The Gates of Hell - Turkmenistan
Davaza gas crater, also known as the Gates of Hell, is in the desert of Turkmenistan, a central Asian country bordering Afghanistan and Iran.
The only reason to visit the Karama desert (which makes up 70% of the country's land) is to see the crater that is 70 meters wide and 30 meters deep, which is seen from miles away with its red fiery flames.
This man made natural site was originally thought it to be a large oil field and engineers set up drilling rigs to assess the oil, however; they found gas, and the camp collapsed into a wide crater that stands there today.
They suggest the geologists set the gases on fire in 1971 to burn off the methane gas to stop it leaking into the environment and would just burn for a few days....however; it has never stopped... No one knows when this crater will stop burning.
Best time to travel is May to June or September to November as the hot days are more barrable.
This is a difficult destination to travel too and recommend using a tour operator as it has been known to turn tourists away. Also, the desert is strictly controlled, so need to follow the visa conditions set for your travel within the country.
To reach the crater, travel from the capital city Ashgabat by coach to Davaza village and then take a taxi for the final 7 kilometers. There are no hotels in the area, the only options are to stay in a yurt, or wild camping in the middle of the desert. (can pitch your tent anywhere around the crater)
It is an amazing sight to see at night with the desert, stars above, and the flickering red flames. You can walk up close to the crater and look into the depths below - the temperature inside is 97.2 Celsius.
This is certainly for the more adventurous traveller - who is happy to camp - to visit the most unusual site in Turkmenistan.
Other interesting sites to visit whilst in the country are the UNESCO sites of Ancient Merv -that used to be the third largest city in the world - Nisa and Kunya Urgench.