DATE: 18 March 2016 (Friday)
While having breakfast (at Ozturk Hotel), we were approached by Ismail, a relative of the hotel owner. Ismail runs a tour agency and he talked us into taking a half-day tour of Pamukkale. For 80 TL, the tour would include lunch and the driver would take charge of Cek and her wheelchair.
Ali Karci, a young local guy who speaks fluent English took us to Karayit Hotsprings, a few kilometres from our hotel. Here the hotspring flows from a small hillock into pools downstream. The water at the top could reach temperatures of 60°C. We saw a local lady applying mud from the lower pool onto her face. The high mineral contents of the hotspring is believed to have rejuvenating properties. According to Ali, our guide, the 4 and 5-star hotels are located in this (Karayit) area. Most hotel bathrooms have running water from the natural spring. Pamukkale being a small town provides only budget accommodation.
Another short drive and we reached Heirapolis, an ancient Roman holy city. A large area on the hill overlooking the valleys of Denizli. Instead of walking up from the travertine terraces to Heirapolis, we were doing it the other way. It was more oractical for us since we had Cek on the wheelchair, also it would be easier on our ageing knees. Upon entering the site, on our left were a few columns, the remains of the ancient gymnasium. To the far right stood the amphitheatre. We carried on walking towards the cascading terraces and stopped briefly by a large map to listen to Ali’s introduction to the history of Heirapolis.
Having had to put on many layers of clothing the last few days, all of us enjoyed the fairly warm and sunny weather. We then proceeded to the Antique Pool, a natural hotspring. Broken remains of column were left in the swimming pool as decorations.
From the Antique pool it was an uphill walk to the theatre. The auditorium have seats which are arranged in a semi-circle extending 50 rows to the ground. The stage sits on top of the cages for the animals. Smaller in size as compared to the colliseum in Rome, this theatre is in much better condition. From the theatre’s seating capacity of 10000 (according to Ali) or 15000 (Wikipedia) persons, it was estimated 100,000 people lived here. Ali went down several tiers, clapped his hands to let us hear the echo, demonstrating the amazing acoustic of the theatre.
Next we head towards the travertine whose striking landscape is a landmark visible from some distance. There was no cascading water on the snow white pools. To minimise damage and preserve the conditions of the travertine, water flow is scheduled over several areas throughout the week. We removed our shoes and socks and gingerly walked on the rough surface. Some parts especially those where green algae had grown and the muddy puddles were slippery. The cascading terraces is about 300 metres high and appears very much like a snow covered hillside. Hence, the name Pamukkale or Cotton Castle. Sunglasses are a must as the glare from the large white surface is over bearing. Our group took an hour to walk down, taking many photos along the way. Cek sitting at a nearby restaurant watched us from across the road.
Ali led us to a nearby restaurant for a buffet lunch. After lunch, instead of sending us back to the hotel, Ali offerred to take us to an onyx factory just 10 minutes’ drive away. Denizli is well-known for its marble, onyx and textile products. A visit to a textile manufacturer premise was our last activity for the day. The ladies in the group would not miss an opportunity to shop.