The gates of the fiery depths are in the middle of the Turkmenistani desert. Approximately 160 miles north of the capital Ashgabat, an enormous crater burns with sulphuric flames, illuminating the clouds above and blasting heat for miles around. In the late 1960s, Soviet engineers suspected the site to contain massive oil reserves. The drilling rig they built collapsed to create a crater 230 feet wide and 20 feet deep. In a bid to burn off the excess gases, the Soviets lit the crater and it has been burning constantly ever since.
Located in the province of Ahal, the village of Darvaza - meaning "gate" - is the base from which to visit the mighty crater and see its hypnotic flames, and the best way to view it is at night. Many visitors take the opportunity to camp nearby and explore the vast, arid plains of the Karakum desert. To the northwest, the beautiful and lush Kaplankyr nature reserve provides a green oasis and numerous activities for the outward-bound adventurer. Home to nomadic Turkmen horsemen, a popular way to enjoy the landscape surrounding Darvaza is on a steed of your own.