Postcard from Doug: A visit to Darvaza’s burning gas crater in Turkmenistan

Postcard from Doug: A visit to Darvaza’s burning gas crater in Turkmenistan

“Unusual” is a word we often use to describe Turkmenistan. One of the most unusual excursions in this unusual place is a spectacle you can witness on a visit to the Kara Kum desert north of Ashgabat.

On one of my recent visits to Turkmenistan I had the opportunity to drive up to Darvaza, a burning gas crater set on fire by Soviet engineers in 1971. Some locals call it the “Door to Hell.” The story goes that some oil-drilling equipment was swallowed up by a huge sink hole, which was filled with gas. Engineers decided to burn off the gas to make the cavern safe for more drilling. It has been burning ever since.

MIR founder and president, Douglas Grimes, at Darvaza's gas crater in Turkmenistan

MIR founder and president, Douglas Grimes, at a mud pit near Darvaza’s gas crater in Turkmenistan Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

 

I camped overnight not far from the rim of the crater, and made two visits to the edge, once when it was still light out, and again late that night in the pitch dark.

Even during the day, the light from the gas crater is a sight to see. Photo credit: Inga Belova

Even during the day, the light from the gas crater is a sight to see
Photo credit: Inga Belova

A view of the Darvaza gas crater edge on a clear night as captured during Doug's overnight tent camping near the site.

A view of the Darvaza gas crater edge on a clear night
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

There were wonderful views of the stars, but the highlight was a pillar of light originating from the depths of the crater all the way up into the heavens. What an unusual and captivating sight!

Approaching the crater’s rim I not only got a clearer view but also felt the heat emanating from the gas burning all over the bottom and walls of the inner crater. At the edge, it’s easy to get lost staring at the flickering flames of the huge pit, just as it is when sitting around a campfire.

This is such a strange and eerie site and experience that it shouldn’t be missed. Go this year and see it for yourself!

A look inside the crater<br>Photo credit: Inga Belova

A look inside the crater
Photo credit: Inga Belova

Travel to Turkmenistan with MIRVisit Darvaza and its “Door to Hell” on MIR’s classic independent private journey, Essential Turkmenistan, or on the Caspian Odyssey by Private Train rail journey. You can also book a custom private journey or tour extension to Turkmenistan.

 

(Top photo: Darvaza’s gas crater in Turkmenistan.  Photo credit: Douglas Grimes)

PUBLISHED: January 8, 2015

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