THE CRATER OF DARVAZA.- THE DOOR TO HELL – TURKMENISTAN

DARVAZA

Turkmenistan, is a country in southern Central Asia, and was part of the Soviet Socialist Republic next to North Korea. One of the rarest countries and different from the rest of the world. It is a very isolated country but unlike North Korea this is a country with a very good economy since it is one of the main gas producers in the world. Although I have a lot to say about my experience in this country, I would like to focus on my visit to the Darvaza crater.

The majority of Turkmenistan's territory is desert. This area is called the Karakum desert where there is a crater. The translation of Darvaza is the door to hell. In this country the entry of tourists was prohibited before 2009, therefore the crater had been visited by very few people (some of them diplomats) but it has become somewhat famous recently, both for the country being part of the old route of the silk (that couldn’t be visited before) and by the crater of Darvanza being one of the most strange or mysterious places in the world.

I went with a driver and a guide from the capital of Ashgabat in the afternoon, it’s 3 and a half hours of road through the desert, with dark dunes and nothing to see, only at one point we got to see some wild camels on the road and a small water crater near our destination.

The origin of the crater is not natural. In the year of 1971 the Soviets were looking for gas in the area when suddenly the earth accidentally collapsed and the crater was created (It’s a 70 meters in diameter and 30 meters deep). Gas did come out but the specialist decided it was better to set it on fire and this ended it, but it hasn’t surprisingly turned off and nobody knows how much longer it can last.

We reached the point of sunset, which is when you can contemplate the most of the flames. I went in the March so the temperature was quite cold at night, so approaching the crater was a necessary pleasure, you would warm up automatically.

The crater is like a gigantic kitchen stove, it smells very little just if you really are near and in the direction of the wind, but interesting.

I spent a bit longer since they prepared a barbecue, but not with the gas of the crater. Some other travelers arrived too. They were going to camp overnight. I went back on the road to sleep in my comfortable hotel in Ashgabat.

You always feel special when you visit a place that has been seen by so few people, and at the same time a such a mysterious place.