Turkmenistan’s ‘Gates of Hell’, a.k.a. the Darvaza Gas Craters, is one of Central Asia’s rarest and most mesmerizing sites. These natural gas reserves have been burning incessantly since the early 1970s, and are all the more awe-inspiring in the lonely Karakum desert, where they leave an unforgettable impression upon all who see their flames under the starry desert sky.
The Darvaza Gas Craters lie not far from the Kunya-Urgench region of Turkmenistan. This sparsely-populated area is the former capital of the Khorezmian Empire and replete with mausoleums, cemeteries, mosques and fortresses from the 12th-16th centuries.
Turkmenistan Group Tour: Campout at the Gates of Hell will take you to the very mouth of the ‘Door to Hell’ itself, where you will camp out near its flames, enjoy the still desert night and see the Darvaza Gas Crater in all its fearsome splendor. You’ll also get a hands-on glimpse into the historical backdrop of the area as you spend a day touring the important historical sites of Kunya-Urgench, all alongside knowledgeable drivers who know their way through the desert paths and are guaranteed to be waiting for you on both sides of the Uzbekistan/Turkmenistan border.
Day 1: Khiva – Land border - Kunya Urgench – Darvaza Gas Crater
In the morning your driver will meet you near the Ota-Darvaza Gate of Ichon-Kala (the driver will be holding a sign that says DARWAZA), and will drive you from Khiva to the Shavat/Dashoguz Turkmenistan border crossing (60 km,1 hour).
While crossing the border you’ll be required to walk around 1.5km (app.1 mile) without assistance. Your Turkmenistan guide will meet you at the Turkmenistan border to help you obtain your tourist visa and will then drive you to Kunya-Urgench (100km,1.5 hours). You’ll spend a busy half-day in Urgench:
Visit the Tyurabek-Khanym Mausoleum (14th century), burial site of a Mongolian princess and the Sayid Ahmed Mausoleum (14th century), a leader of the Golden Horde. Discover the Kutlug Timur Minaret (11th-13th century), which at 62m (203ft) is the tallest minaret in Central Asia. Continue on to the 12th-century Sultan Tekesh Mausoleum of Khorezmshakh. Explore Kyrk Molla Hill (Forty Mullahs Hill), a fortress covering three hectares, including the famous Mamun Library (8th-9th century), and an ancient cemetery believed to hold present-day healing powers. Walk through the Fakhreddin Razi Mausoleum (a.k.a. mausoleum of Arslan II, 12th-13th century), a rare survivor of the Mongol invasion and one of the oldest, most unique structures in all of Central Asia. Drive to the Mausoleum of Najmaddin Kubra (12th century), the founder of the Sufi order Kubrawiya, and a favorite pilgrimage site for visiting Muslims. View the Sultan Ali Mausoleum (16th century), a half-completed structure intended for a powerful Turkmen ruler, but left unfinished due to ongoing war.
Drive to the Darvaza Gas Crater, located in the middle of the Karakum desert (270 km, 4 hours). Set up camp and enjoy a delicious meal cooked over the fire as you lounge near the burning gas crater. Overnight in tents or a yurt.
Tour duration: entire day, including approximately 3 hours of touring Kunya-Urgench
Meals: lunch, dinner
Day 2: Darvaza Gas Crater – Land border – Khiva
- Wake up early to watch the sunrise and continue your Turkmenistan group tour at the ‘Gates of Hell’, after enjoying a camp-style breakfast.
- Visit the mud crater and water crater, two smaller versions of the Darvaza Gas Crater.
- Relax on the drive back to the Dashoguz/Shavat border crossing into Uzbekistan (370 km, 5 hrs). You’ll drive through the Karakum Desert, taking stops along the way for photos with sand dunes and camels.
- Go through border formalities at both checkpoints. Cross the 1.5 km (app.1 mile) neutral zone on foot.
- Meet your driver in Uzbekistan and continue on to Khiva (60 km,1 hour).
Your overnight Turkmenistan tour at the ‘Gates of Hell’ will officially end around 3pm.
- All transportation (Uzbekistan - sedan/minivan, Turkmenistan - 4WD);
- Lunch in Kunya-Urgench;
- Entrance fees to tourist sites as per itinerary;
- Visa support letter for Turkmenistan tourist visa;
- Utensils and necessary equipment for staying in tents (sleeping bags, sleeping mats, pillows, dining table, chairs);
- Camp style dinner and breakfast at Darvaza crater;
- English-speaking tour guide for your entire time in Turkmenistan.
Dates and prices
Visited August 2019
Excellent tour allowing to visit Darvaza from Uzbekistan in only 2 days.
The guide was insightful and the conditions of the stay (SUV, tents, etc.) ideal to discover this place.