The Danakil is an area of singular geological fascination; a strange lunar landscape studded with active volcanoes, malodorous sulfur–caked hot springs, solidified black lava flows, and vast salt–encrusted basins.
It is some measure of the Danakil’s geological activity that more than 30 active or dormant volcanoes – roughly one–quarter of the African total – are listed by the Smithsonian Institute Global Volcanism Program. These volcanoes are all geological infants, having formed over the past million years, and a great many took their present shape within the last 10,000 years. The most regularly visited volcanic range in the Danakil is Erta Ale, which consists of seven active peaks extending over an area of 2,350 kms square between Erta Ale (287 meters, on the west shore of Lake Asale) to Haile Gubbi (521 meters, about 20 kms north of Lake Afrera).
Erta Ale is listed as the most active volcano in Africa for over 120 years and the most active until now is over 38 years. Extracted from a number of salt pans scattered around the Afar Depression, the salt–bars still form a major item of trade for the Afar people, who transport them on camelback to Tigray along the ancient caravan routes with more than three thousand camels lined up.
It is one of active volcanic areas in the world where a lake of melted rock can be seen in a dramatic colorful appearance. It is hard to give a good explanation of the natural phenomenon of the Erta Ale volcano.
Duration: 4 Days
Destination: Danakil Depration
Day 1: Mekelle — Hamdela
Drive to Hamdela via Berhale. The Danakil Depression can be said to ’begin’ here. It is one of the most inhospitable regions of the world, but is nonetheless spectacular, full of eye–catching colors, as in the sulfur springs. The desert has several points lying more than 100 meters (328 ft.) below sea level. You pass through a small town of Berhale where the camel caravans stop before they proceed to the northern highlands. En route you see many long caravans going to the salt mines and others coming out of the Danakil with their salt loaded camels. (3–4 hrs drive)
Camp at Hamdela.
Day 2: Hamdela — Dodom
We start early, shortly after a 06:30 breakfast, and drive to Dodom at the base of Erta Ale. The 80 kms distance may take about 6 hrs passing through changing landscapes of solidified lava, rock, sand and the occasional palm lined oasis. You pass several small hamlets scattered here and there in this desert land, before reaching Dodom. You will trek from Dodom to Erta Ale which takes about 3 hrs.
Early dinner around 17:00 and trek up to Erta Ale at 20:00. Camels transport all the camping materials and some food, sleeping materials, mattresses and water, to the rim of the volcano, where we spend the night watching the dramatic action of the boiling lava. Erta Ale ranks as one of the most alluring and physically challenging natural attractions anywhere in Ethiopia. It is a shield volcano with a base diameter of 30 kms and 1 kms square caldera at its summit. Erta Ale contains the world’s only permanent lava lake and you will spend an unforgettable night on the top of the mountain.
Day 3: Dodom — Hamdela
Early morning you will rise with the sun with time to walk around pits and craters. The main pit–crater, 200 meters deep and 350 meters across, is sub–circular and three storied. The smaller southern pit is 65 meters wide and about 100 meters deep. You will leave around 7:00 to head back to Dodom for breakfast. You will reach latest at 10:30 AM at the camp and after some time to relax you will drive on to Hamdela, a village with a total population of about 500 people.
Over night camping at Hamdela.
Day 4: Ragad — Dallol — Hamdela — Mekelle
Morning driving tour to Ragad (Asebo), the place where the salts are mined. Observe the breaking of the salt from the ground, cutting into rectangular pieces and loading on camels.
You drive ahead to Dallol and visit the different landscapes formed by volcanic activity— Dallol + Lake Assal + camel caravans.
Excursion to Dallol – 116 meters below sea level and one of the lowest places in the world, colorful salts mining, visit Lake Assal, follow up camel caravans and walk with the Afar people.
Drive back to Hamdela and proceed to Mekelle.
End of Tour.