Pamukkale travertine terraces is one of the most popular places in Turkey. The term Pamukkale means “cotton castle” and derives from the fact that terraces acquire cotton like appearance in this section of the valley of the Menderes River. Existing thermal springs in the area attracted the attention of the Romans, who built here a spa town – Hierapolis.
The hot springs are related to the existence of an area with strong tectonic movements, due to the fact that Turkey lies in an area in which three tectonic plates (the Arabian, the Anatolia and the Eurasian plate) collide, which allows the continuous rise of hot water (about 100°F), rich in carbonate minerals. This water drips along the slopes and, when it cools, the carbonate minerals precipitate, forming a type of limestone known as travertine. The pressure difference also enhances this process. The precipitation is continuous and allows the formation of terraces which succeed each other forming a cascade.
The existence of frequent earthquakes have changed the location through which the hot water springs, which causes the “death” of some of these terraces and the emergence of new ones. Although the water has radioactive material, the amount is minimal and there is no risk for anyone who uses it occasionally. Within the terraces in a half-moon, once used as natural pools, blue turquoise shallow waters accumulate, and at its edge stalactites are formed resulting from runoff.
From a distance, Pamukkale looks like a snow-covered slope with frozen waterfalls, creating quite a visual impact, and is a virtually unique in the world. There are only four places with a similar geomorphology, although all smaller. These places are the Hot Springs Mammoth in Yellostone (USA), Egerszalók (Hungary), Huanglong in Sichun (China) and Hierva el Água (Mexico). We visited the latter on our 2012 summer trip, on the Route of the Mayas.