Pamukkale – the Cotton Castle – an exceptional natural complex

Pamukkale (Turkish for “Cotton Castle”) is a beautiful natural complex of unique hot springs and terraces, located in southwestern Turkey, near the Denizli city, in the River Menderes valley, which has a temperate climate for most of the year.

Travertine hot springs at Pamukkale (Cotton Castle) in Turkey

Travertine hot springs at Pamukkale (Cotton Castle)

Pamukkale’s terraces are made of travertine (hard sediments of carbonate minerals deposited by the flowing water). There are 17 hot water springs in which the temperature ranges from 35°C (95 °F) to 100 °C (212 °F).

The underground volcanic activity at the site is causing hot springs with mineral water. During thousands of years, the water from the springs has been emerging over the heads of travertine terraces. In reaction with air, carbon dioxide evaporated into the atmosphere, leaving calcium carbonate deposits. This way, deposits accumulated enough to create vertical walls, terraces and shiny white stalactites.

Almost anything that is placed or thrown in the water becomes covered with layers of calcium carbonate in a matter of days, making objects look like stones.

In the near of the Cotton Castle is an ancient Greco-Roman and Byzantine city of Hierapolis. Built near the hot springs, it has been attracting a big number of pilgrims who came to bathe at the site, believing that the ground was holy because of its extraordinary beauty. For thousands of years people believed the hot water rich with minerals has a healing effect.

For its exceptional characteristics, Pamukkale, together with Hierapolis, was declared a World Heritage Site in 1988.

Today, tourism poses a great threat to the site as its activities lead to physical destruction and degradation of the terraces.