DARVAZA – GAS CRATER ALSO KNOWN AS A “GATE OF HELL”
One of the most unusual touristic highlights around the world is this burning gas crater also known as the “Gate of Hell.” Darvaza from Turkmen literally means “Gate”, and the flames from the huge crater in the middle of the desert evoke the imagination of both travelers and locals.
The history behind this mysterious crater is remarkably simple, as in 1971 Soviet geologists had been drilling for gas at the site of a cavern. The cavern collapsed, releasing the gas. Fearing the release of toxic gases, the geologists set the crater on fire, hoping that the flames would burn off the gas within a few days or weeks. However, the fire has been burning continuously for over 50 years and has become a permanent feature of the desert landscape. There are no accurate records of the event, but the fact is that this gas cavern has been burning since then. The diameter of the crater is 69 meters and the depth is 30.
You can go around it, and since 2018, a fence has been installed for travelers’ safety. The flames that burn within the crater are created by the combustion of methane gas. Methane is an odorless and colorless gas that’s highly flammable, and it’s released naturally as a byproduct of the decomposition of organic matter. The methane in the Darvaza Gas Crater is thought to have been trapped in a natural gas pocket beneath the desert floor, and the drilling accident released it into the atmosphere.
In 2013, there was another Guinness record set by the first man to get down to the bottom of the gas crater. This was part of the National Geographic Channel series Die Trying, but as the name of the show says, you better not try to go down, unless you also want to set a World Record.
You can visit this amazing site in the Karakum desert, and it is impressive to stay overnight and see it at night. There are two options to stay in a tent camping
or stay in a yurt camp.
Darvaza Gas Crater is located in the Karakum Desert of Turkmenistan. Karakum desert makes up around 70% of the country.
From the main road, it takes around 7km offroad through a sandy path.
There are also two other similar big craters one with mud and one with water, though not as impressive as the Darvaza crater, you can still visit it on the way.
In conclusion, the Darvaza Gas Crater is a remarkable natural wonder that’s a testament to the power and unpredictability of nature. Its flames have been burning for over 50 years, creating a surreal and otherworldly sight that’s sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who visits.
While the environment surrounding the crater is hostile, it’s also an excellent opportunity to witness the raw beauty of the Karakum Desert and learn about the history and culture of the Turkmen people.
Note: As of March 1, 2023, Turkmenistan is still closed and not issuing visas for tourists.