Pamukkale, A Marvel of Nature
Pamukkale appears in almost every list of places to be seen before you die and visited by almost two million tourists each year. Pamukkale is a place where nature assumed the role of artist and created such majestic beauty. The white travertine cascades resembling frozen waterfalls and terraces of shallow pools were created by the waters of thermal springs reacting with the air. Its allure first noticed by the Romans. The magnificent Hierapolis ancient city was established near the travertine by the Romans. Those unique travertine and the ancient ruins were inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
2.000 Year Old Centre of Beauty and Health
Pamukkale would enchant visitors at the first sight. Under the spell of travertine Pergamon Kingdom established the Hierapolis city nearby 2.000 years ago. At that era Hierapolis served as a thermal health center and visitors from various parts of Anatolia flocked to the city to receive a balneal treatment in search of health or beauty. In our age, those who seek beauty or health still dip in the thermal pools. You may also enjoy swimming the timeless pools as your ancestors did, and enjoy the majestic sight of the travertine. However, the natural beauty created over thousands of years is so fragile. Therefore only certain areas are open to paddling or dipping. Those who seek a cure should arrange a longer stay at Pamukkale to enjoy balneal treatment, mud baths, and massages in thermal spa resorts around the city of antiquity and travertine city.
In this area, there are 17 hot water springs in which the temperature ranges from 35 °C (95 °F) to 100 °C (212 °F). The water that emerges from the spring is transported 320 metres (1,050 ft) to the head of the travertine terraces and deposits calcium carbonate on a section 60 to 70 metres (200 to 230 ft) long covering an expanse of 24 metres (79 ft) to 30 metres (98 ft).
When the water, supersaturated with calcium carbonate, reaches the surface, carbon dioxide de-gasses from it, and calcium carbonate is deposited. The depositing continues until the carbon dioxide in the water balances the carbon dioxide in the air. Calcium carbonate is deposited by the water as a soft jelly, but this eventually hardens into travertine.
This reaction is affected by the weather conditions, ambient temperature, and the flow duration. Precipitation continues until the carbon dioxide in the thermal water reaches equilibrium with the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Measurements made at the source of the springs find atmospheric levels of 725 mg/l carbon dioxide, by the time this water flows across the travertines, this figure falls to 145 mg/l. Likewise calcium carbonate falls from 1200 mg/l to 400 mg/l and calcium 576.8 mg/l to 376.6 mg/l. From these results it is calculated that 499.9 mg of CaCO3 is deposited on the travertine for every liter of water.
This means that for a flow rate of 1 ı/s of water 43191 grams are deposited daily. The average density of a travertine is 1.48 g/cm3 implying a deposit of 29.2 dm3. Given that the average flow of the water is 465.2 l/s this implies that it can whiten 13,584 square metres (146,220 sq ft) a day, but in practice this area coverage is difficult to attain. These theoretical calculations indicate that up to 4.9 square kilometres (1.9 sq mi) it can be covered with a white deposit of 1 millimetre (0.039 in) thickness.
Hierapolis’ remains testify to its richness in Roman times. The city was most likely founded by one of Alexander the Great’s successors, and later, in 188 BC, passed into the hands of the Kings of Pergamon. But evidence suggests that this place was occupied long before that – in prehistoric times – probably as a place of worship around the cave of Plutonium. The area around the cave is currently not accessible, along with the Sanctuary of Apollo, and the Temple Nymphaeum.
Hierapolis means ‘holy city’ or ‘sacred city’, and the consensus is that the name probably originates from the religious traditions that arose around this cave. Fast forward to the 1st century AD when Hierapolis became involved in industrial activities such as wool production and fabric dyeing. Strabo mentioned that the hot thermal water was used to fixate the color of the wool.
In the Christian Era, Hierapolis transforms quickly and matures – much like nearby Laodicea – to an influential city with large communities of Christians and Jews. It later becomes a Bishopric, and gained enormous prestige with its tomb of the Apostle Philip.
