Welcome to Hell! Turkmenistan eyes turning infernal gas pit into tourist attraction Tourism
Welcome to Hell! Turkmenistan eyes turning infernal gas pit into tourist attraction
An ominous gas crater that has been burning in a Turkmen desert for more than 40 years is a perfect site for boosting tourism in the country, local officials and academics say. The man-made pit, known as “the Door to Hell,” earlier faced backfill.
Tourism may not be the strongest side of the Central Asian republic’s economy, as only around 10,000 visitors come to Turkmenistan yearly, according to official stats – most of them from Iran, Germany and the US. However, local tourism officials say they found a promising tourist attraction – and it is really hot.
Amid the arid Karakum desert, covering most of the country and known for its extreme temperature changes, one can find a huge sinister-looking pit known as Derweze or Darvaza – commonly referred to by the locals as “the Door to Hell.”
The pit is filled by what seems to be a hellish fire, but is in fact an enormous blaze of natural gas coming from under the ground. No one is really sure, when the fire in the 60-meter wide, 20-meter deep crater may go out, but it is known for certain that it was started after a drilling accident in 1971.
The ground at the site collapsed when Soviet geologists were exploring a natural gas field – one of the many reserves in the gas-rich country, which used to be a Soviet republic. Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident, but fearing that poisonous gas fumes may pose a danger for the local population and animals, the geologists decided to set them on fire, thinking they will soon burn out.
The guys apparently miscalculated – and the gas is still burning, creating a surreal otherworldly scene.
In 2010, the Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov decided that Derweze has burned enough, ordering the crater to be filled up or somehow isolated.
Four years later, however, Turkmen officials have seemingly found a better use for the infernal pit.
“The burning crater... is attracting more and more interest every year, especially among foreign tourists,” an official on Turkmenistan’s state committee on tourism was quoted as saying by AFP.
Moreover, it is a nice attraction for eco-tourists and researchers visiting the newly-formed 90,000-hectar nature reserve in the Karakum desert, Turkmen academics believe.
“Landmarks such as the burning crater are hugely interesting both to people who love to travel and to researchers in various areas,” Ovez Kurbanov of the National Institute of Deserts, Flora and Fauna, told the agency.
“Our main task is to create an attractive image of Turkmenistan as a tourism destination,” he added.