Mud volcanos, Gobustan, Azerbaijan – it’s the mud volcano capital


FUN TRIVIA FACT: which country has the most mud volcanos?

ANSWER: Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan contains at least 400 mud volcanos, which is roughly half of the number that have been identified in the world to date.

Mud volcanos, Gobustan, Azerbaijan

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

What are mud volcanos?

Just to be clear, they aren’t real volcanos. They do look like volcanos though, baby volcanos that pump out mud instead of lava.

I guess the name has stuck.

Mud volcanos, Gobustan, Azerbaijan

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Mud volcanos form in subduction zones – collision sites between tectonic plates – where gas is continually making its way to the surface, bringing with it a mix of oil and mud.

Mud volcanos, Gobustan, Azerbaijan

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Mud volcanos tend to occur where there are subterranean reserves of gas and oil, which Azerbaijan has no shortage of – on the way to Gobustan you will see crude oil oozing out of the ground.

The gas being emitted is predominantly methane, which means these little baby volcanos are highly flammable; smoking while standing next to an active mud volcano is not recommended. 😀

The mud volcanos of Gobustan, Azerbaijan

Mud volcanos, Gobustan, Azerbaijan

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

In Gobustan, an hour outside of Baku, there are a number of easily accessed mud volcanos.

They’re found on a bleak, treeless stretch of Caspian Sea coastline; the surrounding landscape resembling a post-apocalyptic, post-nuclear-fallout Earth.

Mud volcanos, Gobustan, Azerbaijan

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Move towards the bleakest, most-scorched section of land in sight and there are the baby volcanos.

Glopping, belching, spluttering, splatting, splopping; oily mud occasionally overflowing the crater brim, spilling down the side of the volcano like spittle running down a baby’s chin.

Mud volcanos, Gobustan, Azerbaijan

Photo credit: Benjamin White

You’re free to wander around and enjoy the mud volcanos as you like.

Some of the mud is very fresh and soft though – as Ami discovered – so watch out. 😀

Mud volcanos, Gobustan, Azerbaijan

Photo credit: Benjamin White


Practical information and how to reach the mud volcanos:

Gobustan is located approximately 65km south of Baku. There are no public transport options to the volcanos, so either hire a private car or taxi for the day, or join a tour. There was no road signage at the time of my visit (2017), so if you are making your own way to the volcanos make sure you have rock-solid directions. More transport info here.


More on Azerbaijan:

Baku – at 28m below sea level, it’s the world’s deepest capital

Gobustan – stone age petroglyphs that inspired Thor Heyerdahl


Posts on the Caucasus:

Georgia:

Batumi – from Medea and the Golden Fleece to the Las Vegas of the Black Sea

Vardzia – 400 room, 19 level cave city. Watch out for falling rocks!

Ushguli – watchtowers on every house; even Genghis Khan was deterred

Nagorno-Karabakh:

Sea Stone Hotel, Vank – a lion head carved into the hillside. Pure genius!

Armenia:

The Temple of Garni – a much smaller Parthenon, built for the sun god Mihr

Noravank – the New Monastery of 1205 CE with its famous Stairs of Death

Zorats Karer – 223 standing stones in a grassy field. Is it linked to Stonehenge?

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