The Darvaza Gas Crater
Turkmenistan is an absolutely fascinating country for many reasons, and one of the places that I had the opportunity to visit was the Darvaza gas crater, which is also known as “The Gates of Hell” or the “Door to Hell.” The gas crater is located in the middle of the Karakum Desert, which is essentially in the heart of Turkmenistan. The area around the crater is very remote with literally nothing around it, and it takes about 3.5 hours to get there from Ashgabat, which is the capital (keep an eye out for future posts on Ashgabat).
The crater itself is actually not a crater at all but a sinkhole. From what I was told, in the early 1970s, Soviet engineers were drilling for oil, and they punctured a hole in a natural gas pocket which caused the oil platform they were drilling from to collapse within the cavern and release methane into the atmosphere. Because of the negative effects that the methane could have, the engineers made the decision to light the methane in order to protect the environment. As a result, the fire has been burning for almost 50 years, and it has been estimated that it will continue to burn for the next 100 years or so.
When I had the opportunity to visit the Darvaza gas crater , it was extremely hot near the crater, and when the wind blew, it was truly scorching and even somewhat painful at times (depending on your position and the wind’s direction).
In addition, the area around the crater smells strongly of natural gas, especially when the wind blows, so it is important to not linger close to the area for too long since the gas is poisonous. Also, to provide some safety measures and keep people from falling into the crater, there is a fence. However, since there are no guards anywhere, it is very easy to hop over the fence and get closer to the edge for better pictures. Some people even did that in order to get some better photos.
Initially, I was content staying behind the fence, but I will admit that when I went to the crater in the early morning hours to see the sunset, I saw a couple of other people who were up early as well at the crater, and they had gone past the fence while still staying very close to it. I figured it couldn’t hurt to go past the fence a bit while still keeping a safe distance from the edge and keeping close proximity to the fence. Of course, even though I did go past the fence, I made sure to keep a safe distance between myself and the edge since there was a chance the ground near the edge could give way, and I certainly did not want to fall into the crater.
Since the gas crater is in a remote area, there are no hotels in the area, so there are only two options. The first option is to drive there from Ashgabat and return the same day. The other option, and the one I did was to get to the gas crater in the evening and spend the night by camping in either a tent or a yurt.
Originally, I was supposed to spend the night in a yurt but because it was extremely warm inside it, I opted to sleep outside where it was significantly cooler by at least 10 to 15 degrees. While it was definitely much cooler outside, there was also a chance for spiders, scorpions, and snakes to make their way into the camp. As a result, I did not sleep particularly well that night, and I made sure to give my shoes a very good shake the next morning in case something decided to shelter in them overnight.
The next morning, I woke up early (5am) to get a view of the sunrise over the crater. Waking up was not difficult since I did not sleep well that night because of the wind, relatively cold weather at night, and constant worry about insects and snakes making their way into the bed with me.
In my opinion, the two best times to see the gas crater will be at night when it is literally the only source of illumination in the area and in the early morning shortly before sunrise and while the sun is rising over the horizon. These are the best times to get photos with unique atmospheric effects.
Overall, the Darvaza Gas Crater is an absolutely amazing site that one should try to see at least once in their life. It is a unique place that does not exist anywhere else in the world, and I am extremely glad that I had the opportunity to visit it.
Have you been to the Darvaza Gas Crater? What did you think of it?
Please enjoy the photo gallery! All photos were taken using an iPhone 7 plus and DSLR:
In addition to the photos, please enjoy the video as well. The video was taken at around 5:45am. There were only a couple other people out and about at this time. Seeing the sunrise over the crater was truly a site to behold.