Incredible images of the world's most stunning sinkholes

Into the abyss: Incredible images of the world’s most stunning sinkholes, from Oregon to Australia via the Bahamas

  • Xiaozhai Tiankeng, or Heavenly Pit, is the world’s most massive sinkhole and is located in southwest China
  • The deepest known underwater sinkhole is located in the South China Sea – it’s 987.2 feet (300.89m) deep
  • One of the more unusual craters, located in Turkmenistan, is a burning pit of fire known as the Door to Hell

These gaping chasms certainly are a sight to be-hole-d.

MailOnline Travel has scoured the globe for eye-popping images of the world’s most jaw-dropping abysses – from stunning marine sinkholes to dizzyingly colossal shafts on land.

Our journey into the world of inky black cavities takes in the world’s largest sinkhole – Xiaozhai Tiankeng, or Heavenly Pit – a monster in China that at one point reaches 2,172 feet into the earth.

Red Lake in Croatia, Europe’s largest sinkhole, is also on the list. It’s 1,732ft deep and contains 565,034,667 cubic feet of water.  

Our marine sinkhole picks, meanwhile, include the deepest known underwater sinkhole – the Dragon Hole in the South China Sea – the epic Great Blue Hole in Belize and the beautiful Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas.

Notable sinkholes in Oregon, Australia and New Zealand also figure. Drill down – and marvel.

The deepest known underwater sinkhole (or blue hole) is ‘the Dragon Hole’ in the South China Sea, an epic abyss  987.2ft (300.89m) deep that was discovered in 2016

Red Lake – close to the city of Imotski in Croatia – is a whopper, the largest sinkhole in Europe and the third-largest in the world. There are two striking features – red cliffs measuring 247 metres (810ft) in height, and a lake that’s 281 metres (922ft) deep, giving it a total depth of 528 metres (1,732ft). Cave fish, crabs, frogs and insects dwell in the lake, which contains 565,034,667 cubic feet of water. Adding to the sinkhole’s immensity are 800 metres (2,624ft) of cave canals

In the world of marine sinkholes, the Great Blue Hole in Belize is one of the most glamorous. It took the top podium place on the Discovery Channel’s  list of ‘The 10 Most Amazing Places on Earth’ and is home to an exotic array of fish, including midnight parrotfish and Caribbean reef sharks. The ‘Great’ in the title, meanwhile, is not hyperbole – this hole is 1,043 feet (318 metres) wide and 407 feet (124 metres) deep

Welcome to the Darvaza Crater – or Door To Hell – a fiery crater in Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert that has been burning since 1971. No one can say for absolute certain how this glowing sinkhole formed, but a persistent explanation is that it’s the result of ground giving way under a Soviet drilling rig and scientists igniting escaping gas to burn it off, perhaps not realising just how big the subterranean reservoir was. Turkmenistan has the world’s sixth-largest natural gas reserves…

The world’s largest known sinkhole – Xiaozhai Tiankeng, or Heavenly Pit – is located in southwest China. It’s 2,054 ft (626 metres) long, 1,762 ft (537 metres) wide, and between 1,677 to 2,172 feet (511 to 662 metres) deep. Visitors can descend to the bottom via a 2,800-step staircase and should keep their eyes peeled for clouded leopards, which have been seen at the site 

A sinkhole is a hole in the ground created by erosion and the drainage of water.

They can range in size from a few feet in diameter to the size capable of swallowing entire buildings.

They are a natural phenomenon but the process is often amplified by human processes and interference.

There are two basic types of sinkhole which are separated by how they form.

Slow developing ones are known as a cover-subsidence sinkhole and those that appear suddenly are called a cover-collapse sinkhole.

The sudden holes which seize headlines are the latter and can cause devastation and even death.

Often, it involves soluble rock, such as limestone, becoming moist and eroding rapidly.

This then leads to a swift loss of land and a sinkhole emerges.

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