Pamukkale is one of the most interesting places in the world.Deriving from springs in a cliff almost 200 m high overlooking the plain, calcite-laden waters have created at Pamukkale (Cotton Palace) an unreal landscape, made up of mineral forests, petrified waterfalls and a series of terraced basins. At the end of the 2nd century B.C. the dynasty of the Attalids, the kings of Pergamon, established the thermal spa of Hierapolis. The ruins of the baths, temples and other Greek monuments can be seen at the site.
Discover Hierapolis and Pamukkale
Have you ever heard about Pamukkale in Turkey? Everything you need to know about visiting Turkey’s most popular attraction. Pamukkale is a small place, but it has remarkable spots to make your trip memorable such as the ruins of Hierapolis (ancient spa town), Sacred Pool (scattered marble columns add to the charm of this warm, calcium-dense pool), Travertines (calcium deposit terraces), Roman Theater and the Archaeological Museum. Discover Hierapolis and Pamukkale with us.
Pamukkale is one of Turkey’s incomparable natural wonder with the calcium cascade terraces of snow white stalactites and is known as 8th wonder of the World by Turkish people. Pamukkale & Hierapolis together are both recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1988. They have all the conditions required for an ideal touristic resort. Pamukkale means “Cotton Castle” but had many different uncommon names in the past. Pamukkale is very well known with the entrancing beauty of its unique geological formation and also with its historical remains.
The white cotton-like terraces are mineral deposits which come from Cal Mountain’s rich spring waters and volcanic springs that were saved since thousand years. The water runs down the travertine and fill them up with water and there is a pool where you can have a chance to swim among the ancient Roman columns.
The ancient city of Hierapolis was located on the top of the white terraces and is about 2700 meters long and 160m high. It can be seen from the hills on the opposite side of the valley. It has 14000 year-old existence.
To keep the travertine white and to prevent crush and damage on them, in 1997 it was forbidden to walk on them and the water is allowed to reach the terraces periodically according to weekly watering schedule. But it is possible to walk on the south part of the travertine with naked foot.
Hierapolis, whose name means “sacred city” was believed by the ancients to have been founded by the god Apollo. It was famed for its sacred hot springs, whose vapors were associated with Pluto, god of the underworld. The city also had a significant Jewish community and was mentioned by Paul in his Letter to Colossians.
In the Bible
Hierapolis is mentioned only once in the Bible, when St. Paul praises Epaphras, a Christian from Colossae, in his letter to the Colossians. Paul writes that Epaphras “has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis” (Colossians 4:12-13). Epaphras was probably the founder of the Christian community at Hierapolis.
Ancient tradition also associates Hierapolis with a biblical figure, reporting that Philip died in Hierapolis around 80 AD. However, it is not clear which Philip is menat. It could be Philip the Apostle, one of the original 12 disciples, who is said to have been martyred by upside-down crucifixion (Acts of Philip) or by being hung upside down by his ankles from a tree.
Or Philip could be Philip the Evangelist, a later disciple who helped with administrative matters and had four virgin-prophetess daughters (Acts 6:1-7; 21:8-9). Early traditions say this Philip was buried in Hierapolis along with his virgin daughters, but confusingly call him “Philip the Apostle”! In any case, it seems a prominent person mentioned in Acts did die in Hierapolis.
What to See at Hierapolis – Pamukkale
After the museum, there is a lot to see among the ruins of Hierapolis. Most of what you see today is from the Roman period, as the original Hellenistic city was destroyed by successive earthquakes in 17 AD and 60 AD. The site is surrounded by Byzantine walls, outside of which is an extensive necropolis.
Nearest the museum is a complex that includes the Sacred Pool, a colonnaded street, and a basilica church. The Sacred Pool is warmed by hot springs and littered with underwater fragments of ancient marble columns. Possibly associated with the Temple of Apollo, the pool provides today’s visitors a rare opportunity to swim with antiquities! During the Roman period, columned porticoes surrounded the pool; earthquakes toppled them into the water where they lie today.
Behind the Sacred Pool is the nymphaeum, a monumental fountain that distributed water to the city. Dating from the 4th century AD, it has been partially restored. Three walls surround a basin of water, which was approached by steps on the open side. Statues filled the niches in the walls.
