Welcome to one of the most mesmerizing and unusual sights on Earth: the Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan. Officially known as the Darvaza Gas Crater, this fiery pit has captivated the imagination of travelers and scientists alike. Its nickname, “Gates of Hell,” perfectly captures the infernal appearance of the crater, with flames that have been burning continuously since 1971. But just how hot does it get, and is it a must-see for adventurous tourists? Let’s delve into the fiery heart of Turkmenistan to find out.

The Gates of Hell: An Overview

The Darvaza Gas Crater, popularly known as the Gates of Hell, is a captivating and fiery spectacle situated in the heart of Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert. This site draws visitors from around the globe, eager to witness its blazing glory. Its creation, dimensions, and the relentless fire that has raged for decades make it a phenomenon of both scientific interest and tourist curiosity.

Location of the Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan

Nestled in the vast expanse of the Karakum Desert, the Gates of Hell is located about 260 kilometers north of Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat. Its remote setting adds to the mystique, making a visit there a true adventure.

How the Crater Formed

  • Origins: The crater’s birth is as dramatic as its appearance. In 1971, Soviet geologists drilling for natural gas stumbled upon an underground cavern. The ground beneath the drilling rig collapsed, creating a large hole.
  • Ignition: To prevent the spread of methane gas, the geologists decided to burn it off. They expected the fire to last a few weeks. However, the natural gas supply proved far more extensive.
  • Continuing Blaze: The flames have not extinguished since then, leading to the site’s ominous nickname.

Estimated Size of the Crater

The Gates of Hell measures approximately:

  • Diameter: 70 meters (230 feet)
  • Depth: 20 meters (66 feet)

These dimensions contribute to its awe-inspiring presence, creating a spectacle that is both beautiful and terrifying.

Interesting Fact: How Long It’s Been Burning

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Gates of Hell is its longevity. The crater has been burning for over 50 years, with no signs of stopping. This eternal flame highlights the natural gas wealth beneath Turkmenistan’s desert and the unpredictable consequences of human interaction with natural deposits.

The Heat of the Gates of Hell

The Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan, while an extraordinary sight, presents certain risks due to the intense heat it generates. Both the air temperature around the crater and the core temperature within offer a glimpse into the extreme conditions this natural furnace creates.

Air Temperature

  • Average Air Temperature: The air temperature around the Gates of Hell varies widely with the time of day and season. Despite the desert’s typically high temperatures, the immediate vicinity of the crater can feel significantly hotter, especially during the day.
  • Safety Concerns: During peak daylight hours, the heat generated by the crater can indeed become dangerously hot for tourists. Visitors are advised to wear appropriate clothing and protection against the sun and heat, and to stay hydrated.

Crater’s Core Temperature

  • Estimated Temperature: The temperature at the bottom of the crater, where the gas burns, is extremely high. Although specific measurements are challenging to obtain due to the danger, it’s clear the core temperature reaches several hundred degrees Celsius.
  • Proximity Hazards: Due to the high temperatures and the risk of sudden collapses or methane explosions, tourists are not allowed to approach too close to the edge. The intense heat can cause heatstroke and dehydration, presenting significant safety hazards.

Safety Considerations for Tourists

Visiting the Gates of Hell requires adherence to safety guidelines to ensure an awe-inspiring yet safe experience.

Distance and Viewing Platforms

  • Safe Distance: Tourists should maintain a safe distance from the crater to avoid the risks of overheating and the dangers posed by the unstable ground. The exact safe distance can vary, but staying on marked paths or observation areas is wise.
  • Viewing Platforms: To facilitate a safer observation of the Gates of Hell, some tours may offer viewing platforms or designated viewing areas. These platforms provide a better vantage point for tourists to witness the fiery crater without compromising their safety.

