It may seem an unlikely spot for a dinner party, but the Darvaza gas crater in the middle of Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert hosted just such an event for a group of Australians who visited the country recently.
Travelling with independent travel company Travel Directors, the group camped overnight at the crater to experience the full dramatic impact of the sight of the burning pit against the night sky.
In 1971, Soviet geologists were drilling in the Karakum Desert when they tapped into a cavern filled with gas.
The ground beneath the drilling rig collapsed, leaving a large hole about 80 metres in diameter.
To avoid poisonous gas discharge, it was decided the best solution was to burn it off.
The geologists had hoped the fire would use all the fuel in a matter of days, but the gas is still burning today – 46 years later. Locals have dubbed the cavern the Door to Hell.
Travel Directors’ groups spend a night at the crater.
“The Darvaza gas crater is an amazing sight during the day, but after dark it is simply spectacular,” tour creator Tony Evans says.
“It’s quite a boast to say you’ve camped in a Turkmen desert, had a candlelit dinner, and woken up in a place that most people haven’t heard of.”
The dinner party at the crater is a fitting finale to Travel Directors’ Five Stans tour, which also takes in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
It includes flights, taxes, accommodation, meals, sightseeing and entrance fees, plus all tipping and visas, which on this tour is an exercise in itself.
The 30-day tour departs May 6 and September 2, 2018, priced from $17,750.
Phone 1300 856 661 or visit traveldirectors.com.au