Before departing on our hitchhiking adventure, we rented a car for a few days to check out some historical landmarks that were a bit out of the way of where we planned to travel while hitchhiking. There are buses that go to these destinations, as well, but we wanted to take our time and drive through the countryside. If you’re on a budget, the bus is the best way to go. It was more expensive than we expected to rent the car, but in the end, we held no regrets about it since it was a nice break from the constant public transportation travel we’ve been using to get about.
Our first stop was a town called Selçuk to see the ruins of Ephesus.
The ancient city of Ephesus dates back to 10th century BC. Originally a Greek settlement, Ephesus was once considered one of the most important Greek cities in the Mediterranean area, and was used as a trading center by many surrounding civilizations. There is loads of history in the area, and its inhabitants changed many times throughout history. It was conquered and controlled by the Persians, Egyptians and Romans over the years. For many of its active years, Ephesus thrived as a port city and massive business district. Some say that Ephesus even came close to rivaling Rome as a commercial and cultural center during the Roman rule. Beginning around the first century, Saint Paul and Saint John were incredibly successful in converting the inhabitants of Ephesus from the cults of Artemis to Christianity. This would lead Ephesus to becoming a great support to the spread of early Christianity, and it was said that both Saint John and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were buried there. However by the third century AD, Ephesus was decimated by the Goths. While there were attempts throughout history to rebuild this amazing city, it would never regain the power and magnificence of it’s glory days. This is barely the tip of the iceberg of all of the history that resides in Ephesus. Well-known figures such as Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Marc Antony, Heracletus, and many others have spent time in Ephesus. For more information about the history of this region, check out this article written by History.com.
Pamukkale is a MUST while visiting Turkey. The area looks like a snowy mountains from afar, but it is actually a cliff made of snow-white limestone with warm mineral water flowing down into several pools. The ground feels like slightly sharp ridges, so it’s important to move slow and use caution while walking to the beautiful blue pools. There are dozens of knee-deep pools to wade through, all of them as warm as bathwater. It was very crowded during our visit, but everyone was wearing masks, so we felt fine joining in with the crowds for a quick dip.
Another must-see attraction of Pamukkale is Cleopatra’s Pool, which costs extra to swim in on top of the park entrance fee, but is totally worth it. Cleopatra’s Pool sits at the top of the mountain, and of course we HAD to take a swim there after hearing that Cleopatra herself had swam there once upon a time. The turquoise water is filled with ruins from a Roman Temple that was destroyed in an earthquake, and it is rumored that the pool itself was a gift from Marc Antony to Cleopatra. Apparently, they spent lots of time relaxing in the thermal pools of Pamukkale. We were definitely channeling some bad-ass queen Cleopatra vibes while we were there.
Our favorite part of the day though…. puppies! We have no idea why, but there was about a dozen stray puppies wandering around the trees near the pools, and they were sweet as pie!! Stray animals are very common in Turkey, but this was our first time coming across puppies, so of course we were very excited and had to take a bunch of photos!
So far, Ephesus and Pamukkale were some of our favorite places we have visited while in Turkey. If you are the type of person who tends to avoid places that draw tourist crowds, we suggest you don’t skip out on these two. They are tourist destinations for a reason. There’s nothing like them anywhere else in the world. We usually tend to visit spots that are overly populated with tourists, but we plan to return to these areas every time we find ourselves in Turkey.