Fiery Caves of Kuhi-Malik

Kuh i Malik

Useful Information

Location: Kuhi-Malik gorge, Yagnob Valley.
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: caves by burning coal
Light: n/a
Guided tours:  
Bibliography: D. Belakovski (1990): Die Mineralien der brennenden Kohlefloze von Ravat in Tadshikistan, Lapis, 15 (12), 21-26. (Deutsch - German)
L. Nasdala, I.V. Pekov (1993): Ravatite, C14H10, a new organic mineral species from Ravat, Tajikistan, Eur.J.Miner., 1993, 5, 4, 699-705.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Fiery Caves of Kuhi-Malik were first described by Herodotus some three thousand years ago. The ever burning underground fires are reputed to have inspired the notion of an eternal flame in Zoroastrianism. But European geographers have long misinterpreted the early Greek descriptions of this place as an evidence of active volcanism.

This are caves formed by burning coal measures, obviously a desaster which is not only a modern kind of human-induced nature destruction, but also happened long ago and quite naturally. The burnt coal left the underground in the form of hot, poisonous gases, what remained is a sort of cave with many residuals of the coal and unique minerals.

Actually our knowledge about this cave is extremely limited. It seems to be visited by various tour operators, so we guess it is of touristic interest. But we could not find much other info, and what we found was strange and most likely wrong. So here is our educated guess: this caves are actually no caves, but simply holes in the ground where glowing coal seams can be seen and most likely smelled. It is impossible to enter any cave and even the surface visit is dangerous. So you should trust your guides or stay away. But despite the fact that this is dangerous, it is actually an unique experience and well worth the effort.