Pamukkale's White Terraces

Enjoy the view but tread lightly.

By Ephemera documentary

Angelo Chiacchio

Detail of white travertin in Pamukkale (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

In Southern Turkey, mother nature has adorned the local landscape with a “cotton castle.” When translated into Turkish, the site is called Pamukkale. 

For years, its snow-white calciferous terraces had been suffering from uncontrolled tourism and commercial exploitation. It would have been lost by now if UNESCO had not intervened.

A street in Pamukkale (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

In February 2018, photographer Angelo Chiacchio - on his journey to the world's most fragile places - visited this small town in the Turkish province of Denizli.

Hierapolis theatre (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Pamukkale lies on the site of an ancient Roman city called Hierapolis.

Pamukkale hot springs (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

The hot springs attract thousands of tourists each year, just as they did when Romans settled here long ago.  

Aerial view of Pamukkale pools (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

The highlight of Pamukkale’s unique geological landscape is a white travertine formation that covers one side of a mountain.

Pamukkale pools (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Calcium rich water flows down the mountain and evaporates under sunlight. 

Sunset in Pamukkale (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

But mass tourism took its toll on the land, as hotels consumed too much of the natural water. The pools became shallow and dirty. 

Tourists in Pamukkale (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

In 1988, UNESCO declared Pamukkale a World Heritage Site. Preservation measures included hotel demolition and restricting visitor access to a central path that leads to artificial pools. 

Tourists in Pamukkale (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

A barbershop in Pamukkale (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

The whole town’s economy is centered around tourism. Only a few shops cater to the needs of the locals.

Local bar in Pamukkale (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

In local bars, you mostly see old men playing cards. 

Portrait of Turkish agricultural worker (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

The only other economic activity is agriculture. Those who do not work in the local tourism industry, spend their days cultivating cotton, figs or tobacco.

Detail of white travertin in Pamukkale (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Conclusion

Pamukkale is a great example of how tourism can be designed to promote preservation.  As this natural wonder recovers from misuse, it can serve as a model for preserving the world’s most fragile places. 

Terra by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Partnership by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

This story was created with the support of Art Works for Change, a nonprofit organization that creates contemporary art exhibitions and storytelling projects to address critical social and environmental issues.

Credits: Story

Written, shot and produced by Angelo Chiacchio
Copy editing: Al Grumet, Rajesh Fotedar

With the support of: Google Arts & Culture, Art Works for Change

Thanks to: The whole staff of Kale Hotel and Özzencir Turizm.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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