World Bulletin / News Desk
The locals call a giant burning pit that has spit out flames for more than 40 years the Door to Hell.
"It takes your breath away," said Gozel Yazkulieva, a 34-year-old visitor from the Turkmenistan capital Ashgabat. "You immediately think of your sins and feel like praying."
One of the world's most isolated countries almost a quarter-century after the fall of the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan welcomes just 12,000 to 15,000 tourists from around 50 countries each year.
Tourism officials say the Door to Hell, also called the Derweze crater after a nearby village, could be developed into a key draw for adventure tourists.
"The burning crater... is attracting more and more interest every year, especially among foreign tourists," an official on Turkmenistan's state committee on tourism told AFP.
"The 'lifeless' desert could soon become a hugely interesting destination for different types of tourism - from eco-tourism to extreme sports," he said.
The phenomenon was the result of a simple miscalculation by Soviet scientists.
"Soviet geologists started drilling a borehole to prospect for gas at this spot in 1971," Turkmen geologist Anatoly Bushmakin was quoted by Hurriyet.
"The equipment suddenly drilled through into an underground cavern, and a deep sinkhole formed. The equipment tumbled through but fortunately no one was killed."
"Fearing that the crater would emit poisonous gases, the scientists took the decision to set it alight, thinking that the gas would burn out quickly and this would cause the flames to go out," Bushmakin said.
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said, "Our main task is to create an attractive image of Turkmenistan as a tourism destination".
One of the oldest towers in the Balkans is rising above Skopje, the capital of Macedonia.
A total of 300,000 tourists are expected to explore the city in the air by the end of 2017
Antique city in Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast attracts tourists with its unique combination of history and nature
16th century Ottoman scholar Matrakci Nasuh's works go on display at Societa Geografica Italiana
Three-story building would be used for vocational training, language courses for Syrian refugees
Yunus Emre Institute wants to “build bridges between the two countries" director says
The sculptures that can be seen from the sky in Cappadocia are made by an Australian sculptor
The Hirka-i Serif (the Noble Cloak) was brought to Istanbul in the seventeenth century, at a time when the Ottoman Empire controlled much of the Islamic world deep into today's Saudi Arabia.
Modern humans existed 100,000 years earlier than previously thought
Returning to its former glory the kind of creation that adorns a cathedral wall or is displayed at a world-renowned museum can take more than a year for tapestry restorers at Royal Manufacturers De Wit.
Friday sees re-opening of Emperor's Mosque, 25 years after it was attacked during 1992-1995 Bosnian War
In trying to understand how the tower got its special meaning in Islamic societies, scholars have attempted—with mixed success—to trace minarets back to various traditions of tower building in the pre-Islamic cultures of Eurasia.
"Star Wars" has grown into the most lucrative and influential movie franchise of all time
With the fame and effect to the west on discoveries and creations in medicine, the book of Ibn Sina, “El-Kanun fi't-Tib” was taught in the European medical schools such as Louvain and Montpellier Universities, until the 17th century
The winner, the dhow "Zilzal," or "Earthquake," was awarded 10 million dirhams ($2.72 million).
With the beginning of the era of Japanese Renaissance, known as the era of Meiji, started in 1868, only two countries in Asia enjoyed independence, namely the Ottoman Empire and Japan.