Addis Ababa -> Mekele -> Berhale -> Hamed Ella -> Erta Ale -> Dodom -> Hamed Ella -> Dallol -> Mekele -> Addis Ababa
As the northern extension of the great rift that formed the Red Sea, on the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Danakil Depression is considered to be one of the most active and difficult geologic areas on the planet. It is the lowest place on the African continent (393 feet below sea level/120 m), the hottest place on Earth (an average of 120 degrees F), as well as home to one of the highest volcanic ranges. Visitors can experience an extraterrestrial landscape of lava lakes, sulphuric fumaroles, and pillars of salt in a color palette that erupts from the bowels of the subterranean abyss.
1 Addis Ababa
Arrive in Addis at the Bole International Airport to be met by tour staff for transport to your hotel. Sightseeing in Addis Ababa (e.g., the National Museum, the Ethnological Museum of Ethiopian Studies, and the Holy Trinity Cathedral) is possible, depending on your arrival time.
Overnight in Addis.
2 Fly to Mekele. Drive to Berhale to Hamed Ella
Fly early morning after breakfast to Mekele and drive through Afar villages and spectacular lowland scenery to Berhale. Apply for travael permit from Afar government office. Continue to Hamed Ella for a total of about six hours on the road (161 miles/260 kms).
Overnight in Hamed Ella.
3 Hamed Ella to Dodom to Erta Ale
Following breakfast, we drive to the base camp at Dodom (4-5 hours). This journey is on- and off-road, passing by the salt desert, sand dunes, dry rivers, and volcanic rocks. Along the way are the nomadic Afar people living in the desolate landscape. Dodom is a small campsite belonging to the Afar. We rest before beginning the trek up to the volcano in the evening. Camping equipment, food, and water are carried by pack camels. We reach the lava lake in four to five hours. We spend the night on the rim of the volcano in cottages near the lava lake. Your sleep may be interrupted by lava fountains erupting in the crater.
Overnight in Erta Ale.
4 Erta Ale to Dodom to Hamed Ella
Walk back to the Dodom base camp in the morning and drive to Hamed Ella (65 miles/ 105 km/6-7 hrs). Spending the day and night in this barren desert will inform you about how the Afar people survive in this environment. The Afar harvest salt in the same manner as they have for centuries. The salt blocks are still transported to market by slow camel caravan. Local crafts are available for purchase, and there are photo opportunities of the Afar and the camel caravans.
Overnight in Hamed Ella.
5 Hamed Ella to Dallol to Mekele
This early day includes driving and hiking in the deepest and hottest part of the Danakil Depression. We will see salt mining operations, as well as active sulphur springs with colorful formations dictated by the chemicals that the Earth brings up. Following breakfast, and after we pick up our mandatory guard, we drive through the Dallol Depression (28 miles/45 kms).
Overnight in Mekele.
Note: It is possible to spend more days in Dallol and Erta Ale.
6 Mekele to Addis Ababa
Post-breakfast fly from Mekele to Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. Tour staff will transport you to your hotel and arrange sightseeing to the Merkato (the largest open-air market in Africa), the St. George Gallery, and various souvenir shops if desired.
Depart in the evening or remain at the hotel until the next-day flight.