The Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan

The Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan
Oct 22, 2014
By Greg Stephenson

Let’s face it.

The list of places to see in Central Asia starts off simply. The cities that come to mind are Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Almaty, Astana, Bishkek, and many others. But there are many other places to see that are fascinating in their own right. This blog has visited a few of them as a service to you, but there’s one place that I continue to disregard. I shouldn’t do this, so I think the time has come to acknowledge one of the more bemusing places on the map. The name of this place is “The Door to Hell” and you can only find it in Turkmenistan. Many people have already discovered this fascinating and “aromatic” place and it’s recommended that you should, too! If your focus is to build an Uzbekistan tours only, you can include a visit to Turkmenistan and this geologic curiosity.

While the spelling of the location of the Door to Hell varies (Darvaza, Darvaze, Derweze), it’s 260 km (160 mile) north of Ashgabat. In 1971 Soviet engineers set up camp to assess the amount of oil under the ground. Instead, they found an indeterminate amount of natural gas and continued their assessment. Over the coming months they were pleased with what they found and began storing the gas. Unfortunately, the ground beneath the worksite collapsed (no lives lost) and work was discontinued, leaving a 70 meter (230 feet) diameter hole in the ground. However, the scientists feared for the safety of the residents of the nearby village due to the release of poisonous gas into the air, so they decided to burn the gas. Their thought at the time was that it would take a few weeks for the burning gas to expend itself. Instead, it kept burning and burning and burning. Today it has become a popular tourist attraction that draws people from throughout the world.

However, changes are on the horizon for this geologic wonder. In April 2010, the president of Turkmenistan visited the site and ordered that the hole be covered or reduced in size to reduce its negative effects on the nearby drilling fields. For this blogger, there’s no information when this project will take place, but I do know that when things happen in Central Asia they happen quickly with little – or no – warning. In other words, it could happen tomorrow, or next year, or whenever

This means that if you’re going to visit the Door to Hell, do not tarry! When you’re in Turkmenistan, take the time to visit the place where many have tread and many more will follow. If you are building an Uzbekistan tours itinerary, take the time to consider including Turkmenistan on your trip, too!

Greg Stephenson

Greg has lived and worked in Central Asia since 1997. His hands-on understanding of the people, culture, and tourist destinations provides our clients the opportunity to feel comfortable knowing that they are in good hands. His travels throughout Central Asia have given him the opportunity to interact with many professionals in the tourism industry that enables him to providing the highest quality of services anywhere in the world.

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