There is a place on earth where, in the middle of thousands of miles of flat, featureless desert, the ground opens up to reveal a deep crater of perpetually burning flames. At night the inferno lights up the silent sky, and thousands of huge desert spiders creep out of the darkness, drawn hypnotically and suicidally into what locals call the Gates of Hell.
This weird yet strangely beautiful place is the Darvaza gas crater in Turkmenistan. Little can be said with certainty about how the crater came to be created, but it is thought that the Soviets, drilling for natural gas in the 1970s, accidentally accessed a huge gas chamber into which the ground collapsed. Fearful of releasing toxic fumes, the gas was set alight to burn off. And it is still burning today.
Few people visit Turkmenistan, and fewer still visit the Darvaza gas crater. Those intrepid enough to brave the basic conditions, and the spiders, will be rewarded with a truly memorable experience, and a genuine claim to have taken the road less travelled!
Plan your trip Our local travel company in Uzbekistan can run tours in Turkmenistan. Get in touch with them through our Uzbekistan page. Or to speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.