Dallol is a cinder cone volcano in the Danakil Depression, although its unique geology means it lacks any of the archetypal volcanic looks. Instead, Dallol is a canvas of bright green, reds, and yellows distributed across hundreds of hot acidic springs and mounds of salt deposits.
The hydrothermal activity below the Dallol crater is responsible for this kaleidoscopic landscape. As groundwater diffuses across from the highlands, it is heated by the magma below Dallol and pushed through the crater, dissolving salts and other minerals in the process. These minerals oxidize to create colourful, supersaturated hot springs. The intense heat of the Danakil then evaporates the water, leaving behind colourful salt formations that demarcate the springs.
The wild Dallol landscape is the result of ongoing geological processes, which means Dallol is an extremely dynamic landscape, with new springs and salt formations arising continuously. Although similar in appearance to colourful springs of America’s Yellowstone National Park, Dallol’s colours arise from inorganic, geological processes, rather than biological ones.
The intense heat of the Danakil Depression, combined with the extreme concentrations of salts, potash, and other minerals in the hot springs makes Dallol prime research ground for polyextremophile microbes, which may hold clues as to how life began on Earth, and how life might exist on other planets like Mars.
The vast majority of excursions into the Danakil Depression commence at the Tigrayan town of Mekele where you meet your group and pile into the sturdy Toyota Landcruisers that carry you into the desert in convoy. Your exact route will depend on whether you’re visiting Dallol on day one, or whether you’ll first be stopping at Erta Ale.
Ethiopia’s fantastic domestic flight network makes it easy to access Mekele from all major towns in the North of Ethiopia, or via a connecting flight from Addis if you’re coming up from the South. It’s a 3-4 hour drive from Mekele to the Danakil that begins on asphalt and ends on lava. Typical excursions into the Danakil last 3-4 days, all of which is done by vehicle, traversing roads, deserts, and salt pans.
Dallol is an extremely dynamic region with new springs and salt mounds created on a daily basis from the perpetual hydrothermal activity below the volcano. A byproduct of the beauty created by this process is an unstable flooring that must be expertly navigated by local guides who visit the region every week. The salt deposits in some areas may only be a few inches thick and below this sits hot, supersaturated acidic springs. Robust footwear is essential, and you must follow the guidance of the local guides at all times.
Get Prepared with Brilliant
Traversing such a remote and inhospitable region comes with a number of challenges. The key to travelling safely and getting the most out of your visit is knowing what to expect so you can plan appropriately. Our experts will talk you through all aspects of travelling in the Danakil Depression, recommend the kit to bring, and take care of all the travel logistics.