A Day in Pamukkale and Hierapolis

Written by Jenn

When I look back on our day in Pamukkale and Hierapolis, I remember a relaxing day full of swimming, exploring, and laughter as a family.

From Kusadasi, we made our way into the inner Aegean region of Turkey to Pamukkale on a three and a half hour bus ride. We arrived close to eight o’clock in the evening eager to eat supper and retire to bed at our hotel. As we approached the little town of Pamukkale, the children spied the white travertines all lit up at night. From afar, it looked like a large ski hill illuminated by green and yellow spot lights.

Pamukkale means cotton castle in Turkish because of its sparkling white travertines created by the natural hot springs cascading down the slopes of the hill. In 1988 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These naturally occurring hot springs have been around for thousands of years and have been thought to have healing powers due to its high mineral content. The water has a high calcium carbonate concentration, which hardens when exposed to air and over time creates the stunning white travertine structures.

After breakfast the next morning, we walked into the city centre and purchased our bus tickets to Goreme. We planned to spend a full day at Pamukkale and Hierapolis then catch the overnight bus to Cappadocia that evening. At the bus station, we got directions on how to get to the travertines, which ended up to be less than a 10 minute leisurely walk.

Once we reached the entrance, we paid the admission price of 20 TL each per adult (the children were free) and were directed by the guard at the ticket booth to take off our shoes before walking up the travertines towards Hierapolis. The ancient Holy City of Hierapolis is perched on top of the hill of the travertines and was renowned for its healing baths of natural hot springs. 

The children had such a delightful time stripping down to their swim suits and swimming in the milky blue and white waters of the travertine pools. They really lost themselves in the moment, and unintentionally got their socks and shoes (which they carried in their hands) all soaking wet. I was grateful to have the bright sun shining on us that day, as we still had a lot of walking ahead of us in Hierapolis.

Edmund, our little otter had a particularly good time submerging his head in the relaxing warm waters and kicking his way across from one pool to the next. We meandered our way up delicately as the hardening white limestone felt like jagged cement on our wet feet. It was also slippery at some spots and Brian had a painful wipeout which soaked and stained the back of his pants with white travertine mud.

Along the way, we met a lovely Canadian family from Victoria visiting Turkey and Greece during their March break and we exchanged travel experiences as we watched our children swim in the pools. They had just come from Cappadocia and highly recommended we splurge on a Hot Air Balloon ride. Brian and I were glad to hear their suggestions, as we were undecided about Hot Air Ballooning because of the hefty expense it would cost our family of 6. We did have the low season going for us, and negotiating a lower price in Turkey is easier when there are fewer tourists. We took each other’s photos and bid each other safe and happy travels. It is always such a treat for us to meet such wonderful fellow travellers, which really enriches our experiences as a family along the way.

At the top of the travertines, we surveyed the gorgeous ruins of Hierapolis. The span of the ancient city is large, and we wondered how much we could explore before the kids would tire out. Directly to our right was the Artifact Museum, which disappointed our budding archeologist Susan when we discovered it was closed for a couple of hours during lunch.

We made our way to Cleopatra’s Sacred pool. During Roman times, it was said that Cleopatra’s Pool was a gift from her beloved Mark Antony. This thermal pool which is filled with old marble ruins is the remaining pool from the numerous spa baths that existed during Hierapolis’ position as a Healing Health Centre.

The children were vibrating with excitement with the thought of more swimming. I was particularly enthralled with the idea of “swimming with ancient history” amidst ancient ruins in the Sacred Pool’s warm waters. I was also happy to take a break from wet feet walking and spread out the kids’ wet socks and shoes to dry in the sun while we swam.

After a quick lunch of burgers and fries at the lovely atmospheric restaurant by the pool, we paid our swimming fees which allowed us to swim for two hours. The children swam every minute of those two hours, splashing in the warm comforting water and climbing the slippery algae covered ruins. At one point, I found myself marvelling at the beauty of the moment, realizing that we had come far away from home to swim with history and thus carve out our own family history. I felt incredibly at peace, and feeling the joy of playfully relaxing with each other in these special waters was an experience of heaven for me.   

It was already late afternoon when we headed out of the Sacred Pool area and walked up the path toward the Theatre, feeling refreshed and happy. The Theatre itself has been puzzled back together by hard-working Italian Archeologists and is known to be the best preserved Theatre in Turkey. The view from the top was stunning, although I was a little nervous watching the children stand precariously on top of the marble seats. We took our picture and moved along, up the hill to where St. Philip the Apostle was martyred.

At the top of the Martyrion of St. Philip Hill, the early Christians built a church. According to the sign at the ruins, this church is known to be the most important Christian Cult Building in Hierapolis. This was striking to me, because when this church was built, Christianity was still in its early stages of development, and was considered a Jewish Cult before it flourished into a dominant world religion. In fact, it was here in Turkey where Christianity flowered. Antioch, Turkey was where the followers of Christ were first called Christians, and Nicea, Turkey was where the Nicene Creed (also known as the Apostles Creed, which is a statement/prayer of Christian beliefs) was written. St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John, and many other Apostles came through Turkey to evangelize the gospel. St John the Beloved Apostle and the Virgin Mary lived the remainder of their lives in a mountain near Ephesus. Even Noah and his Ark is said to have landed on Mount Ararat, which is located in north-eastern Turkey. Certainly, Turkey is a wonderful place to learn about the history of Christianity!     

The hike to the top of St Philip Martyrion Hill was lovely and the view was breathtaking for all of us. We took the time to play a game of charades together before heading down to see more ruins. Our laughter seemed to bounce down the hill and we enjoyed such a memorable family time among the scattered red and yellow flowers surrounding the ruins.

We stayed in Hierapolis till the beginning of sunset, and we made our way back down to Pamukkale town for a lovely Turkish meal overlooking the colourfully lit white travertines. It was surely a magical day for our family, full of tangible history for us to experience, and one which has endearingly become a part of our family history. 

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2 Responses to A Day in Pamukkale and Hierapolis

  1. Grandma says:

    Dear Jenn, Thank you for your interesting story and great photography! The hot springs look amazing! And a pleasant sunny restful day in March sounds wonderful. very interesting. Thank you!

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