Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Sat November 21 2015

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  • Shannon Wolf | November 21, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    Pamukkale: A Reunion at the Cotton Castle

    Pamukkale: A Reunion at the Cotton Castle

    PHOTO: The fading sunset creating a beautiful glow over Pamukkale. (photos by Shannon Wolf)

    Its 3 a.m. and my eyes feel like bricks. I’m at Denzil Otogar sitting on a heavily varnished wicker chair like one my mom used to have when I was growing up. I’ve been here for three hours and the line “no good comes after 2 a.m.” rings in my subconscious as shady looking guys keep coming up to me, saying how sexy I am using their Google Translate app, since they don’t speak English.

    Meanwhile, I can’t be bothered and keep my eyes out for the long-distance bus coming from Istanbul.

    An hour later, after repeatedly checking every single arriving bus, I spotted him. He seemed like a mirage. We ran up to each other into a death-grip hug, like our time apart had been a lifetime, though it had been just short of nine months. “I can’t believe you’re here!” I exclaimed while handing my best friend a celebratory beer — much needed after his 24-hour journey here.

    The next morning Adam and I were up bright and early at our hotel and headed straight for Pamukkale, Turkey to stay overnight; since we pre-booked our expensive, no-refunds hostel.

    But the real adventure began with some al fresco alcohol the next day. We were in the scorching hot sun and only minutes from the hot springs, but what fun is being on vacation if you can’t have a road-beer at 11 a.m.?

    From the distance, the towering Travertines looked like snow and in the blaring heat, we wouldn’t have been opposed to jump right in if that were the case. When we arrived and walked along, it was evident that these bizarre calcium formations were far from cold and actually relatively soft and slippery with warm turquoise water flowing past our feet.

    PHOTO: Upon arrival and a little buzzed, we were pretty excited about seeing the “cotton castle” up close.

    We had heard through the travel-grapevine that if you walked past the Travertines and past the ruins of Hierapolis, there was a more secluded (and free) hot spring that you could essentially have to yourself, that overlooks the town of Pamukkale — while everyone else pays to use the “tourist” pool.

    After a bit of wandering, we found the tucked away thermal pool with only two other locals swimming, and we knew we had hit the jackpot. We jumped in, swam for a while and then lathered ourselves with mud as we baked in the sun.

    After we looked something like statues, we rinsed off, strolled through the well-preserved ruins and walked back into town for an ice cold beer just as the sun set.

    PHOTO: Adam and I getting a little muddy in the natural hot springs!

    The Travertines of Pamukkale (“cotton castle,” in Turkish) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its natural hot springs and is a must-see in Turkey (25 TL entrance fee) — but do yourself a favor and only visit for the day as the town is tiny and there’s nothing else to do or see.

    Things to do:

    • Visit the ruins of the Greek-Roman city of Hierapolis.

    • Visit the Roman amphitheater of Hierapolis, which is right above the Travertines.

    • Swim and get muddy in the mineral hot springs. You can pay the inflated tourist price of 32 TL to swim in an enclosed pool, or if you venture a little past the ruins, you can swim for free!

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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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