Turkmenistan: The Door To Hell

Introduction to Gates Of Hell

The History of the Gates of Hell are not a simple one. The Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan has to be one of the most awe-inspiring sights in the world. Also known as Darvaza, which means “gates” in the Turkmen language, it is an integral stop on any of our Turkmenistan tours.

Turkmenistan is an Asian country, it comes under Soviet union in 1972. It has been said that the door of hell was made by Soviet union, at the time of war the Soviet union digging in Turkmenistan for natural gas and petrol. At this time they dig a hole which is 65 feet deep and 230 feet wide. This hole start liking gas like ”methan”. The government tried to fill the hole but they have no time to take such steps but noticed that the methane is so harmful for the environment, so they put a fire on gas chamber so that it slowly burnt when the gas becam finished the fire gets off. But unfortunately it has huge amount of gas down the hole so that it is continuously burning from 1972 to present. In 2017 the Turkmenistan government thinks and planned to open for tourists attraction.

History of the Gates of Hell

There is a lot on the internet about the Gates of Hell in the centre of Turkmenistan. Some of it is accurate, some of it not so accurate. We often come across tourists coming out of Turkmenistan, having been given the wrong information by well-meaning locals. Well here is the accurate history of the Gates of Hell.

The Karakorum desert in Turkmenistan is the 12th largest desert in the world, but more importantly, it has underneath it the world’s 4th (or 6th depending on your source) largest gas reserve. In the 1950s and 60s, the Soviets began serious gas exploration in Turkmenistan. One of the side effects of gas exploitation is sinkholes. The gas inside pockets under the ground prevent the ground from collapsing to fill the hole, however with no/less gas in these pockets, and there isn’t enough upward pressure to avoid these sinkholes from forming.


The Darvaza crater was formed originally as a sinkhole when the earth collapsed in 1971 and was left unlit until over a year later. The reason for the lighting the crater was actually because of the death of a local shepherd. He had slept near the crater, not realizing it was releasing a lot of gas. As many of you will know, gas is odourless, and it’s only because of additives that we can smell it when we leave the stove on at home. In order to prevent any more accidents of this sort, it was decided to set fire to the crater to burn off the gas rather than it being released naturally and potentially causing more deaths. The Soviet engineers predicted the gas would take nine months to burn off. They didn’t realize at the time how big a gas reserve they were standing on, and we now know there are several thousand years more gas left.

Some measurements of gates of hell and its harsh effect on locals

The entire camp crumbled into a giant bowl-shaped cavity called the Darvaza crater. Measuring 230 feet across and 65 feet deep, it is enormous and soon scientists had a real problem on their hands. Not only did the collapse have a ripple effect that caused other multiple craters to open up, but natural gas was rapidly escaping. As natural gas is mainly made from methane, which sucks up oxygen and makes it hard to breathe, there was a real concern not only for wildlife but also for people living in the nearby village of Derweza. In fact, these fears were warranted because not long after the collapse, animals in the desert began to die.

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