After the rather touristy Baku Atashgah, I took a taxi out to see a more modest, but more authentic natural flame, at “Yanar Dag” (Fire Mountain).
The story is that several decades ago a wandering shepherd accidentally set light to a small natural vent. And to general amazement, that small vent has kept steadily burning ever since, apparently fed by some tiny natural leak from Baku’s vast gas fields far below.
Steps have now been built around the site, but the site itself seemed convincingly natural. And no one was asking for money, which is also a good sign.
Despite its grand name, it is a fairly modest. The flames run intermittently over a length of about 10-12 feet, with erratic flames varying from little 1-2 inch flickers to occasional 1-2 foot spurts. However across the entire length it was generating a lot of heat. Despite its small size, I found it genuinely impressive and a delightful example of the occasional oddities of nature. I surprised my taxi driver by laughing with simple joy when I first saw it. I can well understand why some pious traveler, on discovering such a strange natural vent, might have venerated it and made it a temple site (as probably happened at the Baku Ateshga).