Importance of Following Safety Guidelines

  • Potential Dangers: The Gates of Hell’s vicinity poses several risks, including exposure to toxic fumes emitted by the burning gas and the possibility of ground collapse around the crater’s edges. The desert environment itself can also be unforgiving, with extreme temperature fluctuations and limited access to water.
  • Adherence to Guidelines: Tourists are strongly encouraged to follow all safety instructions provided by guides or tour operators. This includes staying within designated areas, wearing appropriate gear, and avoiding visits during the hottest parts of the day. Safety guidelines are in place to protect visitors from the unique dangers presented by this natural wonder.

Best Time to Visit

The climate and weather conditions play a crucial role in planning your visit to the Gates of Hell.

  • Avoiding Scorching Summers: The temperatures in the Karakum Desert can soar to extreme highs, particularly in the summer months. To avoid the intense heat, consider visiting during the cooler seasons, such as spring (April to June) or autumn (September to November).
  • Organized Tours and Accessibility: Many visitors opt for organized tours to the Gates of Hell, which can offer a safer and more informative experience. These tours often include transportation from nearby cities and can sometimes be tailored to the best times of year for visitation.

What to Expect

The journey to the Gates of Hell is as much a part of the experience as the destination itself. Here’s what you can look forward to:

The Surrounding Landscape

  • Karakum Desert: The drive through the Karakum Desert to reach the crater is an adventure in itself. The vast, barren landscape stretches far and wide, offering a stark beauty and a sense of isolation from the bustling world.

Activities Offered Near the Crater

  • Camping: For the intrepid traveler, camping near the Gates of Hell provides a unique overnight experience. Falling asleep under the stars with the glow of the crater in the distance is something truly special.
  • Photography: The Gates of Hell is a photographer’s dream, offering dramatic lighting conditions and a surreal landscape. Sunrise and sunset are particularly magical times for capturing the beauty of the flames against the desert backdrop.

Safety and Preparation

When planning your trip, consider these essential tips for a safe and enjoyable visit:

  • Stay Hydrated: The desert climate demands adequate water and protection from the sun.
  • Follow Guidelines: Always adhere to safety guidelines provided by tour guides, especially concerning proximity to the crater.
  • Wear Appropriate Clothing: Prepare for temperature swings from day to night by dressing in layers.


The Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan offers a unique and mesmerizing experience, standing as a testament to the unpredictable power of nature. Its ceaseless flames and dramatic appearance in the heart of the Karakum Desert have fascinated visitors from around the globe. In summarizing the key points:

  • Heat and Safety: The intense heat generated by the crater, especially at its core, poses significant safety concerns. The air temperature around the crater can become dangerously hot, particularly during the summer months. Tourists are advised to maintain a safe distance and adhere to safety guidelines to enjoy the spectacle without risking their well-being.
  • Unique Experience: Despite the risks, the allure of witnessing this blazing natural wonder up close offers an unforgettable adventure. The combination of the surrounding desert landscape, the opportunity for nighttime camping, and the crater’s fiery glow creates a surreal experience.


Can you walk on the Gates of Hell?

No, walking on the Gates of Hell is extremely dangerous due to the high temperatures and the risk of the ground collapsing. Safety measures are in place to prevent such attempts.

Has anyone ever fallen into the crater?

There are no confirmed reports of anyone falling into the Gates of Hell. The area around the crater is monitored to ensure tourists keep a safe distance.

Will the Gates of Hell ever stop burning?

The future of the Gates of Hell’s flames is uncertain. It’s believed that the fire could eventually extinguish if the natural gas deposits beneath it deplete. However, the exact timeline for this is unknown.

Are there any other similar burning craters in the world?

Yes, there are a few other burning craters in the world, though none are as large or as well-known as the Gates of Hell. These rare phenomena occur in areas with significant natural gas deposits that have been ignited, either naturally or by human intervention.

Visiting the Gates of Hell provides not just a glimpse into a fiery abyss but also a deeper appreciation for the wonders and mysteries of our planet. While the heat and safety concerns necessitate caution, the experience of seeing such a unique natural phenomenon is, for many, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

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