June 21, 2015

A mountain on Fire. Yanar Dag

A mountain that is continually on fire near Baku, Azerbaijan? That sounds a bit like the 'Gate to Hell' at Darvaza in Turkmenistan, one of the most amazing sites I have experienced. I set off to see how one of the major attractions in the country compared with that of its near neighbour.

Tourists since Marco Polo have come and gazed at the burning fires in Azerbaijan. The oil and gas rich nation has resources seeping out of the ground, and once they ignite they tend to burn forever. Yanar Dag is the best known of several places in the country that is constantly burning. To call it a mountain is a bit of an exaggeration, a small hill woud be a fairer description.

The best time to visit Yanar Dag is after dark, the darkness makes the flames much more dramatic. To visit in the daylight results in viewing what resembles a very small and unimpressive bushfire. The big problem though, is that the site closes at 7PM, which in summer is thirty minutes before dusk.

Advice on getting in after dark by travellers from previous years on Trip Advisor, and other blogs, suggesting you can walk around the fence, should be disregarded. The site now is totally enclosed by a fence and has the added bonus of lively unleashed guard dogs patrolling inside.

I walked up to the ticket booth, manned after hours by security, and had no issues getting in. It was a win-win situation, I got to see Yanar Dag in all its night time glory, and the security guards could afford to enjoy a bigger and better Christmas party this year.

Standing in front of Yanar Dag, it was mesmerising to watch the flames leap from side to side , accompanied by a whooshing noise similar to that of a burner on a gas stove. The actual smell of gas was slightly overwhelming and it was that, rather than the flames, which stopped me lingering too close to the bottom of the hill.

You can climb up stairs carved into the hill side to look down upon the flames, but the best view is in front or to the side of them. On a winters night it would be the perfect way to keep warm. It is not as extraordinary as the 'Gate to Hell' but it still inspires many to come here including Zoroastrian pilgrims from India. The fires in Azerbaijan inspired the religion thousands of years ago, and Yanar Dag is still considered a holy site to many.

Far Flung Tips

* Yanar Dag is situated on the Absheron Peninsula, about 25 km from central Baku. Conveniently it is the last stop for the 217 bus and 20 Kopeks gets you a fifty minute excursion into the outskirts of Baku and deposits you seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Luckily the a muddy terminus is opposite the main entrance. Catch the bus to Yanar Dag from Koro─člu metro station, they seem to run every 20 minutes until about 9PM. If you spend too long exploring the site and taking photos, and get stranded there, as I did, it is fairly easy to hail a taxi returning from the rural areas into the city for between 5 and 10 AZN.

You Might Also Like