The Darvaza gas crater, also known as "The Burning Gate", "Hell's Gate" or the "The Door to Hell", is one of the most extraordinary sites in Turkmenistan and has one of the most apocalyptic landscapes in the world. It is about 60 metres wide and 20 metres deep, and it is not of a natural origin, but actually man-made. Although details are sketchy, the most trusted account is that Soviet engineers were drilling when they accidentally bored into a cavern filled with natural gas. To avoid the release of toxic fumes, they decided to set it alight and it has been burning ever since.
Most commonly, it is said that this happened in 1971, but some sources also mention the 1950s, so it is hard to say with certainty when this happened. This kind of time discrepancy is common when trying to find out the exact dates of Soviet mistakes.
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Due to the intense heat, you can only stand near the crater's edge for a couple of minutes at a time. Not that you would want to get too close to the edge anyways as the edge is unstable and there's little chance of a rescue in this remote area.
The crater is always burning, but the best time to see it is at night when the sky glows red due to the crater's flames. It can be seen up to 40 kilometres away.
Apart from the costs of arranging transport and accommodation to get there, there are no known entrance fees.
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In addition to the burning Darvaza gas crater, there are two other craters nearby that can be visited. Neither is on fire. One has toxic gases bubbling up through green water and the other has gas bubbling up through mud.
The Darvaza gas crater is located about 260 kilometres north of Ashgabat about halfway along the road to Konye-Urgench.
Due to its remote location, transport options to the crater are limited. The main option available is to arrange a tour with a local agent in Ashgabat. They would take food and supplies along and provide accommodation in a traditional yurt or camping near to the crater.
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The crater is located about a 4 hour-drive away from the Turkmen capital Ashgabat. The trip is best arranged through an agent in Ashgabat, as good off-road driving skills and knowledge of the area are important. The fire crater is located approximately 10 kilometres off the main road and a 4x4 is essential for this section. The other two craters are located next to the main road.
At the present time getting there by bus is not an option. It is best to get there by car.
It is best to bring food with you. At the present time food is not available at the gas craters.
There is a small kiosk on the main road at the turn off to the fire crater where it should be possible to obtain purified water.
There is no accommodation nearby. Use local travel guides who can take you to the crater and accommodate you either in a local yurt or camping next to the crater.
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