Next to the nymphaeum is the Temple of Apollo, the patron god and divine founder of the city. All that remains are the foundations, platform and entry steps; the foundations are Hellenistic and the rest is Roman (3rd century AD).
South of the temple is the Plutonium, a sacred cave believed to be an entrance to the underworld, the domain of the Roman god Pluto (the Greek Hades). The cave emitted poisonous vapors in ancient times, and still does! For this reason, the entrance is sealed off. According to the Greek geographer Strabo, the priests of Cybele were able to enter the sacred chamber safely, but animals who entered it died (Geography 13.4.14).
East of the Temple of Apollo, toward the theater, are the ruins of a peristyle house with Ionic columns. Dating from the 6th century AD, it includes a courtyard with a floor made from polished stone or glass (called the “opus sectile technique”).
The theater of Hierapolis is well-preserved, especially the stage buildings, which were beautifully decorated with reliefs. Constructed around 200 BC, the theater could hold 20,000 spectators and had reserved seating for distinguished spectators in the front row. Today, just 30 rows of seating have survived.
The main thoroughfare of Hierapolis was a wide, colonnaded street called the Plateia, which ran from the Arch of Domitian to the south gate.
There is a ruined church across from the Martyrium near the Agora and another one built inside the baths on the other (north) side of the Agora.
The Martyrium (or Martyrion) of St. Philip, outside the walls by the northern part of the city, was built in the 5th century AD on the site of Philip’s martyrdom (see “In the Bible,” above). A square building with an octagonal rotunda, it measures 65 feet (20 m) per side. In the center was a crypt believed to contain the remains of Philip. The building seems not to have been used as a church (no altar was found) nor as a burial site (no other tombs were found); it was probably set aside for processions and special services. Crosses and other Christian symbols can be seen carved over the arches.
To the west and south of the martyrium are the west necropolis and east necropolis, respectively. Another large necropolis is further to the north (see below). Also near here is a small early theater, of which little remains.
Northwest of the theater are the north Roman baths, built around the late 2nd century AD and used as a Christian basilica beginning in the 5th century.
To the north of the main ruins and along the modern road is the north necropolis (graveyard), the largest in Anatolia. It contains more than 1,200 tombs of various types, including tumuli, sarcophagi and house-shaped tombs from the Hellenistic, Roman and early Christian periods. Some have Jewish inscriptions.
Nearby is the monumental Gate of Domitian (pictured at top), constructed around 83 AD to serve as the northern entrance to the city. It has three arches and two towers, and originally had two stories. The gate led into a colonnaded street known as Frontinus Street (named for its builder, the proconsul of Asia, who also built the Gate of Domitian). This was the heart of the city during Roman times, containing shops and public buildings under covered walkways.
On the left of the gate is a large latrine. To the right of the gate is the tomb of Flavius Zeuxis (pictured at top), notable because of its inscription proclaiming that the Hierapolis merchant had traveled to Italy 72 times by sea.
East of the main street is the huge agora, the largest uncovered one discovered in the ancient world. It is 580 feet wide and 920 feet long and was surrounded by Ionic columns. To the agora’s east and up a flight of steps was a large stoa-basilica, 66 feet wide and 920 feet long. This was once richly decorated with popular ancient motifs including sphinxes, lions, bulls, garlands, Eros figures and Gorgon masks.
On the southwest side of the agora is a Byzantine Gate, part of the early 5th-century Byzantine wall that protected the city from invaders. Between the Byzantine Gate and the parking area, near the museum, are the remains of another 5th or 6th century Christian basilica.
Every year thousands visit Pamukkale, the UNESCO-recognized thermal spring of Turkey, to search for a cure. The mineral-rich waters heal the body, while the idyllic vistas restore the soul. White infinity-ponds, clear blue water, the magnificent ruins of the antique city Hierapolis, all surrounded by the Mediterranean flora..Could this be heaven on earth ?
Deriving from springs in a cliff almost 200 m high overlooking the plain, calcite-laden waters have created at Pamukkale (Cotton Palace) an unreal landscape, made up of mineral forests, petrified waterfalls and a series of terraced basins. At the end of the 2nd century B.C. the dynasty of the Attalids, the kings of Pergamon, established the thermal spa of Hierapolis. The ruins of the baths, temples and other Greek monuments can be seen at the site.