A Visual Walk Through The Mud Volcanoes Of Gobustan, Azerbaijan

June 12, 2012 by           Filed under Green, Pictures and Video                                 Email This Post Email This Post        10 Comments

 
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The mud volcanoes located in Gobustan National Park, about a 90 minute drive southeast of Baku, Azerbaijan, look like simmering pots of something you’d find on Voldemort‘s kitchen stove. Audibly they sound like the casually burping and discretely farting relative we all have in our families, although Gobustan’s mud volcanoes don’t smell like sulfur that’s been sitting in someone’s intestines for hours.

In fact, these “volcanoes”, caused by heated water and (mostly) methane gas rising above the Earth’s crust, don’t smell at all. The mud volcanoes in this UNESCO World Heritage Site simply bubble, dry, and move on to form a unique landscape.

gobustan national park

Although these mud volcanoes are usually a mellow bunch, quietly bubbling all day and night, every so often one of them explodes over several meters high, the flammable gases often igniting. I unfortunately didn’t get to see such a show but it gave me a better idea of where the name mud volcanoes comes from.

gobustan mud volcanoes

There are around 400 mud volcanoes throughout Asia and over half are located in Azerbaijan, a country that has 2% of the world’s natural gas reserves. 2% might not seem like a lot, but that amount of natural gas – approximately 6 trillion cubic meters – puts Azerbaijan 7th in the world. (Despite being the 114th largest county on the planet.)

gobustan mud volcanoes azerbaijan

When I arrived close to sunset, I was the only person among the mud volcanoes (aside from the driver waiting to take me back to Baku). I turned into a little kid as the dried mud is soft and fun to bounce around. Or ideal for some mud volcano surfing on if you’ve got no shame to release your inner-child. (I certainly don’t.)

gobustan mud volcanoes

Much like Oman, a destination you should visit before it becomes a hit, Gobustan feels like a science-fiction movie set. Paint it red and you too may just feel like you’re on the surface of Mars – which actually might have its own mud volcanoes.

gobustan

Despite its boiling appearance, the mud isn’t bubbling due to high liquid temperatures; in fact, the fluids are only about 2 degrees Celsius (3.5 F) warmer than the surrounding air.

mud volcanoes

Entry into the park is free, although getting there requires having your own car as there is no public transportation to the isolated mud volcanoes.

gobustan state reserve

The Gobustan State Reserve also contains rock art spanning about 40,000 years of human history which nightfall denied me a glimpse of. Though my late arrival did, I believe, add to my fondness of Gobustan’s mud volcanoes. Being the only one there made it feel more remote and exceptional than they might have with crowds of other tourists around me. Mars, and other tourist sites, often feel more alien the fewer other astronauts there are around you.

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  1. Just when I was contemplating a visit to Azerbaijan… how timely it was that I found your article! Did you go to Eurovision? Fantastic photos!

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    • Anil P. says:

      Glad the photos could entice you even more, thank you :) I didn’t go to Eurovision, I was there a few weeks before – just before the rush of people coming into town to attend.

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  2. Waegook Tom says:

    I don’t think I have the discretely farting relative in my family, everyone’s pretty open about it. Even my mum…especially my mum.

    Anyhow, thanks for sharing these photos. I had NO idea that scenery like this existed in Azerbaijan! I’m hitting Georgia and Armenia for my RTW next year, but not Azerbaijan as that visa is just too expensive. I’ll live vicariously through your photos instead. Bouncing around on those mud volcanoes DOES sound like fun!

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    • Anil P. says:

      haha, it’s glad to hear you’ve got an open family! Too bad you’ll miss Azerbaijan, I’m going to be writing about entry to that country soon. They could see so many more tourists if they eased the costs and process of entry.

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  3. Mark Wiens says:

    Such a cool place Anil! I loved your flatulent descriptions at the beginning of this article… and the fantastic collection of photos. Really does look like a visit to Mars.

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  4. Looks like a different planet! I wouldn’t normally think of visiting mud volcanoes, but it’d be pretty cool to watch one erupt!

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    • Anil P. says:

      I wish I had seen the mega-eruption too – but glad I didn’t when I was there standing over one of the volcanoes! :) I can imagine that second photo being much different then…

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  5. OK, now Azerbaijan is on my list – well, it already was, but now I want to go more. I love geological features like this and had never heard of them. Fantastic photos, especially the one with the car, which shows how high they are.

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    • Anil P. says:

      Azerbaijan has a few interesting features like this across the country, mostly because it is sitting on so much natural gas! Glad you liked the photos, especially the one with the car which I was hoping would help add perspective :)

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