What Unusual Tourist Attractions Does Turkmenistan Offer?

A natural gas crater in Turkmenistan has been burning since 1971, ever since an oil drilling rig collapsed into an underground cavern. Soviet engineers thought there could be substantial oil reserves there, but found methane gas instead. Instead of allowing the seeping gas to affect nearby towns near the village of Derweze (Darvaza), they ignited the gas, expecting it to burn off in a couple of weeks. Instead, it’s been burning ever since, creating a tourist attraction that brings thousands to the desolate site every year.

Locals also call the Darvaza Crater "The Gate to Hell" and "The Crater of Fire," referring to the ever-present orange flames at the bottom that continue to simmer. Tourists enjoy camping near the crater, which is estimated to be the size of an American football field.

A fiery sinkhole in the middle of nowhere:

  • Turkmenistan has the sixth-largest reserve of natural gas in the world.

  • Explorer George Kourounis, wearing a heat-resistant suit, became the first person to explore the bottom of the crater, gathering samples of microorganisms living there. The feat was documented in 2014 on the National Geographic Channel.

  • Turkmenistan’s leaders discussed filling in the Darvaza sinkhole in 2010, but no decisions were made.

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More Info: National Geographic

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