Why Is Pamukkale Known As The Cotton Castle?

The Cotton Castle Pamukkale-2

Have you heard about a place called ‘The Cotton Castle’ in Turkey?

Pamukkale is a small town in Turkey that has attracted attention for years because of its seemingly cotton-like landscape. These famous hot springs are the result of limestone deposits that have accumulated over thousands of years. The area’s unique geology, which includes a tectonic fault line where frequent earthquakes happen, allowed the natural hot springs to flow and form the beautiful travertine terraces we know as Pamukkale (Cotton Castle) today.

This natural wonder attracts over 2 million people every year, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We visited in October 2021, and even though it was packed with people, the unique landscape (and the secret sunset spot we found!) made up for the heavy crowds. We ended up having a fantastic time admiring the terraces and spending some time in this sleepy little town.

The History Of Pamukkale

These travertine terraces are not just becoming famous today. They’ve been famous for thousands of years!

The ancient city of Hierapolis was built next to the Cotton Castle on purpose. The city was built around 200 BC by Eumenes II, the King of Pergamum. Its name comes from Hiera, the beautiful wife of Telephos, founder of Pergamum. Hierapolis came under the rule of the Eastern Roman Empire in 395 AD.

PS: the ruins of Hierapolis are right next to the Cotton Castle and they are 100% worth a visit!

The combination of natural warm & cold waters and high mineral content creates a perfect environment for relieving aches and pains. The Romans were so obsessed with the therapeutic benefits of this hot spring that they built lavish villas overlooking it, as well as many temples. The water contains high levels of calcium and sulfur, which are therapeutic for arthritis, rheumatism, skin diseases, and psoriasis, among other things.

It was a popular place for the Romans to send the elderly to kind of retire and relax while enjoying the benefits of the healing waters.

What Does Pamukkale Mean?

The name ‘Cotton Castle’ is the literal translation from Turkish. ‘Pamuk’ means cotton, and ‘Kale’ means castle.

The area was named Pamukkale because, well…it resembles a castle made of cotton 🙂 The whiteness of the rocks and the white waterfalls give it an appearance of snow-covered cotton cushions. And we can testify, it really does look like it! Even though G joked it looked more like cauliflower than cotton to him LOL (which it also kind of does!).

Seeing this beautiful natural wonder in person was a very unique experience. We’ve never seen anything like it!

Visiting The Cotton Castle? Read about the 37 Things Nobody Tells You About Visiting Pamukkale Turkey! (must read before you visit!)

Are The Pools In Pamukkale Natural Or Man Made?

The hot springs of Pamukkale are what make these formations appear so spectacular. You’ll see pools of various shapes and sizes as you walk around the site,. They are spread all over, so make sure to walk the entire area. Maybe you will be lucky enough to witness some of the pools without hundreds of people trying to take their photos at the same time!

Keep in mind that not all of these formations are natural. Back in the 80s, there was a hotel on top of terraces, and it polluted the entire area (obviously!). When Pamukkale became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, the hotel had to be demolished. And to fix the damage and make it look natural again, they built new terraces resembling the natural ones.

It is easy to tell which pools are natural and which ones are man-made as you walk around Pamukkale.

Can You Swim In The Pools Of Pamukkale?

You CANNOT swim in the travertine terraces despite what you see on social media and other blog posts online! The famous ones you see all over Instagram are closed to the public, and there are guards all over the place making sure no one goes inside!

There are a couple of pools where you can walk in, but the water is cool, and believe it or not, it’s kind of painful to walk around Pamukkale. There are sharp rocks in certain areas, and since you can’t wear shoes inside, I wouldn’t call it a pleasant experience.

Next to the top entrance, aka where the tour buses arrive, you can find a very narrow stream of rushing water where some people soak in. But it seemed extremely uncomfortable because it’s very narrow. And please be careful when walking around that area, we saw several people fall! It’s very slippery up there.

Is The Cotton Castle Worth Visiting?

Watching the sunset over these beautiful travertine terraces will make for a memorable experience. We found a somewhat secret spot where we enjoyed the views with barely any people. (instructions on how to get there in this post!)

We ended up rating the famous Cotton Castle a 3/5. Yes, it is beautiful. But it is also one of those places that are treated as an Instagram photo-op. Which is frustrating to experience. Many visitors don’t consider the fascinating history of the place or even bother to visit the ruins of the city of Hierapolis (which are spectacular!). To be honest, we loved the views but didn’t appreciate the overall vibes of the place! And not because it was packed, but because of how everyone was behaving.

We try to be as honest as possible to help you maximize your precious vacation time. If you have any questions or need more details, don’t be shy and ask away. We are always happy to help 🙂

Thanks so much for reading! See you next time!



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