Walking the Travertines at Pamukkale

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Pamukkale was the wild card destination on our Turkey Honeymoon. It was something that I had seen tiny pictures of on a friend’s camera screen and wanted to see it. I didn’t really know what to expect or exactly where it was, other than Turkey. I knew I wanted to see it and we did a tiny bit more research and found our way there.

Walking Down the Cotton Castle

The big draw to Pamukkale is the cliff itself. Warm water super saturated with calcium flows over the cliff face and slowly solidifies on it. Ok, there is more fancy chemistry involved, but that is the basic idea that creates the glittering white cascade that you can walk down.

And thus the big attraction that draws hordes of tourist buses. There is an extensive ruin of a Roman era spa town up above, but the white cliff is the star. People take pictures and take off their shoes to walk down the calcite cliffs.

So Many People Don’t Go Far Enough

This is then the downfall of the tourist hordes. Pamukkale is far enough from Kusadasi, where the cruise ships come in, and from other places in Turkey, that if you come on a day trip you don’t get much time.

We heard a tour guide tell his group that they had 45 minutes to walk the cliffs before being back on the bus halfway across the complex. This means, taking shoes off (to not damage the rock), experiencing the cliff, putting shows back on, and hiking to the bus. Which means the vast bulk of people do not make it past the first two pools.

The Pools

The water deposits calcium as a sludge, which hardens over time. The issue with the first two pools is that they have so many people in and on them, that the sludge can’t settle right in places. The underlying rock is slippery as well. The first two pools really need to be escaped rather than experienced.

The pools are a man made (I can only imagine) way to control the water flow and make a walkable slope. The water fills up the pools and drips gracefully over the edge to skitter down the flat spot toward the next pool. A channel along one side routes water down so that lower pools still get filled. The entire walk took a little over an hour from top to bottom for us.


Click here for a large version of the Pamukkale Panorama

This picture shows nearly the entire walk down. See how so many people cluster at the top, totter around a little bit and go back up. I can only think at least a few people are turned off by the slippery rock and so many people. If they only knew how nice the rest of the walk was.

Journey in the white

Below the first few pools, the influence of people is less and the calcium takes on a different feel on the feet. It is rough and yet not sharp. Our friend Dalene from Hecktic travels talked about it feeling you had a foot cleaning by the time you got to the bottom. It takes some getting used to, but it is not unpleasant.

You do have to take your shoes off to prevent damage of the rocks. So the best tip I can give you is bring a backpack to put them in. You want to have your hands free to balance and take pictures.

Nighttime walk

The travertines are open 24 hours. The cliffs are lit in bright colors, so you could definitely walk it at night. We didn’t do it, but saw people up there. It might not be the same experience, but I bet it would be neat. It definitely would be less crowded.

Gamble Paid Off

So this was our gamble destination. The place we didn’t really research and wen to anyway. There were few preconceptions so we went in with an open mind. It was really a neat place. The area is not really worth more than one night in my opinion, but way worth it to spend a night and do the full walk instead of scrambling back to a bus.