After driving 260 km north from Ashkhabad, you’ll reach Darvaza in the Karakum desert. The area is ‘home’ to the Gates of Hell – an unusual, man-made gas crater that has been burning for almost 50 years. In 1971, Turkmenistan was visited by a delegation of Russian (then Soviet) geologists searching for gas. Drilling was carried out at several locations, resulting in both a water crater, a mud crater and a gas crater. The latter became a reality during drilling when the ground suddenly collapsed and methane gas began to seep out from so-called ‘gas pockets’ in the sides. To stop the discharge, the geologists set fire to the gas and figured it burned out in a matter of weeks. The rest is history – the crater is still burning and has since become a major tourist attraction in the area.
A few hundred meters from the Darvaza crater are established tourist camps that allow to spend the night in the area. Here you can stay in so-called Yurts – large transportable tents with a white wooden frame. The tents allow you to experience the gas crater late at night, when the flames cut out to brighten the desert landscape around the crater in the shelter of the night’s darkness. It creates a truly unique atmosphere and makes it one of the highlights when visiting Turkmenistan.
The gas crater is 70 meters wide and 30 meters deep and has been named the Gats of Hell by local Turkmen. Experience the burning black mud and the orange flames of Darvaza for yourself with a trip with Above Borders to Turkmenistan.
In 2013, the Greek-Canadian adventurer, George Kourounis, made a trip to the Gates of Hell, where he was the first in the world to be hoisted into the crater’s orange glow. At the meeting with hell, George collected soil samples for studies on potential bacteria. It turned out that some organisms actually survive in what one might well call one of the most inhospitable places in the world.