terraces. When we reached there, we could see huge patch of whites on the hills. The amazing site was created as the water, full with calcium carbonate, flowed down the cliff and the calcium was deposited around the cliff making it white. The purported health benefits of the travertine made the Romans build a spa city there. It was definitely an interesting sight. The walk to the top of the hill could easily be done inside of an hour. But with our constant stop for photos, and succumbing to our childlike instincts to just play on our way up, it took us much longer. Shoes are not allowed when walking through the travertines to prevent damage. The surface was much smoother then expected and we took every opportunity to feel the soft sand squish through our toes and massage our soles. The water got warmer the closer we got to the top.
Took off my shoes and ready to dive in
Wonders of sunset at Pamukkale
The moment i had waited for
We then stopped by at the old Roman City of Hierapolis, which was built on top of the hill, around the travertine. The ancient town, Hierapolis, is a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. In archaeological terminology, Hierapolis is named as the “Holy city” owing to the fact that the city was full of temples dedicated to several deities and many other structures with religious importance.
House of the Virgin Mary (Meryem ana)
The House of the Virgin (Meryem ana in Turkish), located in a nature park between Ephesus and Seljuk, was the last residence of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. The peaceful site is sacred to both Christians and Muslims, and is visited by many tourists and pilgrims. We had the opportunity to go inside and explored the residence of Mother Mary. We were dumbfounded with the amazing discovery of this place. We could see the tables, chairs and other furniture used by Mother Mary.The house was located on top of the hill. You need to take a car or bus to reach here. Before we left the place, i managed to kneel before her tomb and prayed to her. The visit was an emotional one for us.
Ephesus is considered one of the great outdoor museums of Turkey, in fact perhaps of the world. Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era. Of Turkey’s hundreds of ancient cities and classical ruins, Ephesus is the grandest and best preserved. Indeed, it’s the spunkiest classical city on the Mediterranean and the ideal place to get a feel for what life was like in Roman times. To avoid the heat of the day, come early in the morning or in the late afternoon, when it’s less crowded. If you can, avoid public holidays all together. Bring water with you as drinks at the site are expensive.
Their ancient toilet system
Visiting Pamukkale is like taking a step into an ancient world. The remnants of the Roman theatre, cemetery tombstones, and temples are as ethereal as they are beautiful, and echo reminders of a past culture with its own legends and tales to tell. Not only will you find yourself reflective of the site’s rich history and sacred significance, but you will also find sacred significance in the sheer landscape. It’s just one of those places where the natural looks supernatural, where the Earth transforms itself into art, and you will leave in awe with the crazy, mystical way that nature can work.