The Pamukkale trip, our last stop in the Aegean region, is prolly the shortest tour we had in our second visit to Turkey (in terms of number of places visited). No wonder, the tour specialists did not dare add up one more site because the city spans a vast area. This day’s itinerary lists only two places to visit: the massive and white Cotton Castle and the Greco Roman Hierapolis Ancient City. Both places are inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
Our day started with a three-hour drive from Selcuk to the province of Denizli. From afar we could see something synonymous to a snow covered mountain. It was so dazzling and with the sun shining at noon, it’s quite hard to look at its majesty with a naked eye. Its huge contrast to its surrounding is luring me to come check it out quick. But before getting up there, we had lunch on a restaurant overlooking the travertines. The eatery was a really large mess hall (so big, we saw a lot of familiar faces from the last 3 days of the tour) with a variety of Aegean dishes on the buffet table. But seriously, with this view in front of me, I’d rather run to it fast than stuff myself. :p
The actual tour started at 1:30; we drove up to the top and entered from there. We first walked to Hierapolis (Holy City), an ancient Roman city founded by the king of Pergamum. The archaeological site is huge, with a number of studies and excavations still ongoing. First stop is the century-old Basilica from where we got a glimpse of the nearby Roman Theater that could seat 20,000 people.
Then we headed near the Ancient Pool where our guide asked us to choose between exploring the rest of Hierapolis or going for a short swim. Some selected the pool option but my buddy and I prefer to see the rest of the city. So we then did some hiking on the rocky surface under the scorching afternoon sun. Bad idea, kinda…
Opposite the entrance to the ancient pool is the Archaeological Museum where they preserve the artifacts they excavated from Hierapolis. It has a huge open area beside it where a lot of capitals, friezes, jars and other relics were kept.
The Necropolis (cemetery) of Hierapolis is said to be the largest in Anatolia. There are about 1,200 tombs.
We also checked out the Agora with the ruins of the Arch of Domitian standing on the end of the street called Plateia.
Before passing through the arch, on the right, was the colonnaded Public Latrine (toilet).
Also, on this side of the ancient city, we found a lot of excavations and studies going on.
On the left side of the arch is a tomb of Flavius Zeuxis, a merchant made famous by his tomb’s inscription saying that the merchant had travelled to Italy 72 times by sea.
After seeing Hierapolis, we were given an hour and a half to see the Calcium Terraces. We crossed the undefined street and walked on a landscaped path that led us to the boardwalk and then, to the travertines. Loaded with people, I tell you!!
The view of the city from up there is breathtaking! Add to that the huge contrast between the lush green town and the dazzling white terraces.
Before we went out, we checked out the Sacred Pool/Antique Pool and found a thermal pool with fragments of marble columns on its basin. Pretty cool, huh.
At 3:30 in the afternoon, we met up with our tour guide who is waiting for us in the ticket office. Little did we know that the bus to Istanbul will leave at 10 in the evening and we need to be at the bus station at 8:30. We had nothing to do in the next 5 hours! So we went back to the foot of the mountain and entered a public park with a man-made lake in the center. From there, we had a fantastic view of the travertine terraces while dipping our feet on the lake–instant time pass.
We had dinner on a local restaurant overlooking the terraces. Last chance to dig some Aegean dish. This time we tried Turkish pancakes with potato, egg and some meat filling.
Come 8:30, we embarked on an hour ride heading to Denizli Bus Station. Here I witnessed a heartwarming scenario shared by local families and friends. Everyone comes with the passenger to the station and when the bus starts moving, they were all waving, calling and blowing kisses from their leaving family/friend. All together now – awwww…
We boarded the Varan bus, which is, to my opinion, a very good ride. It was totally not what I was expecting. The bus has some snacks on board, pillows, blanket, headset and a small TV (oh yeah!) for each passenger! Cool! For a sec, I thought it was an airplane ride. :p Now on to a ten-hour drive to Istanbul.