Trip Code: ZET 027
Mode of Transportation: Surface 4WD
Tour Type: Cultural tour —Historic route

Length: 11 days / 10 night
Group Size: Small size Group tour 1- 13 Participants

Dates: Any date departure
Grade: Adventure touring

Danakil Depression: the lowest & hottest point on the planet- 11 days

Erta Ale ,Dallol,Awash and Lalibela

Danakil Depression- Erta Ale ,Dallol,Awash and Lalibela — 11 days.

The Danakil Desert is located between the Ethiopian plateau and the Red Sea. The salt plain near Dallol is the lowest part at 116 metres below sea level. In prehistoric times, the territory was in the form of a gulf. According to geologists, this is a sea bed that emerged for a brief moment in the history of the planet; the Afar depression will in fact form a future ocean with the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

This geological anomaly means that the entire area is very unstable. There are numerous active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes, /together with secondary manifestations such as the stupendous colours of the salt surfaces, caused by the geysers with their various different chlorides.

This inhospitable territory is home to nomadic sheep-herding Afar people. This tribe has a strong sense of its own identity and enjoys a notable degree of autonomy in its land. The Afar live from their animals, agriculture and the sale of salt that they extract from the salt lakes of the Danakil depression. The salt is loaded onto camels and sold in the markets of the highlands.

Erta Ale is a very remote and rarely visited shield volcano in the Afar region of East Africa. It is Ethiopia’s most active volcano and it has been in a state of continuous eruption since 1967. Daytime temperatures will likely be above 40 degrees Celcius and the base of the volcano actually lies below sea level and it’s summit rises up to 613 Meters. Erta Ale is known for it’s 2 pit craters which have had active lava lakes in the past.

Erta Ale has undergone seven eruption events in the past 125 years. Three of the early eruption dates, 1873, 1903, and 1904 are uncertain. However, 1906, 1940, 1960, and 1967 are well established events. Erta Ale has been erupting continuously since 1967

Climb Erta Ale, an active volcano

Explore the otherworldly landscape of Dallol

The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela

Day 1: Drive to Kombolecha

Driving to Kombolcha via Debre Birhan.  On the way you pass the Mezezo Escarpment, with a good chance to see the endemic gelada baboons.  If today is a Sunday, you can stop in the town of Senbete to visit the lively market including the interesting camel market.

Meal: full board: breakfast /lunch /Dinner

Overnight stay at Sunnyside Hotel

Day 2: Drive to Lalibela

You have a full day driving through stunning countryside, to Lalibela, but there is little traffic and we can stop and take in the epic landscape which we’re passing through.

Meal: full board: breakfast /lunch /Dinner

Overnight stay at panoramic view hotel or similar hotel.

Day 3: Lalibela

The short flight to Lalibela transects amazing rust colored canyons and high jagged peaks. At over 8,500 feet the small town of Lalibela is situated high in the Lasta Mountains. Even though Lalibela has been a destination for travelers and pilgrims since the 16th century, the town is remarkably undeveloped. The day is spent exploring the ancient city and its many rock-hewn churches. Lalibela is arguably one of the most important religious and historical sites in Africa, and certainly in the entire Christian world. Although it is not widely known in the west, Ethiopia was the first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion and, due to Ethiopia’s becoming Christian long before the Catholic church was born or instigated the structure we recognize today, the roots of Ethiopian Orthodox religious practices are as recognizably Jewish as they are Christian. The Lalibela churches are said to have been constructed during King Lalibela’s reign in the 12th and 13th centuries when Lalibela (then known as Roha) was the capital of the Zagwe dynasty. Legend has it that King Lalibela was exiled in Jerusalem and returned to Ethiopia to build a New Jerusalem. There are many theories as to how these architecturally very advanced churches were built, and by whom, including angels and the Knights de Templars. Thanks to UNESCO, the main road to Lalibela has been paved, and in recent years Lalibela finally received electricity. Water shortages are an almost daily occurrence and the hotels ration water.

