In the ancient world, death had a much more tangible presence in the lives of people. Life was shorter. There were no hospitals for the dying to go to.
The closeness of death made our ancient ancestors believe that the afterlife was just as close. And as such they gave a physical embodiment to the supposed entrances to it.
Below you'll find the most popular gates to hell you can visit (as a tourist, of course).
1. The Door to Hell (Turkmenistan)
The closest match to the conventional image of a gate to hell is the Door to Hell in Turkmenistan. No one knew exactly how it formed at first; theories ranged from a meteorite impact to an earthquake but the truth lies in the former USSR's search for natural gas.
The crater is in essence a natural gas field. In 1971, engineers discovered a cave filled with toxic gas. Due to the threat it posed the population, the authorities at the time decided that the safest option was to light the gas aflame. Bad idea - it burns to this day, expelling gases throughout the entire region.
An even more spine-chilling fact is that the heat it radiates inevitably attracts a local species of large spider, which have littered the entire area and constantly fall into the burning crater.
2. Alepotrypa Cave (Greece)
Alepotrypa is an extensive cave complex in Greece. It is believed to have inspired the myth of the realm of Hades. In the central part of the cave there is even a large lake, where the dead were said to cross between the 2 worlds. Forgotten by society, Alepotrypa was rediscovered at the end of the 19th century by a hunter looking for his dog. Today, the complex is the focal point of increased archaeological interest. There has been evidence found of burial rituals from more than 6 millennia ago, as well as remains from the everyday lives of the ancient Greek population.
3. Actun Tunichil Muknal (Belize)
The Mayans believed that the cave Actun Tunichil Muknal was the entrance to the underworld. In its antechamber, they would carry out human sacrifice, in order to appease the demons which they thought entered the world from there. Victims were taken to the cave, hit on the head to crack their skull and abandoned there, in order for the blood to flow into the antechamber. Due to the high content of minerals in the water flowing down the walls of the cave, their bodies quickly turned into statue-like figures of shining crystals, further contributing to the mystical likeness of the gate to hell.
4. Fengdu Ghost City (China)
In the Ming mountain, Southwestern China, there lies an entire ghost city - consisting of temples and shrines dedicated to death. No one lives there but nearly every Chinese emperor built at least one shrine in the region to add on to it. It was believed that there was an entrance to the underworld in the mountain's foothills. The legend goes that whoever goes there and survives the trials and tribulations can become the king of Hell.