Mud volcanoes are gateways to underground reservoirs of mud, that bubble to the surface, releasing methane and other gases in the process.
The appearance of mud volcanoes is often associated with petroleum. No surprise then that half of all mud volcanoes worldwide can be found in Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea area.
The Gobustan national park, 40 km west of Baku, is the main draw for those interested in seeing these strange geological phenomena, which are closely linked with Azerbaijan’s history.
It is also home to thousands of rock carvings which bear witness of a time when the surrounding desert was part of a rich savanna landscape.
The name Azerbaijan translates to ‘Land of eternal fire’. Occasionally, a mud volcano’s methane exhaust goes on fire, sending flames high into the sky. The phenomenon, together with burning gas seeps, probably influenced the ideas of Azerbaijan’s homegrown religion, Zoroastrianism.
The fire worshipping temple of Ateshka has a natural eternal fire burning.
Mud volcanoes in Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan
Should you be stuck elsewhere on the Silk Road, try the following places:
The (until 2006) largest mud volcano in the world is located in Balochistan, Pakistan. It is called Baba Chandrakup and part of an important pilgrimage site for Hindus, Hinglaj. There are 80 more mud volcanoes located in Balochistan.
Iran also has many mud volcanoes, to be found in the Makran mountains.
And for those off-the-unbeaten-trackers, Turkmenistan’s mud volcanoes are still not included in any guidebook. Most are located on Cheleken peninsula. The biggest one is called Ak-Patlawuk or Gok-Patlawuk.
Have a nice trip!