Meal: full board: breakfast /lunch /Dinner

Overnight stay at panoramic view hotel or similar hotel.

Day 4: Drive to Mekele

Driving to Mekel via Woldia.  On the way you will stop for a rest in Hayk where you can enjoy the views of this stunning lake, visit the local monastery (open for men only)

Meal: breakfast /lunch /Dinner

Overnight stay at Atse Yohannes Hotel or similar.

Day 5: Mekele —Afdera /Denakil Depression

After breakfast drive Drive into the Afdera (Danakil – Afrera salt lake). We leave the main road and continue on an unpaved 4×4 road northwards into the Danakil. The trip leads through rugged moon-landscapes, characterized by volcanic rifts and faults, young black lava flows and gravel desert. After about four hours driving, we reach the flat, salt-covered Danakil depression at the salty lake Afrera by afternoon. There will be time to visit the interesting salines, where pure salt is being produced

Meal: breakfast /lunch /Dinner

Overnight: Camping

Day 6: Afdera - Erta Ale

Afdera Drive to Dodom village (base of Erta Ale). If you are interested, you could join a group of salt workers in the early morning and watch the interesting technique to gain salt from the lake. We then pick up Afar policemen and an Afar guide, then drive though the flat salt and lava desert to the Afar village of Dodom and set camp at the base of Erta Ale volcano. We will start the relatively easy ascend (ca. 10 km, 500 m climbing, ca. 3 hrs) along–the flat flank of Erta Ale’s–shield volcano, while the–camel caravan carries our–luggage and the equipment.–The gently climbing hike–itself follows interesting–lava formations (pahoehoe–lava fields, lava tubes,–hornitos, sand deposits and–rare vegetation) until we–stand on the rim of the–caldera. An easy descend–brings us to the floor of the–caldera and after 10–minutes, we stand on the–active pit crater containing the boiling Lava lake.

Meal: breakfast /lunch /Dinner

Overnight: Camping

Day 7: Ertale —Ahmed Ela —Dallol

Ertale – Ahmed Ela (Transfer to–Lake Assale – salt caravans). The–sometimes difficult 4×4 drive–through the desert northwards to–the large, mostly dry salt lake–near Ahmed Ela is our goal of the–day . In the afternoon and–evening we can watch the–endless camel caravans coming–and going: arriving empty they–are met by the ones leaving packed full with precious salt blocks. After nightfall, we can assist the procedure of assigning Walt cutters (the focolo) to the camel owners (the Arho).

Ahmed Ela – DALLOL volcano-–Ahmed Ela. Aexplore the–fascinating volcano of DALLOL- a–volcano hidden under kilometer-–thick deposit of salt. The volcano–marks its presence by the up–doming of the salt and hundreds–of fumaroles and hot springs in–all colors. We can visit the–remains of a ghost town, almost–entirely built in salt, at DALLOL, where miners lived in the 1930s to extract potash from the DALLOL area. The town is the hottest inhabited place on earth.

Meal: breakfast /lunch /Dinner

Overnight: Camping.

Day 8:Ahmed Ela —Semera

Ahmed Ela – Mekele. (Salt–caravans – salt cutting and–loading – transfer to the–highlands). In the morning, we watch thousands of camels leaving for the salt cutting area. We then drive to the lake and watch the salt cutters and salt shapers at work, following a century-old established order. By the time we leave in the late morning, the first camels are being loaded and the cycle is repeated. For us, it’s time to leave the desert. Our way out follows along a spectacular canyon into the highlands. At a small, clear waterfall, we stop forlunch, to bath and clean the cars from the salt. In the late afternoon, we should already be back on the highland plateau where we stay the night in a small lively town, and enjoy the first cold beer after more than a week!.

Meal: breakfast /lunch /Dinner

Overnight: stay at Erta Ale Motel.

