Updated: Aug 9, 2019
A first hand account of Instagram infamy versus reality and the importance of sustainable tourism.
The first time I laid eyes on the travertine terraces of Pamukkale, I decided I had to go. Something about the cotton like structures beg to be seen in person. And I'm not the only one that feels this way. Hundreds of thousands of visitors have traveled to the region for the famed formations and pools fed by hot springs. Ironically, the beauty of this place is being compromised by the tourists it attracts.
Initially I was torn about showing you these images and sharing my experiences about this remarkable place. However, I decided to post; hoping that you would consider what it means to not only discover beauty but to preserve it as well.
Pamukkale is translated to mean "cotton castle." The formations developed over the course of thousands of years from the calcium carbonate deposits in the mineral enriched hot spring water. Even the ancient Greeks believed this site possessed unmatched beauty and built the city of Heirapolus nearby. I promise, I'm almost finished with the history lesson, but it must be said that in the mid to late 1900s visitors increased exponentially and part of the rock formations were destroyed to build a hotel. With little regulation, the site was falling to ruin. However, after Pamukkale's natural wonder was deemed a World Heritage location, protections were put into place. Additionally, man made pools were constructed to prevent tourists from entering the naturally occurring ones.
Interesting Fact: Above is the a comparison image of the pools in Pamukkale. The top half was found on the internet, and I photographed the bottom photo myself. It is hard to tell how often, the pools or travetine terraces are filled with water. My survey of timestamped pictures online have revealed that the pools are empty routinely. Even one Trip Advisor review stated that the natural formations have been permanently without water for the last 13 years. Additionally, visitors are prohibited from walking on this section of the site to prevent further degradation. Based on these two limitations/changes, there is a good chance you will not experience what is often portrayed in images of Pamukkale.
Above is a picture that reflects the current state of the site. It is very beautiful, but different from it's past iteration. I have to admit when I arrived and discovered that THIS was it, I was disappointed. I wanted to recreate the images that inspired my trip in the first place. To add insult to injury, the park's gift shop even had the nerve to sell images of the classic Pamukkale on post cards and other souvenirs; further perpetuating the misconception of the place.
Travel is wonderful, but Pamukkale showed me that my adventures can contribute to the demise of the very place I enjoyed visiting. Supporting tourism efforts that promote sustainability is a priceless way to preserve beauty and travel responsibly. This concept can be applied not only to a physical location, but to the wildlife and even people of a region. Essentially, it is wise to ask, "What are the consequences of my travels for myself, the environment, the people, the culture, etc?"