Trip Code: ZET 026
Mode of Transportation: Air & Surface 4WD
Tour Type: Cultural tour —Historic route

Length: 5 days / 4 night
Group Size: 1- 20 Participants

Dates: Any date departure
Grade: Adventure touring

Expedition to Danakil Depression: The Hell on Earth — 5days

Erta Ale - the living Shield Volcano

Adventure Holiday to Danakil Depression/Dallol/Erta Ale volcano/Afdera/Mekel /Addis Ababa —5 days tour

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 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
  • Camp on the shores of Lake Afrera

Day 1: fly to Mekel — Drive to Afdera /Denakil Depression/

Early morning fly to Mekel and After breakfast 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: full board: breakfast /lunch /Dinner

Overnight stay camping.

Day 2: 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: full board: breakfast /lunch /Dinner

Overnight stay camping.

Day 3: 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: full board: breakfast /lunch /Dinner

Overnight stay camping.

Day 4: Ahmed Ela —Mekele

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: full board: breakfast /lunch /Dinner

Overnight stay camping.

Day 5: Fly to Addis Ababa- City tour

Fly back to Addis Ababa ,On arrival in Addis Ababa you will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel for overnight. we have a full-day city tour, which departs at 9:00am from the hotel. Addis Ababa is the third highest capital city in the world. Located at 2,400 metres above sea level in one of the highest parts of the Entoto mountain chain. We take time to explore the city. We will visit the National Museum (home of the remains of the famous hominid fossil, “Lucy”) and the Ethnological Museum at the Addis Ababa University (housed in the former palace of Emperor Haile Selassie). We will also witness the bustle of the one of the colourful local markets, which has an array of fascinating goods and curios, providing a great place for exploration and people watching.

Those on the group flights will be have access to day use rooms in the hotel in Addis Ababa before being taken to the airport for the overnight flight back to your home. The trip ends in Addis Ababa.

Meal: full board: breakfast /lunch /Dinner

  • 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.

Not finding what you are looking for? We'll customize your itinerary for you!

Send us Your travel Plan

Zagwe Tour Ethiopia


How much would you like to spend including flight?

we very much look forward...

How much would you like to spend including flight?

we very much look forward...


2 Participants USD 735 p/p

4 Participants USD 693 p/p

6 Participants USD 674 p/p

Single Supplement: USD 120

  • The above flight rate will only apply if arrival into Ethiopia was done with the Ethiopian Airlines.

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: –

  • International and domestic 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
  • 1 nights Hotel


  • 5 breakfasts
  • 5 Lunches
  • 5 dinners

Essential information

Getting around Mekel -Danakil depression: -Because of the state of the roads, the distances involved and the quality of the alternative (flying) most short term visitors use internal flights in Ethiopia. There are reliable daily flights between Addis Ababa and Mekele as wall as Addis Ababa to Semera.

If you have more time, or delight in the joys of overland travel, we can provide you vehicles (4WD)

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.


A trip to Danakil depression is not a normal holiday, but a real expedition into one of the most extreme deserts on the planet, located within a depression that reaches the lowest point of 120 meters below sea level. Characterized by the presence of some active volcanoes, as well as a huge crust made of different types of salts up to 3000 meters thick, the Danakil depression offers landscapes made of shapes and colors, absolutely unique in the world. Although in recent years the tours to Danakil have increased in popularity, it’s important to not forget that a trip to this region needs an impressive logistic, either because of the isolation, either because of the terrible environmental conditions, requiring a great spirit of adaptation from the visitor.


Erta Ale. The Erta Ale volcano rises about 600 meters from the bottom of the Danakil depression and until November 2010, it was offering the unique sight of a lake of lava in constant boiling. Unfortunately, a great eruption occurred in the month of November 2010, has changed the landscape in the crater, damaging the beautiful lake of lava not visible anymore.

Dallol. It ‘an ancient volcanic crater about 60 meters below sea level, characterized by the presence of acid lakes colored in green, red, yellow and blue, for the presence of various minerals which forms also bizarre colorful deposits. With its average annual temperature of 34.4 degrees centigrade, this is the hottest spot on the planet.

Afdera Lake (also called Lake Giulietti or Afrera lake). It is a salt-water lake located approximately 100 meters below sea level, where there are numerous salt pans used by Afar people to collect this precious mineral.

Salt flats. This is a vast expanse of salt located at an average altitude of 120 meters below sea level, where the Afar, local people living in terrible conditions, excavate “tiles” of salt, which are then dispatched to the markets of Ethiopia using camels, mules and donkeys.

Accommodation – On this particular trip we will be in a combination of hotels and remote camping, where the facilities will be very good . we 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.

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

Adventure Rating
Comfort Grade
Fitness Level

Contact us

  •   1km away from Bole airport, Addis Ababa

  •    Office:251-118-100025

  •    Fax:251-118-100025

  •    Mobile:251-911-983256

  •    Mail:


© Copyright 2016 by Zagwee Ethiopia Tour and Travel | Designed By Abyssinia Techno Net