Ethiopia Danakil Depression

The Afar or Danakil Depression, is not only the lowest point on the surface of the earth (120+ meters below sea level), but it is also the hottest inhabited place on the planet. As one of the most tectonically active areas in the world, the Danakil is an area of singular geological fascination. It is a strange lunar landscape, studded with active volcanoes, aromatic sulphur-caked hot springs, solidified black lava flows, and vast salt-encrusted basins.

Erte Ale Volcano - Lava lakes

Day 1 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Danakil Depression
Day 2 Danakil Depression
Day 3 Danakil Depression to Erte Ale Volcano
Day 4 Erte Ale Volcano to Danakil Depression
Day 5 Danakil Depression to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Depart

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Danakil Depression

Arrive in Addis Ababa. Fly from Addis Ababa to Mekele.

Drive six hours to Hamed Ela. Experience one of the geologically most active areas on the planet and some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes: the Danakil desert, active volcanoes with boiling lakes of lava, the surreal landscapes of colors, salt, geysers, springs and fumaroles at Dallol, and the great salt lake - an unparalleled moonscape, where salt mining and trading has been going on with camel caravans since Biblical times. On this expedition, we climb active Erta Ale volcano and stay one full night on the volcano caldera. We pride ourselves with excellent logistical preparation, highly competent professional and friendly staff, close interactions with local people, delicious food prepared will more than compensate for the hardness and sometimes spartan character of living conditions we'll find ourselves in.

For those with greater accommodation expectations, Days 1-3 may be replaced with helicopter access from Gheralta Lodge.

Erte Ale Volcano

Day 2: Danakil Depression

salt cutting - Lake Assale

Full day at the miners' town of Ahmed Ela near Lake Assale, we'll watch the centuries-old ritual of salt cutting, the shaping of salt blocks and the endless caravans arriving and leaving loaded with the precious "white gold". We also visit the hot springs of Dallol. These hot springs are composed of different minerals along with sulphurs and potash and create spectacular colours. Dallol is renowned as being the hottest inhabited place on earth.

For those with greater accommodation expectations, Days 1-3 may be replaced with helicopter access from Gheralta Lodge.

camel caravans

Day 3: Danakil Depression to Erte Ale Volcano

After an early breakfast we drive a full day with our Afar militia escorts to Dodum at the foot of the Erta Ale volcano. Erta Ala is the highlight of this expedition, and is one of only 5 permanent lava lakes in the world. From here in the relative cool of early evening (5-6 pm), we start our four to five hour climb to the rim, while our gear and water is carried by camels. After refreshments on reaching the summit, we walk to the lava pit to see one of the world's most spectacular sights when the red lava in the crater lights up the night sky. Only a few hours sleep this night!

For those with greater accommodation expectations, Days 1-3 may be replaced with helicopter access from Gheralta Lodge.

Erte Ale Volcano - Lava lakes

Day 4: Erte Ale Volcano to Danakil Depression

After a light breakfast, tea and toast, and the sight of the African sunrise from Erte Ale, we set off down the mountain and a further six hour drive to Hamed Ela where we will make camp for the night.

Danakil Mobile Tented Camp

Day 5: Danakil Depression to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Depart

Morning visits, and then drive back to Mekele. Break for lunch in Berahile. Fly from Mekele to Addis. Connect out.

Download Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 - 2 :

Danakil Mobile Tented Camp,
Danakil Depression

Danakil Mobile Tented Camp,  Danakil Depression

Our camp is lightweight but very comfortable and operated by a small but experienced crew who also cook and serve delicious food and act as waiters and tent stewards, led by an experienced guide.

These camps combine the most important elements of a safari: you have a crew of people to look after you, great food freshly prepared and cooked over an open fire (there’s nothing like a bit of wilderness to boost a healthy appetite). There en-suite flush toilets and hot showers from safari bucket-showers and after winding down and swapping stories around the campfire. At night you collapse gratefully onto your full size wooden bed, in an insect-proof tent. You soon sink into a deep sleep under the watchful eye of the askari.

The huge advantage of a mobile camp is that it takes you to the wilder parts of Africa. In the evenings after you return from your days activities you'll find a blazing fire, kerosene lanterns and bedrolls laid out on the ground, where you can sit and enjoy a welcome drink.

Camping isn’t for the fainthearted or luxury addict - but if you think you might enjoy it - you will love it!

Fact file:

  • Luxury Mobile tents
  • En-suite shower tent (bucket shower, hot water always available on request)
  • En-suite flush toilet tent
  • Safari basin, filled with hot water on request
  • Full sized beds, linen, & blankets
  • Camp chair & awning ‘verandah’
  • Camp fire
  • Fresh prepared and fire-cooked food
  • Tea, coffee, bottled water, juice (alcoholic beverages if requested in advance)
  • Experienced camp crew including professional safari guide

Day 3:

Erta Ale Star Camp,
Erte Ale Volcano

Our very simple camp will be reluctantly carried up the slopes of this active volcano by camels. We promise nothing, but shall make the best of a very harsh environment. A bed with bedding under the stars on the rim of an active volcano.

Erta Ale Star Camp, Erte Ale Volcano

Day 4:

Danakil Mobile Tented Camp,
Danakil Depression