Trip Summary and Itinerary Map
Visit the incredible Erta Ale volcano, and spend the night sleeping under the stars by the crater rim. The volcano contains an active lava lake where the thin charcoal crust is pierced by glowing red fissures of searing liquid lava below. The lava spits and splatters, and the lack of guard rails at the crater rim means you can peer directly into the fiery belly, known locally as the ‘gateway to hell’.
Drive by Lake Karum, one of the two hyper-saline lakes in the Danakil Depression. Lake Karum is one of the most visually striking lakes on Earth.
Take a dip in Lake Afrera, the second hyper-saline lake in the region. The lake is kept liquid by a system of surrounding hot springs. The extreme salt content means you’ll float effortlessly like the Dead Sea, and you can wash off the salt in one of the nearby hot springs.
Discover Dallol, a cinder cone volcano in the Danakil Depression. Dallol is a canvas of bright green, reds, and yellows distributed across hundreds of hot acidic springs and mounds of salt deposits. It’s one of the most remarkable geological phenomena in the world.
Salt Pans and Camel Caravans
The Danakil Desert contains miles of sprawling salt pans. Local Afar people manually extract the salt from the ground (working under the extreme Danakil sun) and transport the salt back to Mekele via camel caravans. Witnessing this process first-hand is a humbling experience.
Landmarks visited on Volcanic Explorer
Day 1: Mekele to Erta Ale
At Mekele, you’ll meet the rest of your tour group and pile into the Toyota Landcruisers that will take you into the Danakil in convoy. You’ll begin the drive into the Danakil at around 9AM. The roads leading out of Mekele are smooth and asphalted, and you drive further out of town there are some wonderful views of the Tigrayan landscape. As you drive further towards the Afar region, the roads get rougher until you reach the Danakil desert. Here, the roads are a maze of solidified lava, rock and sand with an occasional palm lined oasis. You’ll stop for lunch at the roadside where your cooking team will do you proud, before continuing on to Aksoma, the base camp of the Erta Ale volcano. The drive form Mekele to Aksome is around 6 hours.
At Aksoma, your cooking team will prepare dinner which will be served around 5PM. As the sun begins to dip behind the horizon, you begin the 3 hour hike up Erta Ale. Camels will transport mattresses, blankets and additional water up the volcano.
The trek is a 3 hour walk along a gentle incline. You’ll reach the crater rim around 11PM, where the fiery lava lake awaits.
You’ll spend the night camping on the volcano at a makeshift campsite. Your sleeping materials will be provided for you and transported up the volcano by camels. It’s rough and ready, but that’s all part of the fun!
Note: The Journey into the Danakil Depression tour starts and ends in Mekele. The region is easily accessible via domestic flight from Addis Ababa, or along the historic circuit. Depending on your wider travel plans, we can make the necessary arrangements to get you to and from Mekele.
Activities: Drive Mekele to Erta Ale, Hike up Erta Ale
Overnight: Camping on Erta Ale volcano
Day 2: Erta Ale to Hamed Ela
Wake up early to descend the volcano before the sun rises to high. Visit the lava lake one last time before beginning the 3 hour descent back to Aksoma. You’ll begin your descent around 6:30AM and will reach Aksoma by 9AM at the latest for breakfast.
Today you’ll drive across the sweeping salt pans of the Danakil towards the small hamlet of Hamed Ela. If time permits, you’ll visit Lake Karum and the camel caravans. The sun set over Lake Karum is extraordinary.
Return to Hamed Ela for overnight.
Activities: Drive from Erta Ale to Hamed Ela across the desert, visit Lake Karum and camel caravans
Overnight: Hamed Ela
Day 3: Hamed Ela to Mekele
After breakfast at Hamed Ela, you’ll drive to Ragad (Asebo) and watch the local Afar people mining the salt from the ground and loading on to the camel caravans.
Drive to Dallol, one of the most stunning geological phenomena on the planet. The kaleidoscopic landscape of greens, reds, and yellows formed by acidic springs and salt mounds create an alien landscape.
In the afternoon, visit Lake Afrera, a hyper-saline lake in the Danakil fed by a system of surrounding hot springs. Take a dip in the lake where you’ll float due to the salt content. Was off the salt in the nearby hot springs.
Begin the drive back to Mekele to line up with a return flight to Addis Ababa or continue your onwards journey with us.
Activities: watch the salt miners, visit the Dallol cinder cone volcano, swim in Lake Afrera and the hot springs
Prices, Departures and Inclusions
Prices are per person to join an existing group.
- All Entrance fees and licenses as per the program.
- Accommodation and all meals throughout the tour.
- Bottles of water for the trip.
- Surface Transport expense with four wheel drive Land-cruiser including fuel expense and drivers allowance.
- Local guide service for the afar region as per the program.
- Cooking, camping equipment.
- Scout and police service in Afar Region as per the program.
- Camel and camel tires in Afar Region as per the program.
- International flights and visa fees.
- Transport to and from Mekele.
- Any activities not mentioned as included.
- Other personal expenses, souvenirs, tips and gratuities, etc.