The Darvaza gas crater, also nicknamed by locals as the “Door to Hell” or “Gates to Hell” is nothing short of remarkable.
Although it looks like something that is seen only in movies or the result of some unexplained alien doings, the hole is surprisingly not a natural phenomenon.
Check out my Time-Lapse of the Door to Hell:
It actually is a mishap from a drilling project back in the 1970’s by a crew of Soviet geologists back when the Republic was still a part of the Soviet Union.
Although an unintentional event, the geologists were working over a massive crater of natural gas.
Thankfully during the mishap, nobody seemed to be injured but the crater is now approximately 270 feet in diameter or 60 meters and has a depth of 65.5 feet.
Originally, scientists were worried about the gases that were emitted from the collapse. They were worried that it could be poisonous and thought that it would be best to ignite it and burn away the gases.
Initially, they thought it would burn for a couple of days, a few weeks at the most, but since it is one of the world’s largest gas reserves, it is still burning bright decades later with no end in sight.
Located right in the middle of desert- about a 4-hour drive from the Turkmen capitol- Ashgabat; the crater is truly as remote as it can be.
There are no restaurants, tourist shops or accommodations to visit but many tourists have braved the desert after dark and camped alongside the crater to be able to see mid-night views.
Since it is ‘off the beaten path” it is advised to use an off road vehicle to travel to the Door to Hell.
Much of the desert has a paved road but the last portion of the journey is all natural desert terrain and you definitely don’t want to get stuck in the sand.
With it being in the middle of the Karakum Desert, there are no landmarks to help locate.
Although there is not much to see, travelers can take delight in seeing herds of wild camel along the roadways chewing their cud as they marvel at the natural beauty of the desert.
The Darvaza gas crater is essentially a big hole in the ground and there is not much else around, it can be a bit tricky to find, especially in the middle of the day.
There is not one distinct path to follow so it is best to have a plan ahead of time before you head out.
The real show is at night.
At night it is a beautiful [and extremely hot] site to see. Illuminations from the crater can be seen from miles around in the evening hours.
It is common to see desert wildlife around the crater- one of note is the camel spider- which is not poisonous to humans but can still be a shock to see if unexpected.
Lucky visitors who have the opportunity to visit need to practice extreme caution as there are no safety guard rails to keep from getting too close.
So practicing caution is up to individual guests.
This episode of SciShow explains more about the Door to Hell:
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This post is also available in: German