Mud Volcanoes of Azerbaijan

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Photograph of a mud volcano near Gobustan taken by Bruno Girin

While we are all familiar with the lava volcanoes featured in movies, the lesser known mud volcanoes of Azerbaijan presents us with an equally spectacular experience. Over 700 mud volcanoes have been identified around the world with over 300 of them residing in Azerbaijan along the Absheron peninsula, Gobustan, Southeastern Shirvan plain, and islands of the Baku archipelago. Many of them are located just outside Baku. For example, in addition to the well-known petroglyphs at Gobustan, the park also contains several mud volcanoes. Turagay is the largest one in the park with a height of over 1335 feet. Located about fifteen miles outside the capital, another famous mud volcano is Lokbatan, which has erupted over twenty times in the last 200 years, the most recent being October 2001.

You may be wondering what mud volcanoes are exactly and how they are different from lava volcanoes. While there are many similarities between the two, there are some very important differences. Both can launch huge flames and smoke hundreds of feet into the air while simultaneously spewing clay. If located in the sea, both can also create islands. However, mud volcanoes do not always emit hot materials. In fact, some of the debris can be close to freezing temperatures.

Mud volcanoes erupt due to an increase in underground pressure. As a result of the pressure, fluids are released with mud and gases. 86% of the gas released is methane, with nitrogen and carbon dioxide composing the remaining 14%. Eruptions vary from a continuously bubbling volcano to one that has an explosive eruption dispersing debris in a violent manner. Luckily, the latter type of eruption is less common with most of the Azerbaijani volcanoes erupting in a bubbling manner. Mud can contain traces of oil, as well as large amounts of curative properties, such as iodine, bromine, calcium, magnesium, and organic acids. Due to the curative properties and lack of toxins, mud from the volcanoes is used in spa and medicinal treatments.

With so many volcanoes in the country, tourists can visit a number of erupting mud volcanoes during their visit. The eruptions are a natural wonder that is one of Azerbaijan’s best kept secrets.

Post Written by Athena Smith, Karabakh Foundation Cultural Affairs Coordinator

Additional Sources

Eminov, Zakir. “The Natural Monuments of Azerbaijan.” Visions of Azerbaijan.

Gallagher, Ronnie, James Skinner, Hartmut Mueller, Seid Huseinov. “Mud Volcanoes: Questions & Answers.” Azerbaijan International (2007): 38-45.

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