In the 13th century Marco Polo mentioned numerous natural gas flames spurting spontaneously from the Absheron Peninsula. Most, as at Suraxany, burned out when the drilling of oil wells reduced underground pressure.
However, Yanar Dag (Fire Mountain; admission free) lives on, making for one of the Absheron’s stranger sights. Locals claim that a natural gas vent on this modest hillock was accidentally ignited by a shepherd’s cigarette back in the 1958. A 10m-long wall of fire has been blazing away ever since. Extraordinary little hillside which burns day and night thanks to seeping subterranean gases which were accidentally ignited. It’s best viewed at dawn or dusk.
The site is hidden behind the lonely Yanar Dag tea house on the windswept moorland between Digah and Magomedli(Mammedli). On cold winter evenings, settle your terrace table at a distance from the flames appropriate to the evening chill. Arriving alone in the middle of the night, the atmosphere is at its most surreal with the restaurant closed and barely a car on the road - the only sound is the escaping gas licking at the slope with its multiple-flaming tongues. Although there are other such 'fireplaces' in Azerbaijan, none is as impressive nor as accessible.
Surprisingly few taxi drivers seem to known the place so you may need to give directions - going via Zabrat is easier than through Binagadi and Digah.
There are plans to gentrify the site but for now the only ‘facility’ is a semiderelict concrete сhayxana offering very pricey tea and jam.