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Off Season at Pamukkale, Turkey’s Cotton Castle

No, you’re not seeing things. We are not completely off season.

We ARE surrounded by mountains of white “snow,” and wading around in what you would think are freezing pools of icy cold water. And yet…we’re comfortably wearing shorts and t-shirts, have red, sweaty faces, and if I recall correctly, the temperature that day reached a searing 44 degrees Celsius.

What you’re seeing is not actually snow. It’s travertine – a sedimentary rock deposited from the 17 springs of hot water, that have surrounded Turkey’s Pamukkale area for millennia.

The otherworldly landscape is formed when hot water from the source of the springs travels down a 320 meter long canal, and falls into terraces. Because the water from those springs is supersaturated with calcium carbonate, over time, it hardens and forms into the improbable-looking Pamukkale terraces, otherwise known in Turkish, as the Cotton Castle.

The Cotton Castle, along with the ancient ruins of Hierapolis, that sit at the top of the terraces were proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988.

The sparkly crystallized travertine, with it’s descending terraces of cool, blue basins created an unreal landscape, that remain one of the weirdest and most wonderful places we’ve ever visited.

Have you visited Pamukkale? or another otherworldly landscape? Tell us all about it in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

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29 Comments Post a comment
  1. This looks SO COOL! Really thought that that was snow at first.

    June 13, 2015
    • Lol, so weird to be suffering the heat, but be surrounded by “snowy” mountains. It’s a really dissonant feeling when you are there for sure. 🙂

      June 14, 2015
  2. That looks amazing! I’ve visited Yellowstone, and while it is beautiful and otherworldly, you definitely can not go wading in any of the interesting features as they are geothermal.

    June 13, 2015
    • Haha, yeah I guess wandering around in some sulphuric geothermic pools wouldn’t be the best for you, would it? Thankfully, the ones at Pamukkale were so refreshing in that 44° heat!! 😀

      June 14, 2015
  3. I’m so jealous! I spent a week in Turkey 4 years ago and this was one of the places I didn’t get to see. It’s definitely on my list!

    June 13, 2015
    • Gahhh, a week in Turkey is definitely not enough time!! It’s such a big country, with so much to see and do. We spent 3 weeks there, and I think, barely scraped the surface. Pamukkale was definitely a highlight, along with seeing the Whirling Dervishes and Rumi’s mausoleum in Konya. I hope you make it back one day soon and can spend some more time!! 😀

      June 14, 2015
      • The best part of my trip was a sunrise hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia. Of all the places I’ve been, Turkey is one that I’m sure I’ll return to. 🙂

        June 14, 2015
  4. I haven’t 🙂 I’ve known about it for a long time though and it’s nice to see your photos. My only trip to Turkey was on a gulet cruise, many years ago, but the memories still linger. Thanks for sharing.

    June 13, 2015
    • Hi Jo 🙂 Lol, honestly I’d never heard of it, until we actually entered Turkey, but I’m so glad we found out about it and were able to visit. Pamukkale is such a unique place, and I loved wandering around the ruins of Hieropolis. They were practically deserted, and I was really able to feel a sense of history there, without being surrounded by thousands of tourists, taking pictures…

      June 14, 2015
  5. I LOVED Pamukkale! Unfortunately I was on a group tour so we didn’t stay very long and I felt I didn’t get enough time to enjoy the surroundings. But I’m planning to go back next time I’m in Turkey! Lovely photos you guys 😉

    June 13, 2015
    • It’s amazing there, isn’t it!? Yes, those group tours don’t leave you much time for just exploring an area, do they? We actually spent almost an entire day there, first checking out Pamukkale, and then wandering around Hierapolis at the top, which was practically deserted. 🙂 I hope you make it back to Turkey one day soon!! I’d love to go back myself!! 😀

      June 14, 2015
  6. Urska #

    I’ve been to Pamukkale few years ago and I loved it. Simply stunning! Would love to return one day.

    June 15, 2015
    • It’s really outta this world, eh? Such a unique and amazing place. But thank god for those pools of water to wade around in. It was sooo hot when we visited, I’m not sure we would’ve survived otherwise! 🙂

      June 15, 2015
  7. This place looks amazing!

    June 16, 2015
    • It was super trippy, on first sight! Such a weird feeling to be in the middle of “snow,” while roasting to death and wearing shorts! 🙂

      June 17, 2015
  8. 😀 perfect for the challenge! I thought at beginning it was snows!! 😀 It is still on my bucket to visit..great images..I am surprise it looks so empty – like you are the only visitors there 🙂

    June 17, 2015
    • It really looks like it, doesn’t it!? It was really quiet the day we visited, even though we were there in summertime. Then again, maybe that’s why it was quieter, it was really insanely hot that day…if it wasn’t for those refreshing pools, I literally would’ve melted that day. 🙂

      June 17, 2015
  9. I thought that was all ice and snow until I read your post! Otherworldly is a great way to describe it 😀 Was it actually slippery? It looks soft but must be a weird feeling to feel 44’C…a high temperature and though I like warm weather, not sure if I’d like to live here too often 😀

    June 18, 2015
    • Actually, now that I think about it, it WAS really slippery, and not soft, but hard. There were definitely a lot of sensory and mental contradictions in that place. Lol, I was just happy to survive the temperature that day! I have never ever experienced heat like that before… 🙂

      June 19, 2015
  10. I went in winter so i really was fooled into thinking it was snow! Such a stunning landscape.

    June 18, 2015
    • In winter, I would’ve also been fooled into thinking it was snow! 🙂 I wonder if there’s anywhere else in the world, that has a similar combination of landscapes?

      June 19, 2015
  11. I remember thinking exactly this when I first saw pictures of Pamukkale – what are my friends doing wearing shorts in the snow?!

    June 19, 2015
    • Our friends were definitely curious about this place, when they saw our pics! 🙂 It’s such a strange place…even when you’re there, and know exactly what the landscape is about…

      June 19, 2015
      • I know what you mean. Even when the sun’s boiling down, you look around and think – ‘Really?!’

        June 20, 2015
  12. Wow! Just amazing. Yes, it does look you are surrounded by snow. Beautiful landscape everywhere with a rich culture and history to go with it. Thanks for taking us there through your words and images. A fun and exciting travel blog. As for travelling to the Philippines at this time, it is rainy season but it’s also off season for tourists which I think is a better time to travel…less crowding and the air fare cheaper. In the tropics, in between rains, there’s great days of awesome sunshine.

    July 9, 2015
    • Thanks for the tips on the Philippines! It’s really a country we haven’t explored nearly enough – just been to Boracay for a week – but that’s definitely not representative. Hmm…I do like the idea of cheaper fares and less tourists… 🙂

      July 10, 2015

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