When New Zealand set about becoming a tourist destination in the nineteenth century the pink and white terraces were counted as its most famous attraction, and argued as the eighth wonder of the world. Then, in 1886, Mt Tarawera came along, erupted all over them and hid them from the world forever.
But there’s been no volcano to demolish the Pamukkale’s travertine terraces. They’re just white, and not pink, but the effect is much the same. And it is very impressive.
A collection of hot springs brig highly calcified water to the surface. The calcium from the water solidifies into terraced formations. It’s like how calcium junk builds up in kettles of cities with ‘hard water’, but on a massive scale. As the water keeps flowing it erodes away the rock, filling up pools and then pouring over the edge in an effect that is startlingly similar to an infinity pool.
Visiting the travertines is a strongly tactile experience. To protect the rock you need to go bare foot, and then you suck the surroundings in through your toes. It’s chilly in Turkey these days. The rocks look like a big moguly ski slope, or glacier, so you’re anticipating cold and slippery. But actually they’re a solid and surprisingly grippy. The cold comes when you cross the ice blue pools. At the bottom the water within them is frigid. It gets pleasantly warmer as you climb towards its thermal source and then paddling through pools is more relief than challenge.
To cap it off, there’s a significant ruined Roman city standing at the top. They came to take in the thermal waters too.