Danakil Volcano Trek

Ethiopia

Culture | Activity

Dramatic nature & nomadic life in the Afar Triangle

8 days £2,195 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

Intro

Considered one of the hottest places on Earth, the Danakil Depression is otherworldly. Located in northeastern Ethiopia you will get an insight into an ancient and often harsh way of life. This is also where our oldest ancestor, Lucy, was discovered. Drive from Addis Ababa to Semera in the Afar Triangle and head north to the nomadic desert village of Ahemed Ela.

Discover the villagers' fascinating way of life, and marvel at the villages’ stunning locations in the Great Rift Valley and alongside its lakes an undoubted highlight of this tour is the late night trek to the mesmerising red eruption from the active Erta Alle Volcano where you will camp close to the rim of the volcano. Afterwards visit the surreal Lake Asale and the kaleidoscope of sulphur pools and salt flats in Dallol. Watch as camels are loaded with salt which is then transported throughout Ethiopia. This trip is bound to leave you with unforgettable memories of one of the most unique places on Earth.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Afar Nomadic Villages
  • Erta-ale Volcano
  • Ahemed Ela desert village
  • Mesmerising volcanic landscapes of Dallol

Places Visited

Addis Ababa - Mekele - Ghera'alta - Danakil Depression - Afdera - Dodom - Erta Ale - Dallol

What's Included

Internal flight
Ground transportation & transfers
Escorted English speaking guide
Accommodation
Meals: full board
Bottle of mineral water each day
All entrance and camping fees
Camping equipment
Itinerary & Map

Travel to the Danakil  can be difficult for a number of reasons including heat, lack of facilities or very basic facilities, limited road infrastructure and poorly managed tourism resulting in rubbish and large numbers of people in the same place at the same time. While we do our best to work with those local partners who try not to exacerbate problems the situation is still far from ideal. Please do discuss with us if you have any specific concerns about visiting the Danakil region.

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Day 1 : Addis Ababa

On arrival into Addis Ababa airport, you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative and driven to your hotel to freshen up and rest before lunch. Today you will visit St. George Church, Ethnographical Museum, National Museum and Entoto Mountain. Overnight in Addis Ababa. 

Meal plan: n/a

Addis Ababa is Africa’s fourth largest city, with an area of 250sq/km, and is located at an altitude of 2,300m above sea level. It is a vast place with a thriving population of over 2,750,000 people. There is a wide range of visitor attractions, including many museums and educational institutions. It has most recently become known as the ‘spa city of Africa’.

The National Museum in Addis Ababa holds an interesting collection of artefacts from Ethiopia's illustrious past but the undoubted star of the show is the remains of Lucy, a skeleton of a female Australopithecus afarensis, named from the Afar region of Ethiopia where she was found. Discovered in 1974, Lucy is 3.2 million years old and shares traits with apes (her skull) and with humans (walking upright), leading to claims of the 'missing link' having been discovered. Sometimes the museum exhibits a replica when Lucy is on tour at museums overseas.

The St. George Church was established in 1982 to preserve and promote Ethiopian Orthodox clergy. It is a small octagonal building that was the site of Emperor Hailie Selassie's coronation.

The two-storey Ethnological Museum is a great place to learn about the diversity of Ethiopia. It is structured like a story book, depicting the journey of life to death from different perspectives. 

Entoto Mountain, located to the north of Addis Ababa, offers a panoramic view of the capital. It is the highest part of the city and is historically covered in Eucalyptus trees, which are often referred to as the 'lungs of Addis Ababa'.

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Day 2 : Addis Ababa - Mekele - Ghera'alta

In the morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Mekele before being transferred to Ghera'alta. En-route you will visit the rock-hewn churches. Overnight in Ghera'alta. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Mekele, also known as Makale, is a northern Ethiopian city and the capital of the Tigray Region. It was founded by Emperor Yohannes IV, as the region's capital, in 1881. During his reign, the emperor built a number of churches, including Medhane Alem and Kidane Mihret, during the 1870s, a palace in the 1880s and the churches of Saint Teklehaimanot.  Today the city is a modern and clean city, wealthier than most in Ethiopia, and has thrived under Ethiopia's Tigrayan rulers.

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Day 3 : Ghera'alta - Afdera

This morning you will drive to Mekele, where you will stop for some traditional coffee. From Mekele you will make your way to Afdera. Enroute you will pass through the village of Eribt. On arrival in Afdera, you can choose to take a dip in the salt lake or enjoy the hot spring nearby. Overnight camping in Afdera. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The Danakil Depression constitutes the northern part of the Afar Triangle. It has resulted from the existence of three tectonic plates in the Horn of Africa. It's known for being the hottest place on Earth in terms of year round average temperatures (34 degrees Celsius). It's also one of the lowest and driest places on the planet; the Awash river dries up here in a chain of salt lakes, never reaching the Indian Ocean.

The dry site of  Afdera  is located in the Woreda district in Ethiopia’s Afar Region, named after Lake Afdera. Its population is over 19,381 people who mainly live pastorally. Afdera is home to a famous salt mine in Ethiopia.

Visit the local Nomadic Villages of Afar and learn about the people who live there. The Afar Nomadic villagers are pastoralists and are dependent on their camels and cattle that they rear. Their traditional houses are built with grass and are moved around with the people in search of grass and water. The villagers have many traditional songs and dances, including a variety of battle songs. They are martial warriors and the men carry the famous curved knife. 

