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Yanar Dag, The Burning Mountain of Azerbaijan

A place I have travelled to before but now wanted to explore a little more deeply. Yanar Dag, translated as burning mountain. Situated not too far from the outskirts of Baku, a fire that burns continuously from the ground naturally. Azerbaijan is not called ‘The Land of Fire’ for nothing and once, before the natural gas beneath this country became exploited, scenes like this could be seen all over the land, especially here on the Absheron Peninsular.

fire-mountain-azerbaijan-6 Yanar Dag, The Burning Mountain of Azerbaijan

These fires never go out. Come rain and snow the fire keeps on burning. If you can imagine, that before we started using gas for our energy, scenes like the above were a common natural phenomenon in the area. It is not hard to see why this was such an important area for Zoroastrianism. A religion based around the cult of fire a few thousand years ago, this must have been such an important place for them. So much so, that they put up temples around some of these natural fires, as I shall explain in my next post.

fire-mountain-azerbaijan-4 Yanar Dag, The Burning Mountain of Azerbaijan

We do know that these fires have been burning since ancient times at least. There are the Fire Temples of a few thousand years ago plus Marco Polo wrote about the many natural fires on his travels over 700 years ago in the 13th century, as did French writer Alexandre Dumas in the 19th century! Yanar Dag is one of the finer examples you can see today.

fire-mountain-azerbaijan-5 Yanar Dag, The Burning Mountain of Azerbaijan

How and why do these natural fires occur? Azerbaijan and especially the Absheron Peninsular is known today as being a very rich area for gas reserves. The earth is made up of many layers as we know and the Porous Strata here is absolutely filled with gas. The crust of the arth here is a very porous sandstone so there is natural seepage of the gas to the surface. Of course, once man knew how to extract this natural gas for their energy needs a lot of it has become diverted, hence only a couple of natural examples like here remain.

fire-mountain-azerbaijan-3 Yanar Dag, The Burning Mountain of Azerbaijan

As I have stated the fire here at Yanar Dag is never extinguished. A 10 m wide scarp in the hillside that churns out flames that reach over a metre high. The gas from within the earth continuously escaping outwards. As I got closer to take these photographs I could feel the real intense heat, the wind blowing the flames and change of direction got me jumpy once or twice.

There is a folklore to this particular spot. It is said a shepherd threw his cigarette onto the hillside in the 1950s and the fire has burned since. There are streams nearby that would light up if you threw a match in them. Calm normal looking streams and rivers that come alive when ignited. People come to this area to take curative baths.

fire-mountain-azerbaijan Yanar Dag, The Burning Mountain of Azerbaijan

I can imagine as is said, that this place looks magnificent at night. The hillside lit up against the night sky! A good reason to return once more I think 🙂 The Land of Fire living up ti its name even today.

Written by Paul Steele

Founder of BaldHiker.com and avid hiker, climber and trekker. Never liking to sit still and always seeking new adventures around the world. Sharing personal views here and tweeting live via @paul_steele

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