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Hierapolis – Pamukkale

Date of Inscription to the World Heritage List: 9.12.1988

List Reference: 485 Criteria: Natural/ Cultural


According to the legend that spread the mystery of Hierapolis to the wide world, an ugly shepherd girl, fed up with the burdens of life, cast herself into water, but turned into a beautiful maiden in the waters of Hierapolis.

Hierapolis was founded during the Phrygian era, and its name was derived from Hiera, the beautiful wife of Telephos, the King of Pergamon. Hierapolis played an important role in spreading Christianity in Asia Minor, and it was the place where Phillip, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, died. For this reason, Hierapolis became an important religious centre in the 4th century AD. Later it assumed the title of the Guide of the East and saw its most brilliant years between 96 and 162 AD. Hierapolis came under Byzantine rule in 395, and became a metropolitan bishopric.

History and nature meets in an extraordinary manner at Pamukkale. The name Hierapolis also means the sacred city. It has the Necropolis, the Domitian Road and gate, the temple of Plutonium set in a square area, the theatre with reliefs depicting the mythology of Apollo and Artemis, the Frontinus street and Gate, the Agora, the North Byzantine Gate, the South Byzantine Gate, the Gymnasium, The Fountain with Triton, the House with Ionic capitals, the Apollo sacred site, the aqueducts and Nympheum, the city walls, the Martyrium of St. Phillip and bridge, the Column Church, the ruins of Basilica and Roman Baths. These are still standing in all their glory.

The Pamukkale travertine was created by thermal water depositing the calcium carbonate it contained. The natural wonder of Pamukkale travertine deposits span a 160 metres tall and 2700 metres long cascade. With its brilliant white colour, it can be seen about a distance of 20 km. At Pamukkale there are 17 thermal springs with water temperatures between 35-100-C.

The thermal mineral water springs and exceptional scenery have impressed people since antiquity. Wealthy people came from Rome and other cities of Anatolia to spend their last years in Hierapolis. Because of this, the Necropolis (the grave yard) is full of monumental tombs decorated in the styles of different regions.

The historical artefacts found in the excavations are on display at the Archaeology Museum of Hierapolis. The Tripolis antic city in Buldan County and Colossea antic settlement in Hozanz County are the most important of all antic settlements In the region.

This sacred land clad in white is waiting for those who want to heal in its waters with a natural therapy.


UNESCO » Culture » World Heritage Centre » The List » World Heritage List

Deriving from springs in a cliff almost 200 m high overlooking the plain, calcite-laden waters have created at Pamukkale (Cotton Palace) an unreal landscape, made up of mineral forests, petrified waterfalls and a series of terraced basins. At the end of the 2nd century B.C. the dynasty of the Attalids, the kings of Pergamon, established the thermal spa of Hierapolis. The ruins of the baths, temples and other Greek monuments can be seen at the site.

Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Deriving from springs in a cliff almost 200 m high overlooking the plain of Cürüksu in south-west Turkey, calcite-laden waters have created an unreal landscape, made up of mineral forests, petrified waterfalls and a series of terraced basins given the name of Pamukkale (Cotton Palace). Located in the province of Denizli, this extraordinary landscape was a focus of interest for visitors to the nearby Hellenistic spa town of Hierapolis, founded by the Attalid kings of Pergamom at the end of the 2nd century B.C., at the site of an ancient cult. Its hot springs were also used for scouring and drying wool. Ceded to Rome in 133 B.C., Hierapolis flourished, reaching its peak of importance in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D., having been destroyed by an earthquake in 60 A.D. and rebuilt. Remains of the Greco-Roman period include baths, temple ruins, a monumental arch, a nymphaeum, a necropolis and a theatre. Following the acceptance of Christianity by the emperor Constantine and his establishment of Constantinople as the ‘new Rome’ in 330 A.D., the town was made a bishopric. As the place of St. Philip’s martyrdom in 80 A.D., commemerated by his Martyrium building in the 5th century, Hierapolis with its several churches became an important religious center for the Eastern Roman Empire.

The combination of striking natural formations and the development of a complex system of canals, bringing the thermal water to nearby villages and fields, is exceptional. The springs are the source of a hydraulic system extending 70 km northwest to Alasehir and westwards along the valley of the Menderes River. Pamukkale forms an important backdrop to the original Greco-Roman town of Hierapolis and the cultural landscape which dominates the area.

