Travels / Turkey

Turkey: Pammukale to Çiralı

After breakfast on our first morning in Pamukkale we went up to the Pamukkale travertines. ‘Pamukkale’ actually means ‘cotton castle’ and describes the white calcified pools which make up the travertines. The entire cliff-side is covered in it, and there is a path up the travertines to the top (this was a road a few decades ago). You are required to take your shoes off because there is water running over much of it and they want to both prevent people from slipping and also avoid too much damage to the mineral formations.

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Me preparing for the walk up the travertines (no shoes on)

There are a few man-made pools along the path to the top which people are allowed to wade in, but otherwise you’re not allowed into the pools of the travertines.

The mineral formations are a little rough, so not slippery at all on bare feet. They are also formed in little ridges and waves – the bigger they are the coarser they feel and can actually feel a bit sharp on the feet.

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We were disappointed that nearly all of the natural pools were dry. For some reason there were workmen using jackhammers to create trenches which were draining all the water directly to the bottom without flowing through the pools. I tried to convince myself there was a good reason for this, as the site is UNESCO world heritage listed.

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Once we got back to London I looked it up online and although there was not a lot of information, I found one website which said that during the 50s – 70s, after the area was rediscovered and marketed to tourists, a lot of hotels were built at the top of the travertines and the water flow redirected to hotel pools. When it became a world heritage site the hotels were torn down and the water flow has to be gradually re-introduced to help the pools recover. Water also can’t be allowed to flow over the same areas for too long as it encourages moss growth which affects the colour of the travertines. It seems we were just unlucky enough to be there when they didn’t have water flowing over nearly any of the pools. Fortunately towards the end of the day some pools had filled with water.

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At the top of the travertines is the Roman city of Hierapolis. We were a bit sick of old ruins by now so only took a cursory look around. We did make a point of checking out the theatre though, because it is the only remaining roman theatre with the whole backstage area reconstructed. We got lunch in Hierapolis (rookie error – pathetic food for a rip-off price) and ice-creams before we decided to go back down.

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When we got back down to the village we realised we were sunburnt, so found a pharmacy to buy some aloe vera or vitamin E gel, and found one which contained both ingredients. That night we got dinner at a restaurant not far from the travertines themselves. The menu was a little on the expensive side (by Turkish standards) but they had an open-air dining terrace upstairs with an excellent view of the travertines.

The next day was probably the most complicated leg of our trip, from Pamukkale to Çiralı (CHIR-a-leh, or with a rolled ‘r’ depending where you’re from, so more like CHID-a-leh). We booked the bus through the guy who ran the restaurant we ate at on the first day, and he was meant to collect us from our hotel at 8:30. Well 8:30 came and went and at 8:45 we decided we weren’t waiting any longer and headed towards the main street ourselves. He wasn’t at his office either so Andre went to the Kâmil Koç office to see if they knew anything about what we were meant to do. They were very interested because they said this guy wasn’t meant to be selling bus tickets out of Pamukkale. Fortunately while Andre was chatting to them the guy turned up and told us the name of the bus company we were going with and that we would need to change buses in Kumluca. We got a dolmuş into Denizli then found the office for the bus company. We showed the man behind the counter the voucher which had been written out for us. First he asked “money?” but we told him no, we’d already paid the guy in Pamukkale. He was happy with this and indicated for us to follow him. I was amazed. He obviously had no record of our payment, but was happy to take our word for it? He must have had some history with the guy who made the booking though.

So we followed him to our bus and then it was on to Kumluca. On a bus with no airconditioning, and such cramped leg space Andre literally had to have one leg sticking out into the aisle. The seats on the other side of the bus were not so cramped but there were two doors on our side of the bus yet they still crammed in the same number of seats. I was tempted to change seats but we didn’t know which other seats might have already been allocated to other passengers yet to be collected. People also thought ‘no smoking on the bus’ meant it was ok to get off the bus and smoke while standing right in the doorway.

The scenery was fascinating, though. We drove through a very mountainous region with lots of greenery and dramatic cliffs and mountain caves, and lots of rain. Finally we came out the other side onto the southern coast, and the change in weather was dramatic. The rain just stopped and we drove out into blue, sunny skies along the coastline and got our first view of the Mediterranean. Soon we arrived in Kumluca, at which point we got on a dolmuş headed towards Antalya. We told the driver we were headed to Çiralı so that he would drop us off at the right turn-off. None of the buses that run along the highway to Antalya turn off to Çiralı or its more famous sister village of Olympos. Once you get off at the junction, there are smaller dolmuşes waiting to take tourists down into the village. You tell the driver what hotel you’re staying at and you’ll be dropped off at the front door. And so we finally arrived at our hotel, Hotel Canada (I have no idea where the name came from).

It was further from the beach than I expected, but only because Google Maps has it marked in the wrong spot. It’s about a ten minute walk to the village, then another two minutes to the beach. The hotel has bikes you can use but we walked. We had dinner at the hotel that night and it was very similar to the meal we had at Homeros Pension in Selçuk, although no Kemal Pasha for dessert, only fresh fruit.

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Our room in Cirali

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The view from our room into the garden

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