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Colourful Miracles
8-day expedition to Erta Ale, Dallol, salt lakes (Danakil depression, Ethiopia)
"...Few holidays will be more memorable than a week like this in Ethiopia..." (Simeon B, UK - June 2018)
The Dallol salt dome with a foreground of dark green acid ponds with yellow ´salt cakes´ (Dec 2010; image: Tom Pfeiffer)
The Dallol salt dome with a foreground of dark green acid ponds with yellow ´salt cakes´ (Dec 2010; image: Tom Pfeiffer)
Strong nighttime glow of the active lava lake as seen from the caldera rim (bluish lights to the right are observers at Erta Ale camp site) (Dec 2010; image: Tom Pfeiffer)
Strong nighttime glow of the active lava lake as seen from the caldera rim (bluish lights to the right are observers at Erta Ale camp site) (Dec 2010; image: Tom Pfeiffer)

Colourful miracles

8-day expedition to Erta Ale, Dallol, salt lakes (Danakil depression, Ethiopia)
Tour type
Volcano expedition: active volcanoes - photography - adventure
Group size: 4-10
6 - 8 days
Custom and group dates
Price per person
$ 2650 €£¥
A compact expedition of 8 days, starting and ending in Semera, we go straight to the heart of the Danakil desert and explore the active Erta Ale volcano with its new lava lake and the impressive Dallol hydrothermal fields!
After climbing to the volcanoes summit in the morning you meet a beautiful sunrise at the rim of the crater. Spending 2 days allow you to study the volcanoes craters and the new fissure eruption site on the volcano's flank. After descending the volcano you travel onward to the Danakil Depression, where you spend about 2 days exploring the colorful hydrothermal deposits of Dallol, acid lakes, salt formations and camel caravans. At the end you will stay at Afdera Salt lake.
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  • Visit famous craters of Erta Ale volcano
  • Exploration of fascinating Dallol,
  • Sunset at Assale salt lake
  • Watching camel caravans
  • Visit Afdera Salt Lake
  • Experienced Ethiopian volcanologist as main guide
  • Small international group
  • Dedicated supply vehicle with excellent camping cook
  • Competent and friendly team and drivers
  • Interaction with Afar people, introduction into local customs

8 days itinerary

8 days expedition to the heart of the Danakil desert to explore the volcano Erta Ale and the fascinating alien landscape of the hydrothermal deposits at Dallol, Assale salt lake and the camel caravans.
Day 1: Arrival to Semera (Capital city of Afar Region)
Arrival to Semera, pick up at the Airport, transfer to the Hotel. After check in to your Hotel, we drive about 40Km as an excursion short sightseeing Tour and acclimatization of Afar Region Desert , with active Geothermal and volcanic ranges of Alelo Bad hot springs pools and hydrothermal deposits south of Manda Harraro. Overnight at Semera
Day 2: Semera – Erta Ale (300 km)
After breakfast at the Hotel, we meet with Enku (your organizer and Guide) at your Hotel about 07:00 Am and proceed to Erta Ale Volcanic Field through the Old Danakil sea . Today you have a chance to see a glance of the fresh lava flow and tectonically affected mountain ranges. Both recent basalts of spreading Axes, recent sediments and Highland rock sequences dominate the road Geology of the area where you are driving through. Paper work Processing with Erta Ale area chief and administrators for further continue of Erta Ale active volcano and get a permission for the visit. More to see the fresh lava flows. Overnight at the Base camp of Erta Ale
Day 3: Ascent to Erta Ale's summit
Early morning ascend to Erta Ale´s summit (ca. 1,5-2 h, 10 km, 500 m height), breakfast on the rim and morning group tour around Erta Ale´s caldera. After lunch, free to relax and explore the summit caldera.
Day 4: Descend from Erta Ale to basecamp, drive to Hamed Ela
Early morning descend from Erta Ale back down to basecamp, breakfast, 4X4 drive to return to the main road and continue our journey to the Afar village of Hamed Ela.
Day 5: Full day to explore Dallol and surroundings
From our base in Hamed Ela we undertake a number of morning and afternoon expeditions to explore the colourful hydrothermal system of Dallol, the vast salt deposits and saline Lake Assale, the traditional way of salt cutting and transport by camel caravans.
Day 6: Assale salt lake - Afdera
Morning visit of Lake Assale, salt mining and camel loading – and transfer to
Abala / Afdera .
Day 7: Afdera Salt lake - Semera
Afdera Salt lake. Drive to Semera
Day 8: Flight back to Addis Abeba or extension
After breakfast, transfer to the airport if you fly back to Addis Ababa.
On request, we can arrange a city tour in Addis Abeba or extension programs, for example to Lalibela or the Simien mountains.
Dates and details
Booking inquiry

Tour guide

Enku is the main guide on all our Danakil volcano expeditions. After obtaining a Diploma in Travel Organising and completing his BSc in Geology at the University of Addis Ababa, he spend 10 years traveling through Ethiopia whilst working both as free-lance travel guide and a contracted mining geologist for different oil and gold mining companies. Since 2006 he specialised in geological travel guidance for the Danakil depression and hence has lots of experience and competence in organizing expeditions to Erta Ale and Dallol. He likes to share his vast knowledge on the geology of the Danakil but will also gladly answer any questions you might have regarding Ethiopia´s fauna and flora, culture, history, food or traditions!
Our excellent Ethiopian main guide and geologist Enku!

Additional info

Physical requirements

The walks on this tour are not particularly difficult, but you should have experience with hiking on uneven and rugged terrain. Although we organise our Danakil during the cooler months of the year, temperatures in the Danakil depression usually range between 35-40 deg C (95-105 deg F), but can easily soar up to 45-50 deg C (120-130 deg F) in the hottest hours near Dallol.
The hike to / from Erta Ale´s summit area and caldera rim from base camp and back requires about 10 km trekking over uneven, but relatively easy and gently climbing terrain (about 500 m altitude gain / descend) and is done in the early morning hours prior to sunrise in order to minimize the impact of heat. To approach the edge of the lava lake and other parts of the caldera one needs to walk across the uneven, easy to moderately difficult to walk on platy, ropy or hollow pahoehoe lava flows. Good boots, long pants and gloves are a must. Extra care must be taken when walking over the lava tubes as the thin, glassy crusts of the hardened lava sometimes break so that you suddenly sink up to max halve meter into the hollow cavity below. Walking sticks to "test" the terrain and keep balance are recommended.

Sanitary conditions during most part of this expedition will be very to extremely basic and you should therefore be in excellent overall health. No proper washing facilities are available while in the desert (approx. 7 days). Unfortunately, the local toilet habits in the Afar region and in particular around the salt lakes and atop the volcano is to do your business more or less anywhere; the area around Ahmed Ela (the salt-cutters'town near Dallol) is littered with garbage and human and animal excrement, resulting in a high rate of stomach bugs / traveler´s disease among visitors to the region.
We therefore ask you to consult a medical doctor about going to the Danakil prior to joining the expedition. One should particularly take precautions / medicine against dehydration, diarrhea and stomach infections.

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