Criterion (iii): Hierapolis is an exceptional example of a Greco-Roman thermal installation established on an extraordinary natural site. The therapeutic virtues of the waters were exploited at the various thermal installations, which included immense hot basins and pools for swimming. Hydrotherapy was accompanied by religious practices, which developed in relation to local cults. The Temple of Apollo, which includes several Chtonian divinities, was erected on a geological fault from which noxious vapours escaped. The theatre, which dates from the time of Severus, is decorated with an admirable frieze depicting a ritual procession and a sacrifice to the Ephesian Artemis. The necropolis, which extends over 2 kilometres, affords a vast panorama of the funerary practices of the Greco-Roman era.

Criterion (iv): The Christian monuments of Hierapolis, erected between the 4th and the 6th centuries, constitute an outstanding example of an Early Christian architectural group with a cathedral, baptistery and churches. The most important monument, situated outside the north-west wall of the city, is the Martyrium of St. Philip. At the top of a monumental stairway, the octagonal layout of the building is remarkable because of its ingenious spatial organization. Radiating from the central octagon are chapels, polygonal halls and triangular rooms, which combine to culminate in a square structure encircled by rectangular cells bordered with porticoes.

Criterion (vii): Calcite-laden waters from hot springs, emerging from a cliff almost 200 metres high overlooking the plain, have created a visually stunning landscape at Pamukkale. These mineralized waters have generated a series of petrified waterfalls, stalactites and pools with step-like terraces, some of which are less than a meter in height while others are as high as six meters. Fresh deposits of calcium carbonate give these formations a dazzling white coating. The Turkish name Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle”, is derived from this striking landscape.


The property is largely intact and includes all the attributes necessary to express its Outstanding Universal Value, based on the strong and tight integration between the natural landscape (the white travertine terraces and numerous thermal springs) and culture (the city ruins from the Greco-Roman and Byzantine period, especially the theatre and the necropolis). The boundaries of the site are adequate to reflect the site’s significance.

The main threats to the integrity of the property are high numbers of international tourists that represent a very important economic resource for the regional economy. The area of the small lake formed by earthquakes and thermal sources around the ancient civil agora, where thousands of tourists can swim between the ancient columns and marble architectural decorations, is particularly threatened. This has led to biological pollution and constant erosion of the ancient Roman marble elements, and the relevant authorities are planning to set up a monitoring system to assist in managing this problem.


Most of the property is free of modern buildings and the architectural monuments can easily be appreciated. Some old monuments are in use again, for example the theatre is used for performances with participation of thousands of people, while excavation and restoration works on the site are still going on. All the projects are based on anastylosis methods such as in the frons scaenae of the theatre, the gymnasium and the templon of the church of St. Philip.

The monumental and archaeological remains truthfully and credibly express the Outstanding Universal Value of the property in terms of its setting, form, and materials. The mausoleums and Tripolis Street in the north necropolis, the city walls from the south eastern Roman Gate to the travertine terraces, the Latrina located to the east of Domitian Gate, the colonnaded street and the Gymnasium have been restored. The structure of the Bath-Basilica, which suffered earthquake damage, has been reinforced.

Protection and management requirements

Hierapolis-Pamukkale is legally protected through national conservation legislation, but there is no specific planning legislation to protect World Heritage properties. The responsibility for managing and conserving the property is shared by the national Government (the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Ministry of Environment and Urbanism), local administration (Denizli Provincial Special Administration) and several State institutions. The approval of the Regional Conservation Council and Provincial Directorate for Environment and Urbanism has to be obtained for physical interventions and functional changes in the site.

The site was registered as a first degree natural and archaeological site in 1980 by decision of the Supreme Council for Antiquities and Monuments. In 1990, an area of approximately 66 km2 (larger than the World Heritage property) was registered as a “special protected area” by decision of Cabinet. Visitor centres at the northern and southern entrances to the site have been built, and a conservation plan approved. Hotel buildings on site and structures around the thermal pool have been removed; entry of private vehicles into the site is forbidden, except for emergencies; public transportation is provided for visitors. The road passing through the south-eastern travertine terraces has been closed; visitor routes and information panels are provided within the site, and tourist facilities are restricted to the edge of the monumental area. Visitor access to the travertine terraces is prohibited in order to sustain the water flow and to maintain the colour and structure of the travertine terraces. Areas where visitors can bathe in the hot springs have been established.

