Darvaza Gas Crater
Darvaza - Gates of Hell
Darvaza gas crater, known also as the Gates of Hell, is one of the most mysterious places in Turkmenistan. It is a fire breathing hole of incredible size among the Karakum desert dunes that cover roughly 70 % of Turkmenistan. This 69 m diameter and 30 m deep open hole is located on a flat desert area, halfway along the Ashgabat-Karakum-Dashoguz highway that also leads to Konye Urgench and not far from the village of Derveze.
The phenomena of freely burning methane continues to excite the imagination of tourists willing to see this famous sight with their own eyes. Most of the about 6000 tourists that visit Turkmenistan yearly, also visit Darvaza. Turkmenistan tourism agency has not willingly promoted the site even though it is the most popular sight of Turkmenistan and in 2022 Turkmen authorities announced that they aim to extinguish the flames soon. No any actions towards this have been witnessed though.
Spewing flames across its deep hole, like a small volcano, the gate of hell is best viewed at night and many choose to camp near it in tents or yurts. Not many know it, but there are also other craters or holes in the vicinity of the well known gate of hell. One of them has water in it and gas bubbles can be seen rising from the depths. There is also another hole that provides a smaller continues release of burning gas and a one with bubbling mud. Remember to keep above the wind as the burnt gases can cause serious health problems if you breath them.
History of Darvaza gas crater
The origin of the fire is from a gas leak that was tried to be blocked by exploding the gas or by igniting it intentionally to keep the gas from just escaping. Instead of gas leak ending, the crater began to breathe fire and has done now done so for about 50 years since 1971. There are also other contradicting stories on the birth of the hole, depending on from who you ask.
There is no reliable information on how long the phenomena is expected to continue meaning it is better to go and see it while it lasts.
Accommodation and eating in Darvaza
As mentioned, Darvaza is best by night, after the dark. During the night time, in an empty desert with only the stars above, you can see the reddish light or flames from the ground also from the distance and hear a the rumble from the crater already from far away. In order to enjoy the night time here, there are yurts and toilet facilities built next to the crater for the ones not willing to camp in a tent.
The only place to eat is in the yurt camp or few kilometers from the crater towards south. The nearest shops are in the village of Erbent that is 90 km from the crater. It is also important to know that when planning a trip to the sight, one needs to make it with an off-road vehicle as although the main road leading to the crater is in good condition, the last few hundred meters are accessed through a fairly bad sandy road.
Page updated 21.1.2023