In a Nutshell: At the heart of Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert sits a crater of fire the size of a football field that’s been perpetually burning now for almost fifty years. Locals have suitably dubbed it the ‘Door To Hell’, officially it’s known as the Darvaza Gas Crater. It’s not volcanic, that’s not magma, in fact, this sinister flame pit was man-made and thought to be the result of a Soviet-era gas drilling accident, yet Turkmenistan has no official record. To those travellers who’ve defied all odds in having their visas granted to this closed nation, reaching the ‘Door To Hell’ is at the top of their list. I was no different, and on an overnight camping trip, I finally got to visit what camel spiders everywhere have been talking about for years. Departing Ashgabat, this is a photo essay covering my visit to the ‘Door To Hell’.
Without beating around the bush, watch the short video snippet (0.29s) below to see the ‘Door To Hell’ in all its glory. We camped beside it overnight, and I filmed this at 4am in the morning. It was a freezing desert night, but my friend and I had all the gas crater’s warmth to ourselves. A tough campfire to put out when we left, though!
Elliot, great photos! Especially the close-up of the Psammophis Schokari (aka Schokari Racer) which is a very fast non-venomous snake. You probably came closest to death when you jumped from seeing it suddenly next to you. The big eyes and lack of triangular head give it away.
Your pictures and descriptions make it sound like a definite place to visit. Were you on a rise or did you manage to smuggle a drone in to take those last pictures?
Hi there! Finally, someone has ID’d this little guy! Thank you. It’s reassuring that he is as harmless as he looks. I was under the impression snakes were long gone after feeling ground vibrations as you approach, so it was quite a shock to see this fearless fellow almost wear a footprint. I have updated the caption of that photo with your expertise 🙂 Also, no drone, there is a conveniently located rise nearby. In one of the distance photos you can see the shadow of this rocky/sand mound. The view from up there really puts the isolation into perspective.
Very interesting, superb photos!
I will visit Turkmenistan this summer, and I do my best to prepare myself.
Best website ever. You have just shown me that someone can take their passion of travel, mix it with some interesting local and historical adventuring, add in some incredible photography and your audience just love it!
But the best thing? Your writing whilst informative, manages to just sneak in that unpredictable dry Australian humour when the reader least expects.
I’ll be back. Next time with popcorn.