Pamukkale looks like ice, and it’s cold on the feet…

But it’s not ice!

Pamukkale ice

Pamukkale has some crazy geology. The “Cotton Castle” was laid down by millennia of calcium carbonate sediment flowing downhill from 17 natural hot springs. This formed the crazy, alien-looking travertine terraces on which you can go wander around barefoot today.

Barefoot Pages

I suspect it is warmer on the feet during the Turkish summer, when the temperature sits in the mid-thirties for months. We went there in the winter, so temps were around 20 degrees but much lower (6-9 degrees) at night. The dang floor was freezing!


Fortunately, not far up from the lower entrance there’s a trench full of cascading warm water which runs alongside the terraces. The kids just walked up in the trench. They soaked their clothes almost immediately. No problem, we had alllll day for their clothes to dry.

The warm trench

Access to the terraces is restricted to the man made pools on the former access road. The other terraces are more natural looking, but depending on the time of year most are empty. Apparently there is some water management as well. They say when the pools are empty for a time, the sun bleaches out the algae and stuff that accumulates in the pool.

The view as you walk up just gets weirder and weirder. The wedding cake-looking travertines, the masses of other tourists, and the occasional paragliders sailing overhead is just surreal.

There’s a swimming pool at the top (quite a ways from the terraces, actually) where you can pay some more and swim in the warm water. There are some fallen columns and ancient stones in the pool and it looks pretty neat. The tea costs a dang fortune, though.


The other main attraction in Pamukkale is the ruins of Hierapolis. Naturally, back in the day a city grew up around the hot springs and crazy calcite formations. Equally naturally, earthquakes knocked it all down and the people scrapped the idea. There were two theaters, all kinds of temples, and lots of big, impressive walls.

Another really cool feature we noticed was the aqueducts running all over the place to pipe hot water into the buildings. Over time the same kind of mineral build-up happened and now it all looks like it’s made of lava. Super-cool.

We spent our time in the ruins of Hierapolis climbing on things, wandering around in the weeds, generally just relaxing in the freedom of a historical site with no ropes, fences, or other restrictions. Freedom!