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Day 4 : Afdera - Dodum

Today, before departing, visit the salt miners (local people pumping salt water out of the lake and evaporating it). You will then drive to Dodom at the base of Erta Ale. Dodom is about 8.5km from Erta Ale. The trek to the crater takes about 3 hrs. You will have an early dinner around 5pm and trek up to Erta Ale at 8pm. Overnight at a local shelter in Erta Ale. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Erta Ale Volcano is a huge basaltic shield volcano located in the central northern Danakil depression in the Erta Ale volcanic range. Discovered in the 1960s, it is the most active volcano in Ethiopia and is a popular attraction due to its constantly active lava lake. The eruption is so colourful and spectacular, but the best pictures are taken at night. Erta Ale ranks as one of the most amazing and physically challenging natural attractions anywhere in Ethiopia. 

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Day 5 : Erta-Ale - Ahemed Ela

Wake up early for the sunrise and visit the north crater. Descend from Erta Ale around 7am and drive to Dodom. You will have a relaxing morning and breakfast before driving to Ahemed Ela (100km) having a picnic lunch on the way. After lunch, you will continue to Ahemed Ela. Overnight in Ahemed Ela. 

Note: If by chance there is rain in the highlands to the west, crossing the desert to Ahemed Ela may not be possible, in which case you will drive about 2 hrs longer via Abala (Sheket), a mostly asphalt road. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Ahemed Ela is a simple but charming desert village, in which provides excellent photos, capturing the flavor of the culture of traditional Ethiopian people. It commonly known as a passage for caravans of camels heading to the market in Mekele. The desert hosting Ahemed Ela endures extremely hot temperatures for most of the year until the rainy season when the plains are cooled down. 

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Day 6 : Dallol

 In the morning while it is still cool, drive to Dallol and visit the different landscapes formed by geothermic and sulfuric activity as well as the salt canyon. You will have a guided trek around the salt mountains, exploring some interesting caves before enjoying the sunset at Lake Asale with camel caravans. This evening you will be transferred to Ahemed Ela for a night sleeping under the stars. Overnight in Ahemed Ela. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Dallol is the part of the Danakil Depression that currently holds the record for highest average temperature for an inhabited location (35°C/95°F was the recorded average annual temperature between 1960 and 1966). The climate varies from around 25 °C during the rainy season (September–March) to 48 °C (118 °F) during the dry season (March–September). Dallol is also one of the most isolated places on Earth; there are no roads and the only regular transport is by camel caravans which travel to the area to collect salt. Its uniquely colourful and mesmerising terrain is due to chemicals like ferrous chloride and iron hydroxide that seep from the earth. The nearby Dallol volcano last erupted in 1926. 

Lake Asale, also known as Lake Karum, is a salt lake that is located in the Afar Depression, northeastern Ethiopia. The famous salty Lake has supplied common salt for several years to the Nation. 

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Day 7 : Mekele

Today you will drive to Ragad (Asebo), the place where the locals mine salt and load their camel caravans. You will observe the methods by which salt is carved from the ground. Following your visit here, drive ahead to Ahemed Ela where the camp is packed up and you proceed to Mekele. Overnight in Mekele.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 8 : Addis Ababa

After breakfast take a tour of Mekele including a memorial, its historical museum and the open-air market where the camel caravans sell their salt. Fly to Addis. Enjoy a farewell dinner before being transferred to the airport for your departure flight.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Accommodation

Accommodation Title

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Heyday Hotel

A modern hotel situated in the Saris Addisu Sefer area of Addis Ababa, Heyday Hotel provides free wi-fi and other luxury amenities in all rooms to ensure a comfortable stay. The on-site restaurant offers both local and international dishes inspired by different delicious cuisine. 

Visit hotel's site
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Gheralta Lodge

With breathtaking views of the Gheralta mountains sits Gheralta lodge. The lodge comprises of five bungalows, a restaurant with leisure area.  Your hosts aim to offer a family style resort, with good, simple cooking prepared with local products.

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Planet International

This is a comfortable hotel in Mekelle that provides modern amenities. Rooms have wi-fi access, TV and fully equipped bathrooms.

Visit hotel's site
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Reviews

A different world and culture which we were privileged to experience. Welcomed by the warmth of locals who wanted to share a little of their time with us...and English is their second language!!!!!!

Mhairi McKechnie , Festivals of Ethiopia, Ethiopia

Ethiopia really blew me away. The rock-hewn churches were remarkable and I never knew Ethiopia had so much history. It was great to see the gelada baboons in the Simien Mountains. Our guide was always smiling and helpful, and I really enjoyed the coffee ceremonies. I hope to come back again some day.

Neha , Ethiopia's Historic North, Ethiopia

The trip in the south was no less than an adventure, way beyond my anticipations. My guide was both helpful and knowledgeable.

Yngve Gausla , Tribes & Landscapes of Southern Ethiopia, Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a country everyone should visit. It has the perfect combination of spectacular scenery, stunning architecture, unique wildlife and a wonderful culture. Seeing it with Travel The Unknown means that you see all the highlights but don't miss the details and surprises between. The excellent local guides ensure that you experience its wonders through Ethiopian eyes. An overwhelming, eye opening, awe inspiring, emotional adventure.

Michael Russell , Festivals of Ethiopia, Ethiopia

A memorable experience in a lovely country. All aspects of the trip were impeccably handled. Highly recommended.

Richard & Margaret Haworth , Ethiopia's Historic North

Escaping from the comforting embrace of the big travel companies, Travel the Unknown`s `Ethiopia`s Historic North` programme gave us a window into a whole new world. The wildlife, the art, the food and the landscape were all unexpected and deeply memorable. The people were sometimes desperate, sometimes crazy, but nearly always smiling and ready to talk. One to treasure.

Philip & Mary , Ethiopia's Historic North, Ethiopia
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