Danakil Depression Tour Korkor Lodge

Danakil Depression & the Afar Triangle Tours

Hot springs in the Danakil Depression

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An other-worldly landscape of salt caravans and sulphur hot springs

Be adventurous with a tailor made Danakil Depression tour to one of the hottest places on earth

There are few, if any more visually stunning yet inhospitable and inaccessible places on Earth than Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression. Geographically speaking it covers a vast swathe of the Afar Triangle, which is in the North-East of the country, running up towards the borders with Eritrea and Djibouti. Historically the Danakil was an important area for salt mining, with the local Afar tribespeople extracting the salt from the incredibly harsh landscapes and taking it through to Mekelle and Semera for trading with their ‘salt caravans’ of endless streams of camels. More recently the area has become a focus for potash mining companies, although the security situation, most notably the now ended dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea, has put a brake on development.

Danakil Depression expeditions start and end in Mekelle, which tour companies use as a supply base, since everything you need for a trip to the Danakil must be carried with you. There are three main attractions within the Danakil Depression for visitors to see, namely the sulphur encrusted hot springs at Dallol, the iconic Erta Ale volcano and Lake Afrera, a highly saline lake which sits 100 metres below sea level. Trips here tend to follow a similar pattern and we suggest 3 nights and 4 days to visit the area. Starting from Mekelle you will be driven to Dallol to visit the sulphur springs, a simply incredible area, characterised by the numerous sulphurous geysers, which have turned the whole area to a carpet of colours ranging from pale yellows to deep, rusty reds and everything in between. After a night in Dallol you will head down towards the Erta Ale Volcano, camping overnight and ascending the volcano in the dark, offering the most spectacular sighting of the lava lake and taking advantage of the cooler conditions. From there it is on to Lake Afrera for another overnight before making the long journey back to Mekelle by road. Any trip to the Danakil is ‘sandwiched’ by nights in Mekelle either side, so allow five or even six nights for a side-trip here.

Doubtless trips to the Danakil Depression are very challenging, from a logistics, accommodation and temperature point of view. Generally, we recommend travelling between November and March each year, which is the ‘cooler’ time to visit the area, with daytime temperatures in the 40s and night time temperatures in the mid-20s. April to August needs to be avoided as temperatures soar towards the 50s, whilst September and October are for only the hardiest travellers. The road leaving Mekelle is now tarred for over 300kms, but from there it is a case of taking the path of least resistance to get around, making for long days in the vehicle. Accommodation is limited to camping close to the main attractions, with all food, water, firewood and camping equipment carried with you. This means a second vehicle is taken along, with a team to look after you as well as mandatory armed scouts for your security. Whilst this can sometimes raise alarm, it is precautionary and helps to ensure safety in what has historically been a volatile area.

One element of travelling to the Danakil that needs to be considered is cost. Set departures leave Mekelle every 2 or 3 days and are by far the most cost-effective way to visit the area and cover all of the main highlights. Those looking to travel privately incur the full costs of a private trip, including covering all of the ‘fees’ levied on travelling to the area by the local Afar Tribesmen. These are often applied on a whim for various services they have supposedly rendered to you, but are part and parcel of travelling to this extraordinary area.

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