Azerbaijan is nicknamed the land of fire, thanks to its numerous natural gas vents and a long history of fire worship in the country. The Baku Ateshgah (Fire Temple) was built during the 17th and 18th centuries as a monastery and place of worship for Zoroastrian monks as well as Indian devotees of Shiva. The pentagonal castle like structure was constructed on top of a natural gas vent where fire rituals were practiced, like lying atop hot coals.
Modern visitors will still see a flame rising from the main alter and four smaller flames, but they’re no longer natural. Exploitation of the area’s natural gas reserves exhausted the subterranean natural gas field long ago, so the new flame has been tapped in to Baku’s main gas supply piped in from the city.
If you visit by taxi, arrange for pickup to save yourself some money, as the taxis waiting outside the temple often hike up their rates.