After 616, it was struck by a violent earthquake from which it never fully recovered. The city became more ruralized in the centuries to follow, only to be conquered by the Seljuks somewhere in the first part of the 13th century. By the 15th century, the city was left abandoned until it was rediscovered by western travelers, such as Raymond Chandler, in 1765.
The Hierapolis city of antiquity has reached our times in a quite well preserved state. The most frequented structure of the antiquity should have been the Roman Baht House, and at present the same building is used as the archeological museum. Many artifacts were unearthed during the excavations carried out in Hierapolis and other nearby sites of antiquity, and some of the statues and other items are on display in the museum. The ancient theater, temples, monumental fountains, necropolis, agora, and gymnasium are quite well preserved to make you feel travelling 2.000 years back in time. You would find the story of Pluto’s Gate (Plutonium) which was believed to be the Gate of Hell during the Roman Era, very fascinating.
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St. Philip Martyrium and Gravesite
In Christianity Hierapolis, Pamukkale is a holy settlement. The holiness is attributed to the fact that St. Philip, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, was martyred in the city. The Martyrium was built by the palace architects in 5th century, and it is a holy pilgrimage site for Christians. The ruins of Cathedral dating back to 6th century contain the baptistery as well as metropolitan bishop’s chapel. The 7th century church is renowned as the Church of Columns (Direkli Kilise) is the other important structure from Christian era. There are several other chapels scattered around the town. Those structures prove that Hieropolis was an important religious centre during the Eastern Roman Empire era. That is the reason why the archaeologists named it as the holy city.
The Incredible Theater of Hierapolis
The Theatre at Hierapolis offers stunning views and is still in use nowadays, at least by the odd tourist performing an out-of-the-blue serenade during your visit. We’re confident that attending a classical concert at this venue would no doubt be a real feast for your senses. This is the most visited structure in Hierapolis.
The Theatre was built in three different phases, the first phase being from the end of the 1st century BC till the beginning of the 1st century AD. By the end of this first phase, the Theatre had a smaller stage with a Doric façade and a Skene on two levels.
The third phase – in the 4th century AD – makes room for something different when the Theatre is restored, and the orchestra makes room for a large pool for aquatic spectacles. The pool was lined with a waterproof mortar, and a had a piping-system in place to fill or empty it. Research and restoration work on the Theatre is ongoing and started in the summer of 1957 by the Italian Archaeological Mission of Hierapolis in Phrygia. Their focus lies on preservation and restoration, and in recent years, both the stage and the Skene have been reconstructed and restored, allowing the visitors to gain a unique insight in the Baroque architecture of Asia Minor. Future ideas include the introduction of different itineraries in and around the Theatre to enhance the building and its context. The inner itinerary will follow the ancient passages for the public, once they have been restored.
Frontinus Street is Hierapolis’ main street. It connects the Central Hamam area to the Necropolis and the North Gate. The street was made in the 1st century AD, together with the gate with the same name. It is 14 meters wide and has a covered main drain in the center. The street was sided by numerous buildings such as shops, houses, warehouses, a fountain building, and latrines, all unified by a 170-meter long travertine façade.
Frontinus Street could only be brought to light after pneumatic compressors broke through the 2-meter thick layer of calcareous deposit that covered it.
The Latrine right next to the Frontinus Gate was built at the end of the 1st century AD. While it had collapsed entirely after an earthquake, its elements were preserved, allowing an almost complete reconstruction. A row of columns separates the room into two corridors. Each had their row of seats and drains.
Pamukkale, Hierapolis is home to the most important and monumental Necropolis in the whole of Asia Minor. Located in the north part of the city, it extends for nearly two kilometers, featuring impressive funeral buildings belonging to different periods.
See our packages that include Pamukkale with at least 1 overnight ;
- Asia Minor Western Promises | 7 Days
- Turkey Western Tour | 8 Days
- Turkey Highlights Tour | 8 Days
- Turkey Western Tour | 10 Days