The Door to HellKarakum Desert, Turkmenistan
Flames flare across a pit of boiling mud in the heart of Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert. Derweze, or the ‘door to hell’ as locals know it, is a glowing 70-metre-wide sinkhole and a sinister legacy to gas mining.
The crater formed when the ground beneath a rig collapsed as Soviet geologists drilled for resources in one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world. The pit devoured the machinery and methane gushed into the air, threatening a nearby village. To truncate the flow, geologists set the deposit alight, assuming it would burn off in several days. Fed by rich natural gas, the fire continues to burn decades later.
The Darvaza Gas Crater can take almost a full day to get to. The best time to visit is between April and November.
The seven-day Turkmenistan Jeep Safari with Caravanistan runs between April and November and starts from $1490 per person, twin share.
For those hoping to travel independently through Turkmenistan, obtaining a visa can be difficult. They are only granted for 3–5 days at most and are date- and location-specific. To make things easier, it’s best to join a guided tour – the visa is less restrictive and gives you more time to explore and experience the sights.