An agreement between the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Provincial Special Administration has established a Site Management Directorate within Denizli Provincial Special Administration, which oversees the procedures and principles to conserve, develop and manage the site. This Directorate provides coordination between various stakeholders and landscaping, security and cleaning services. An advisory board, composed of central and local administrations, non-governmental organizations and scientific groups (in particular the head of the excavation team) provides recommendations to the Site Management Directorate concerning projects in the site. The Italian excavation team (that has been extensively investigating the site since 1957) has specified policies for a management plan aimed at determining the standards for restoration and rehabilitation, based on the Venice Charter (1964) for conservation of historical monuments. This includes accessibility and visitor management, policies for enhancing perception of the site, and risk management.

Long Description

This site is exceptional by vurtue of its superlative natural phenomena – warm, heavily mineralized water flowing from springs creating pools and terraces which are visually stunning. It is on this outstanding natural site that Hierapolis, an exceptional example of a Graeco-Roman thermal installation, was established. The Christian monuments of Hierapolis constitute an outstanding example of an early Christian architectural complex.

Pamukkale, which literally means ‘cotton castle’, is the name the Turks gave to the extraordinary site of Hierapolis. The name was inspired by the preternatural landscape of bizarre forms created by calcite deposits from the hot springs that surface through a fault: mineral forests, petrified cascades and terraced pools of an immense natural nymphaeum. The ancients attributing healing powers to the hot springs (35 °C) equal to their power to metamorphose the landscape, they founded a thermal station on the site in the late 2nd century. The history of Hierapolis followed the same course as many Hellenistic cities in Asia Minor. The Romans acquired full control of it in 129 BC and it prospered under its new rulers. It was a cosmopolitan city where Anatolians, Graeco-Macedonians, Romans and Jews intermingled. The hot springs which attracted throngs of people ‘taking the waters’ also served another purpose: scouring and dying wool.

The therapeutic virtues of the waters were exploited at the various thermal installations which included immense hot basins and pools for swimming. Hydrotherapy was accompanied by religious practices, which were developed in relation to local cults. The Temple of Apollo was erected on a fault from which noxious vapours escaped. The theatre, which dates from the time of Severus, is decorated with an admirable frieze depicting a ritual procession and a sacrifice to the Ephesian Artemis. The necropolis affords a vast panorama of the funerary practices of the Graeco-Roman epoch. According to ancient tradition, Philip the Apostle converted it and was crucified there by Domitian around the year 87. Hieropolis remained one of the two metropolises of the Phrygia Pacatiana as well as being a bishopric. The group of Christian buildings are the cathedral, baptistry and churches. The most important monument is the martyrium of St Philip. At the top of a monumental stairway, the octagonal layout of the building is remarkable because of its ingenious spatial organization. The fortress, built on the cliff, testifies to its ultimate historic phase.

The Pamukkale National Park is the focal point for the natural values of the site, formed by its highest travertine terraces, with 20 m high cliffs and waterfalls, and situated along on the foothills of the Cokelez Mountains. The terrace is about 200 m above the Curuksu plain and extends some 6 km between the villages of Pamukkale and Karahayit. Semi-circular pools occur in a step-like arrangement down the upper third of the slope. Fresh deposits of calcium carbonate give the pools a dazzling white coating. The travertine deposits, Quaternary in age, are thought to originate from a fault in the contact zone between the Mesozoic crystalline rocks and the layers of the Neogen series. The springs form part of a complex hydraulic system extending 70 km to the north-west to Alasehir and west along the valley of the Menderes River. These canals take thermal water to nearby villages and agricultural areas, some over the years having accumulated travertine deposits up to 10 m in height. The oldest rocks in the area are crystalline marbles, quartzite and schists and are located in the northern parts of the park. Most of the rocks are of the Pliocene epoch.

A vegetation map produced in 1969 showed land use, in descending order of area covered, as cultivated land, bare land subject to erosion, bare land urban areas and maquis. There are some 45 species of flowering plant, while in Denizli Province there are records of ten species of mammal and ten species of bird. State ownership around 500 m, rising to 1,840 m in the Cokelez mountains, to the immediate north of the park peaks further out but surrounding the park rise to 2,308 m (Babadağ) and 2,571 m (Honaz).

The natural features of the site provide the setting that attracted the original Roman town of Hierapolis. They thus form an important backdrop for the cultural landscape that now dominates the area.


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