If you have always wanted to visit The Gates of Hell, it may soon be your last chance.
The Gates of Hell are Closing – no, not those ruled by Lucifer – but the tourist attraction in Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert that has been drawing gawkers since 1971.
The crater came to light after a Soviet drilling rig accidentally punched into a massive underground natural gas cavern, which caused the ground to collapse and the entire drilling rig to fall in. A pocket of gas caused poisonous fumes to leak at an alarming rate, so the Soviets decided to set the hole alight to ward off a potential environmental catastrophe. Decades later, the 230-feet hole is still burning and has been dubbed the “Gates of Hell,” attracting several visitors each year.
But now, the gates are closing; the fire is being extinguished after burning for more than fifty years. Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has ordered the government to begin researching how to put the fire out.
If it has been on your bucket list to visit the weird tourist attraction, a tour company, Atlas Obscura, offers a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Turkmenistan, including a visit to the Gates of Hell to see the bizarre flaming pit in person. The only major travel company to offer a trip of its kind, the first departure sold out in less than 24 hours. As a whole, Turkmenistan only receives a few thousand visitors each year, but this relatively unknown country is a must-visit destination.
In addition, to be one of the last few to see the Gates whilst still burning, the company says that on the trip, travelers can marvel at impressive architectural structures and roam through barren deserts and a world-class canyon. There will be the opportunity to visit underground lakes and relax in the seaside city of Turkmenbashi, named for the controversial former president, before heading to the Gates of Hell for dinner and an overnight stay right next to the red-hot crater.
The ten-day Turkmenistan and the Gates of Hell trip has a capacity of 12 people, making for an intimate group that will gain an abundance of knowledge from Atlas Obscura’s professional tour guides. Prices begin at $3,475, and departures are available from September through November 2022.