Among the most popular tourist routes of Turkmenistan is Darvaza or, as it is also accepted to call this place intriguingly, “Gates of Hell”, “Door to the Underworld”.
People come here from all over the world to admire the miracle of nature located in the center of the Karakum desert, 266 kilometers north of the turkmen capital. Directly out of the ground, from a twenty-meter crater erupts fire, spellbinding not only travelers, but also the inhabitants of these places.
But the mysterious object has a quite prosaic explanation, which makes possible to consider it a man-made landmark. The history has preserved evidence of how only half a century ago, not far from the village of Darvaza (by the way, the name in turkmen means “gate”), geological exploration went on the presence of a gas field. During drilling, geologists accidentally opened an underground cavity, a hole was formed with a diameter of 60 meters and a depth of about 20 meters, into which all the equipment fell together with the drilling rig and transport. People did not suffer, but natural gas pulled out from the cavity. It was set on fire, hoping that it would completely burn out within a few days, and would not cause inconvenience to the residents of the nearby village.
But years have passed since then, people have been relocated, and the fire in the gas crater of Darvazа continues to blaze, supplying tourist interest in this unusual and truly fascinating place with its mystical beauty.
As a rule, people come here on off-road, other transport can get bogged down in friable sand, and with an overnight stay. The lights from the gas well fly up to a height of 15 meters and in the dark the picture of a burning crater is most spectacular. And if you explore this landmark in the early evening, you can fully enjoy the fascinating spectacle of orange flames blazing over the endless desert against the setting sun.
Dips formed around the crater, one of which is filled with turquoise liquid. The variety of fiery watercolors, hot air and sand, a fantastic landscape in pristine silence, far from civilization ... What is a picture for the creative imagination or attraction of a traveler who is prone to exotic adventures ?!
Scientists also show interest in this phenomenon. Some of them are looking for an opportunity to extinguish the fire crater, using gas for practical purposes and without harm to the environment, others are studying it from the inside.
The first person in the world who managed to visit the bottom of Darvaza was canadian explorer and traveler George Koronis. In the late fall of 2013, he passed through the “Gates of Hell”, collecting soil and finding unique bacteria that do not live on the earth's surface, but feel great at the bottom of a hot crater. According to experts, such a find is especially important for those who study astrobiology: apparently, the conditions on planets outside the solar system, very strongly resemble the gas crater Darvaza.
Who knows how many more wonderful discoveries will help make this karakum phenomenon. One thing is clear- the fire of Darvaza still will for a long time attract people in Turkmenistan who can appreciate other natural beauties and numerous attractions of a hospitable country.