Darvaza Gas Crater is better known as the Gates of Hell. Some people call it the Door To Hell, and it is one of the most remarkable natural wonders in Turkmenistan.
The Gates of Hell are famous throughout Central Asia and the rest of the world as a one-of-a-kind place.
It also makes for a once-in-a-lifetime camping spot. Furthermore, it is a place that will eventually disappear in the future – so you better visit it soon!
The Karakum Desert, which covers about 70% (350,000 km²) of the area of Turkmenistan, is the home to the strange human-made natural sit.
Rainfall in the Karakum desert is rare, with only 70 to 150 mm rain per year. With my luck, I did get about half of the annual rain during my visit.
Note: Turkmenistan is also home to some of the world´s most bizarre and strange rules.
The Gate to Hell: A Modern-day “Accident”
The Gate of hell Turkmenistan was created by mistake in 1971 when a Soviet drilling rig accidentally punched into a massive underground natural gas cavern.
This caused the ground to collapse and the entire drilling rig to fall in. You can still see the old metal pipes sticking out of the ground in the crater.
After the crater was created, Geologists intentionally set it on fire to prevent the spread of methane gas.
This was leaking from the hole, and it was the only way to stop a potential environmental catastrophe.
Geologists thought the crater would only burn for a few weeks; it has now been burning non-stop since 1971.
Almost 50 years on, and geologists still have no idea how much longer it will burn for. It might die out tomorrow, or it might burn for another 100 years; nobody knows.
The Gateway to Hell Creates Tourism Shame
The Turkmenistan government thought for a long time that Darvaza Gas Crater gave the country a bad name and reputation abroad. Because of this, there had been serious talks about closing the crater completely.
Coincidentally, The Gates To Hell is now the most famous tourist site in all of Turkmenistan and the most common reason foreign tourists want to visit Turkmenistan.
To help campers who visit the area, a few traditional yurts have been built. There are also flushable western-style toilets.
Strangely enough, you will never see advertisements in Turkmenistan promoting Darvaza Gas Crater tourism.
Not even the tours offered from my hotel in Ashgabat had any information about the Gates of Hell. Instead, the Turkmenistan travel industry tries to promote the UNESCO historical sites of Marv, Nisa, and Kunya Urgench.
These historical sites were put on display on big billboards inside every hotel I stayed in during my visit to the country.
And yet, the biggest attraction for foreign tourism, the Gate To Hell in Turkmenistan, was nowhere to be seen.
What is the Site Like Today?
Just before arriving at the crater, you will notice there is a new gas pumping station which was put up in 2010 after President Berdimuhamedow’s visit to the crater.
This limits the crater’s gas and uses of the natural gas fields in the area.
The diameter of the crater is 69 meters (226 ft), and its depth is 30 meters (98 ft), but the edge around the crater is crumbling.
When Will The Door To Hell Stop Burning?
One of the most frequently asked questions is, “When will the Darvaza Gas Crater stop burning?”.
Although so many people want to know, it’s still one of life’s great mysteries. It could still burn for another 100 years, according to leading Geologists around the world – or it could stop tomorrow.
This fact is what makes The Gates of Hell so alluring. It’s a destination that could disappear within our lifetimes; what more reason do you need to visit?
The World’s Biggest Outdoor Barbeque
The crater will impress from the first second you arrive, even during the daytime with the hot sun blazing. But it is only when the sun goes down and it’s pitch dark that the crater really deserves its famous name.
The door to hell Turkmenistan lights up the place, and it can be seen from miles around.
How to Visit the Turkmenistan Gates of Hell
Darvaza Gas Crater is located about 270km/167miles north of Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, and 335km (208 miles) south of Dashoguz, the biggest city in the north.
It is the last city before going to neighboring Uzbekistan, where the first obvious place to visit is Khiva.
There is no direct transport directly to The Gates of Hell. It’s important to note that all buses heading north from Ashgabat to Dashoguz (and back south) drives past Darvaza village.
This is where you will have to get off your bus heading for Dashoguz (if you’re traveling from Ashgabat). You must do the same if you’re traveling from Dashoguz to Ashgabat.
Darvaza village is where you will have to turn off the highway and continue for another 7km (14 miles) to the crater. Be prepared as the road is muddy and dirty.
It is possible to walk the last bit, but it´s a long, hot, and unpleasant walk. So, it´s strongly recommended to get a taxi from Darvaza Village.
If you would like to tour the Darvaza Gas Crater without worrying about all the planning involved, then I would recommend a guided tour.
How To Reach Darvaza Crater With Public Transport
From Ashgabat, There are two buses a day that run from the new Ashgabat International Bus Station. It is located in the north of the city.
The buses head north, the first one leaving at 7 AM at the cost of 20 Manat to Dashoguz. The other bus leaves at 8 AM and costs 45 Manat to Konye-Urgench. This is one of the most famous historical sites located there.
The drive from Ashgabat to Dashoguz should take 3 and a half hours. A shared taxi from Ashgabat to Dshoguz costs around 150 Manat.
Please note that you will have to pay the full fare even if you only want to go halfway.
A recommended travel company to use in Turkmenistan is the local company Travel Notoria.
The Dashoguz bus station has buses leaving daily at 7 and 8 AM for Ashgabat.
Hitchhiking is a popular form of transportation in Turkmenistan. Just be aware that cars can be far between.
I counted 11 cars on my drive from Ashgabat to the crater.
Where To Stay at The Gates of Hell.
There is no guesthouse or hotel at the premises of the crater. Instead, there are six different groups of yurts located to the south of the crater, about 200 meters away.
All yurts are owned by various local Turkmenistan travel agencies and locked up when they are not around.
Luckily, the western toilets are open and available for the use of public campers. You are free to pitch your tent wherever you want in the area.
But be aware that strong winds are not uncommon in the area, so choose a place with good protection.
While Darvaza village is tiny, there are a few very basic homestays options available there for around $10 USD per night.
You can arrange for the locals that you stay with to drop you off at the crater and pick you up later. This should cost you around $50.
Final Thoughts on the Darvaza Gas Crater / The Gates Of Hell, Turkmenistan
So, while you still have the chance to peer into the gates of hell, you should head out and tour them as soon as possible.
A sight like this one only comes along once in a lifetime, and you will definitely not be disappointed.
Have you ever been to the Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan? Leave some comments and let us know your experience.