Introduction to the Danakil Depression
The Danakil Depression is one of the most popular destinations in Ethiopia. For decades the region was cut off from the rest of the world due to regional conflicts, poor access routes, and little global visibility.
Thankfully, all of this has now changed and today the Danakil Depression welcomes thousands of visitors every year.
Why visit the Danakil Depression?
Dallol is one of the most spectacular places in Africa. A kaleidoscopic display of acidic hot springs and complex salt deposits within a volcanic crater, this otherworldly landscape looks straight out of a sci-fi movie.
The vibrant reds, yellows, greens and blues that characterise Dallol are formed as water is heated by underlying magma and pushed up through the volcanic rock, reacting with minerals in the ground. Bright yellow features develop through reactions with sulphur in the most acidic and hottest pools, whilst the shimmering greens and blues form from copper salts in the cooler pools.
Not to be underestimated, the heat in Dallol can be dizzying. It takes about 20 minutes to walk to Dallol from the vehicle drop off point, and you'll spend around half an hour at Dallol before needing to retreat to the A/C of the off roaders! Nothing rivals the true sense of adventure and exploration found here, and those who brave the extremes will not be disappointed.
As the world’s lowest-lying volcano, and one of just six active lava lakes on Earth, Erta Ale has long been an attractive destination for the adventure traveller. Here you can stand at the edge of Ethiopia’s most active volcano, with rising smoke lit up in a spectacular display of glowing orange and red from the molten rock that swirls and bellows below. It is well worth the 3-to 4-hour hike from the base camp at Dodom to the crater rim.
For an even more stunning view, visitors can camp close to the lava lake and take in the scene at sunrise. Unfortunately, an eruption in 2017 forced the lava to sink deeper in the crater, which means it is rarely visible through the thick smoke. While still a sight to behold, your chances of seeing lava now is quite low.
Lake Afrera - like Ethiopia’s very own Dead Sea - the extremely high salt concentration in this lake makes you float effortlessly. Taking a dip in Lake Afrera is a welcome escape from the searing Danakil heat. Fed by freshwater hot springs and underground streams, Lake Afrera is constantly replenished which prevents it from evaporating despite the unrelenting heat. Surrounding her shores are mounds of salt and dormant volcanoes rise from the horizon in the distance. The nearby freshwater hot springs also serve as the perfect chance to wash off the salt before continuing your journey - a true natural spa experience!
A visit to Lake Karum, also known as Lake Asale, is not to be missed. The salt crust that has formed across most of the lake’s surface means swimming is not possible, however it has created a spectacular landscape. The extraordinary views of the expansive salt flats slowly submerging into the shimmering water of the lake creates an almost arctic desert environment.
Amazingly, people have made the extreme environment of the Danakil Depression their home, and the salt pans are the basis of an important industry.
The Afar people, of which there are nearly two million across Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti, traditionally rely on camels, cattle, and goats to support their subsistence way of life. These communities have been hailed as being among the toughest on earth.
The local people also carry out the demanding trade of exporting salt from the sprawling salt pans to the nearest city of Mekele. This involves backbreaking work under the intense sun to carve out blocks from the salt flats. The salt is then transported on the backs of camels via the famous camel caravans, which form a remarkable sight as they wind through the desert.
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