Day 9: Drive to Awash

Will spend–most of the rest of the day driving slowly to the Awash National–Park. As you cross flat, dry farmlands there–is little of scenic interest, but the roadside birds are in plenty:–Augur Buzzards, Long-crested Eagles, Northern Carmine Bee-–eaters, Abyssinian and Rufous-crowned .

Meal: breakfast /lunch /Dinner

Overnight: Stay at Awash fall Lodge.

Day 10:Awash National Park

will spend today exploring Awash National Park. The beauty of Awash is that visitors can explore it on foot, for it is free from typical east African park restrictions, and most dangerous mammals. Spanning 350 square miles, Awash became the first of Ethiopia’s national parks in 1966. It is situated on the Awash River, with its spectacular gorges, and is made up of acacia and scrub-bound plains, with hills and the volcano, Mount Fantalle, in its northern quarter. Ethiopia’s troubles over the last few decades, including population displacement and wars, have taken their toll on the country’s wildlife and large mammal populations have declined markedly. Even so, during our time in Awash we still hope to find Beisa Oryx, Lesser Kudu, Defassa Waterbuck, Soemmering’s Gazelle, Warthog, Salts Dik-dik and Olive Baboons. Predators are rare though and very unlikely to be seen.

The birdlife is exceptional, however, and includes Buff-crested, White-bellied, Kori, and even Arabian Bustards, Lichtenstein’s and Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Rosy- patched and other shrikes, plus many species of hornbills, weavers, woodpeckers, vultures, doves, pigeons, guineafowl, glossy starlings, parrots, bee-eaters, barbets, mousebirds and finches, to name but a few!

Meal: breakfast /lunch /Dinner

Overnight: Stay at Awash fall Lodge.

Day 11:Drive back to Addis Ababa

Drive back to Addis Ababa from Awash National Park is 215km. Driving on towards Meta Hara, you will cross Lake Beseka on a road that seems to hover just above the water. Look for great white pelicans, marabou storks and yellow-billed storks on its shores. On the way you can stop in Sodere to take a shower in the therapeutic hot springs waters.

In the evening before departure, you will be invited a farewell dinner party at one of the best traditional restaurants in Addis where you taste variety of Ethiopian meals, and watch the folkloric dancers of the Ethiopian people.

End of Service and Departure

  • Please note: This tour may precede or follow any other Ethiopian tours offered by Zagwe Ethiopia Tour.
  • This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirement.

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2 Participants USD 1,893 p/p

4 Participants USD 1,835 p/p

6 Participants USD 1,789 p/p

Single Supplement: USD 420

Price inclusive of:-

  • Accommodation on Double / twin room
  • 2-man dome tents while camping
  • Drinking water, up to 4 liters per person per day for 4 days .
  • Foam mats while camping
  • Local Guidesit makes more sense to include different guides for each place, to take advantage of their specific knowledge of the destination. ( service of local guides during site visits)
  • All entrance fees, as per itinerary
  • Guaranteed window seat in 4WD jeeps
  • Airport Transfers
  • City transfer
  • All ground transportations with fuel/ Ground transportation by a newest model air conditioned 4WD /
  • Camels, camel drivers and porters to and from Erta Ale´s summit
  • Armed Afar guards and guides.
  • Private vehicle with driver (road tax, parking, vehicle and driver insurance, accommodation of the driver and allowance)
  • Meal on fallboard (breakfast, lunch and dinner) including either soft drinks or bottled water.
  • Cook and assistance
  • Local police
  • All camping Equipment (Tents, Sleeping Mattress, Sleeping bags, Sheets, Pillows and all cooking utensils)
  • Government Tax
  • Scouts and so on

Price exclusive of: –

  • ¼ International airfare
  • Any alcoholic drinks
  • Personal expense like souvenirs, laundry, etc
  • Tips
  • Any expense which is not stated in the ‘ Included List’ above
  • Visa expenses.
  • Video or photographing fees or tips at different sites.
  • Any alcoholic beverages
  • And any personal item expenses

Summary of accommodation, transport & meals


  • 4WD vehicle
  • Minibus
  • On foot


  • 3 nights Camping
  • 7 nights Hotel


  • 11 breakfasts
  • 11 Lunches
  • 11 dinners

Essential Trip Information

Plan your trip

When to go –The best time to visit this part of Ethiopia is from September — mid of June.

