Legend has it that giants once lived in the region now known as Denizil in Turkey, where cotton was the main crop. They left out huge piles of cotton to dry, which have now solidified into white mounds. The region is now known as Pamukkale, meaning ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish.
The ‘cotton castle’ comprises a series of sparkling, snow-white travertine, a calcareous rock shaped by mineral streams rich in calcium. It is located in the Inner Aegean region of Turkey in the valley of the River Menderes. The region has a temperate climate for almost the whole year. The white ‘castle’ is spread over 8,800 feet (2,700 meters) and is 1,970 feet (600 meters) wide and 525 feet (160 meters) high. The Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis was built on top of the cotton castle, which now lies in ruins.
The foaming mineral streams trickle down the vast deposits of travertine and collect in terraces below as thermal pools. This makes the region a geologic wonder and a spa resort. The area has been a tourist hotspot for the rejuvenating properties of the thermal springs since time immemorial.
Another reason for the region’s popularity is the cave whose name in Roman translates to ‘place of the god Pluto’. Underground seismic activity, which gives rise to thermal springs, forced carbon dioxide into the cave with suffocative effect. The priests of Cybele used the cave for religious purposes and ‘found’ means of immunity from the gas.
However, the first hotels were established in the well-preserved ruins of Hierapolis only as recently as the mid-20th century. A road was constructed from the valley above the terraces, which enable motor bikes to travel down for the first time. However they were removed and replaced by artificial pools after the site and Hierapolis were both listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Tourist brochures mainly feature people taking refreshing dips in the calcium-rich pools. This overshadowed the equally important but unadvertised spectacle of the Hierapolis.
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