Mud volcanoes of Gobustan, Azerbaijan

Everyone knows volcanoes, but have you ever seen a volcano which instead of hot lava spits out cold gooey mud? These can be found near Gobustan (Qobustan), a settlement situated 64km southwest of Baku, Azerbaijan.

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They are located in the middle of an oily desert. (Mind you, I wouldn’t be surprised if in Azerbaijan, which is one of the birthplaces of oil industry, everything was covered with a thin layer of oil). They vary in size and shape but the majority of them look like giant (40-200 cm) gray molehills, whose surface has been cracked from the heat and which occasionally make oozing, bubbling or squeaking  noises. They erupt with thick mud, which is pleasantly cold and makes a nice counterbalance to the oppressive heat of the desert.

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This geological phenomenon is strictly linked to the presence of the oil underground and it’s estimated that nearly half of the world’s mud volcanoes are located in Gobustan.

Even though it’s a unique natural phenomenon, you won’t find any tourists in the vicinity of the volcanoes. If that was in Europe, there would be a whole “natural park” build around it, with a fence, turnstiles, information boards, and tickets booths, of course. Azerbaijan, with its very limited and undeveloped tourist infrastructure,  is therefore difficult to travel but is still free of all the negative aspects of institutionalized tourism. You can just spend a day in a desert, put your hands and feet in this cool soothing mud and listen to these lively gurgling anthills.

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It was an interesting experience, together with our journey there and back through the desert, which we had to do in a taxi, due to the fact that the place is completely desolate and there were no regular cars driving through. If you decide to visit the mud volcanoes, you can combine it with the nearby Gobustan National Park which contains some prehistoric rock carvings dating back to 5000 – 40 000  years and it’s been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This gallery was also published by AzeRbaijaNAzerbaijan and Azerbaijan Tourism on 18th May; by RoyaL Travel Azerbaijan on 24th May and by I Love Azerbaijan on 31st May 2012.

.Thwritten by: Ania

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