Climate –This trip will see quite a variation in temperatures between, the Danakil Depression — one of the hottest places on Earth, and the Highlands of Ethiopia. We have chosen this time of year as it is the cooler time to be visiting the Danakil, but this can still mean daytime temperatures in the 40s (Centigrade). Night time temperatures in the Danakil are in the 20s and rainfall is very rare. In the Highland of Ethiopia, the weather is fairly consistent all year round, at least in terms of the heat. The only real change is in rainfall. As our trips go between the end of the long rains (Sep) and the beginning of the short ones (May) this should not be a problem. During the day the temperature hovers around the mid 20’s, falling to an overnight low of 6/8 degrees. However when higher at altitude, the evenings will be a bit colder.

Visas — upon request we arrange visas for our travellers, or if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you.

Accommodation – On this particular trip we will be in a combination of hotels and remote camping, where the facilities will be very basic. You will be sleeping in 2 men tents (you can share or have a tent to yourself) and the crew will erect and take down your tent each day (as well as carrying your gear to the next camp-site).

Transport: on this tour includes 4WD vehicles, camel and on foot when trekking.

Food: – Hotel meals are generally good and full of variety. Local dishes tend to be very good if you like hot, spicy food although milder versions can be requested.

Food-wise you will have a private cook for your trek who will provide breakfast, packed lunch, tea and dinner each day. The food is great and delicious with full of variety. Expect bread and pancakes / eggs for breakfast, filling sandwiches for lunch, herbal teas, fantastic coffee and popcorn at the end of a long days trekking and then a massive meal to end the day with soup starter and a hearty main with plenty of veg to finish.

Luggage and packing – The first rule of packing is not to bring too much. There will be plenty of occasions where you’ll need to carry your luggage yourself and so you should be able to do this without help. Most people are surprised at how little they actually need to bring, and it’s normally possible to get laundry done along the way. It doesn’t matter whether you bring a suitcase, rucksack or holdall, but please don­t bring more than 20kg of luggage as this may be difficult to accommodate in the vehicles we use. You’ll also need a day pack. You’ll be walking around a number of sites and villages, as well as walking up Erta Ale, so do consider this when selecting shoes or boots.

Fitness – You don’t need to be especially fit to join the trips , but there will be stairs to climb, hills to walk and sites to explore, so you’ll enjoy it more if you have a reasonable level of fitness. The walk up Erta Ale takes around 4-5 hours and your luggage will be transported by camels .


Small Group Size: On our this tour, we believe it is imperative to keep the group sizes small. Most trips are limited to an average maximum of 13 travellers, thus giving you more access to fragile cultures, better opportunities to interact with local people, and the knowledge you are making less of an impact while there.

Private groups: –The adventures featured in our itinerary are just a starting point for many of our private group travellers. Working closely with our Groups Department we can organize custom designed itineraries for groups of friends, clubs, charity’s, schools or even work colleagues. Our team will assist you with all aspects of your private group adventure from itinerary design to group flights. For group traveller pledge considerable discount.

Customized tours: On request, this tour can be customized for small groups.

Proceeding / additional days: It’s no problem to add days before or after the expedition and we’ll book these for you. If you bring more time, you could do day trips from Addis or take an extension tour

Group booking discount: If at least 5 people together book this trip, 6% discount is given.

Tipping :-If you’re happy with the services of your guide and driver then we would recommend leaving a tip for them at the end of your trip. The amount is entirely up to you, but a reasonable amount for a group to tip would be between £80-120 to both the driver and guide — however it is not obligatory and if you do not wish to tip then this is up to you.

Please remember that all Zagwe Ethiopia tour prices mean NO hidden extras, NO local payments.

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Contact us

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