Turkish travertines

The stunning white travertines of Pamukkale are one of the most beautiful natural sights in Turkey. For centuries the waters have been used for healing.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Pamukkale, Turkey

“Shoes off,” the guard at Pamukkale instructs me.

I look ahead – a long and wide white pathway lies before me, filled with visitors with their shoes in the hands. I take mine off and step onto the strange-looking surface.

I know from my research that it’s calcium, washed down in the water and hardened over the centuries. It feels solid to touch and, as I start to walk along, a soft flow of water splashes over my feet.

I make my way up the path, which is leading towards the top of the cliffs.

Large pools of water have formed in terraces along the side and, if you dared walk amongst the young children playing in them, you would find softer deposits of calcium that your feet would sink into slightly.

Hierapolis Pamukkale travertines, Turkey
Hierapolis Pamukkale travertines, Turkey

At the top of the cliffs (where I’m allowed to put my shoes back on) is a track that leads further long the top of the ridge.

Here is where the real beauty of the terraces of travertines reveals itself.

Pool upon pool cascade into each other from the water which runs down into them. Some are now empty because of overuse by tourists over the years but there are enough to get the impression – and it’s stunning.

Hierapolis Pamukkale travertines, Turkey

I’ve arrived at Pamukkale just before sunset and the changing light creates an animate spectacle as the colours morph in front of me.

At one point as strong wind picks up and the water comes alive, jumping out of the travertines and blowing across the cliff into my face.

Hierapolis Pamukkale travertines, Turkey
Hierapolis Pamukkale travertines, Turkey
Hierapolis Pamukkale travertines, Turkey


For thousands of years, the pools – and the water within them – have been considered to have health benefits.

Two thousand years ago, the spa city of Hierapolis was built at the top of the cliffs. And in the middle of the last century, a collection of modern hotels was also constructed to make the most of the minerals.

Hierapolis Pamukkale travertines, Turkey
Hierapolis Pamukkale travertines, Turkey

These days the ruins of Hierapolis are still there and are worth visiting. The hotels, on the other hand, have been completely demolished after it was decided they were causing too much damage to the site and the whole area was heritage-protected.

Whereas once you could swim in the travertines, now security guards keep a watchful eye on anyone trying to get too close.

Other than a special swimming pool that has been constructed away from the cliffs, Pamukkale is generally to be seen but not touched these days.

Hierapolis Pamukkale travertines, Turkey

In many ways, that’s to be applauded. The site is a truly remarkable natural phenomenon and it would be a pity if human interference damaged it permanently for future generations.

There were certainly no complaints from anyone about taking their shoes off.

There are a few options for guided tours, which may be a good option if you would like something that also includes transport:


This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

28 thoughts on “Turkish travertines”

  1. That is a stunning location. I read all about New Zealand’s white and pink terraces when I was there, but since they were destroyed I believe these are the last terraces of their type in the world. Truly an epic place to visit – and gorgeous photos!

    • I actually quite liked the kid jumping in there. It gave me a bit of a sense of what it must have looked like when anyone could jump in and swim. And made me realise how glad I am that they’re not allowed to now!

  2. Magnificent sight. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s amazing how pure white they are and I’m so glad to know that they are taking some serious steps to protect this unmatched treasure. Truly Breathtaking.

  3. Love your site, Michael! I loved Istanbul when I visited but didn’t get a chance to visit Pamukkale or Cappadocia. Thanks for sharing this – at least I get to live vicariously through you!

    PS: It’s warming up to summer in Sydney, in case you’re missing home!

  4. The sky here in Oklahoma looks like pink cotton candy. I wonder what they would peek like reflected in those pools. Hey Michael, remember Paris?


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