Well this place was pretty amazing, so I decided to put it on Sacred Steps even though the "hike" as such was pretty short! In fact, you could say it was an aquathlon as we walked up the hill barefoot, swam in Cleopatra's Pool and then walked back down again.
The town at the bottom of the hill is called Pammukale, which apparently translates as "cotton castle", the local name for the hillsides of travetine (a kind of marble-like stone) that overlook it. At the top of the hill are thermal springs, and the ancient town of Hierapolis was built around them. As the warm waters run down the hillside they leave amazing formations - pools, ridges and shapes a bit like cauliflower. Although a much-hyped tourist attraction, I thought it was well worth a visit, even in the cool season when we were there, as it is so unique and more than a little magical.
As well as having to pay a small tourist tax to be allowed on to the hillside, you have to take your shoes off for the hike up, which only takes 20-30 minutes. Some of the pools were cool, others warm, depending on how far down they were and whether the water had reached them quickly from the thermal source or stood around cooling in higher pools before spilling over. The travetine is quite grippy because it has many tiny ridges formed on its surface, and that's just as well as there are long drops and no safety ropes or fences. Now and again you hit a really slippery patch and have to take very short, careful steps until you're over it.
By the time I reached the top I was a little mesmerised by the white stone and the water, so Hierapolis was a very dramatic sight. We took a slow tour around the ruins, walking on streets two millennia old, a very strange feeling! Because of the time of year hardly anyone was around and we felt as if we were having a private viewing.
Once we had seen all the streets, colonnades and amphitheatres we headed for a more modern building around the pools - but even this was a bit misleading as once inside it was clear that this was an ancient pool of the thermal waters with a modern structure built up around it. We paid around 9 pounds for a swim which is a lot of money in Turkey in 2014, but it was well worth it to dive into the warm, crystal-clear waters and explore the ancient columns and stones beneath the surface.
If I get to Turkey again, and I hope I do, I'll try and make a summer visit here so I can hang out all day in the waters. Put this on your to do list :)
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