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Desert, Salt and Volcanoes

- expedition to Erta Ale volcano and Dallol hydrothermal field (Danakil desert, Ethiopia) -

"A very memorable trip ... exactly the kind of thing I've been looking for" (Jim K., UK - November 2015)
Erta Ale's lava lake in 2008
Erta Ale's lava lake in 2008
Green ponds and yellow-brown salt deposits at Dallol
Green ponds and yellow-brown salt deposits at Dallol
Exploding lava bubble on the lava lake of Erta Ale volcano
Exploding lava bubble on the lava lake of Erta Ale volcano
Camel caravan passing a hot spring on the salt lake
Camel caravan passing a hot spring on the salt lake
Erta Ale´s perched lava lake ready to overflow in late 2010 (Roland Gerth)
Erta Ale´s perched lava lake ready to overflow in late 2010 (Roland Gerth)
Sunrise at the shore of Afdera salt lake (Roland Gerth)
Sunrise at the shore of Afdera salt lake (Roland Gerth)
Lava glow and moon light illuminating observers of the lava lake
Lava glow and moon light illuminating observers of the lava lake
One of the many camels that bring up luggage to Erta Ale´s caldera rim
One of the many camels that bring up luggage to Erta Ale´s caldera rim
Bizarre salt geysers at Dallol
Bizarre salt geysers at Dallol
Overturning of the crust on a lava lake in the new fissure eruption site (Stefan Tommasini)
Overturning of the crust on a lava lake in the new fissure eruption site (Stefan Tommasini)
Cutting salt blocks
Cutting salt blocks
Observing the active lava lake at sunrise
Observing the active lava lake at sunrise
Tigray lady at the marker in Wakru (Jay Ramji)
Tigray lady at the marker in Wakru (Jay Ramji)
Canyons cut out in the Dallol salt dome (Stefan Tommasini)
Canyons cut out in the Dallol salt dome (Stefan Tommasini)
Green ponds of acid hydrothermal water at Dallol (Jay Ramji)
Green ponds of acid hydrothermal water at Dallol (Jay Ramji)
Experience one of the geologically most active areas on the planet! The Danakil desert is famous for Erta Ale, one of the world´s few active volcanoes constantly hosting a boiling lava lake and the surreal landscapes of colors, salt, geysers andsprings at the hydrothermal fields of Dallol.

See the dramatic change of environment when the jeep expedition starts in Addis Ababa (at 2355 m), and gradually descents into the Danakil depression, passing through Awash National Park before reaching the banks of Afrera salt lake (at - 100 m). The journey continues as we climb Erta Ale shield volcano and spend 3 full days and nights exploring the volcano´s caldera. We then set up camp at the Afar village of Hamed Ela and have 2 full days to discover the hydrothermal area of Dallol and Assale salt lake, including the centuries-old ritual of salt cutting. Finally explore the UNESCO world heritage site of the rock hewn churches of Lalibela.

We have been organising tours to the Danakil since early 2007 and hence have expertise in arranging such expeditions. Our highly competent Ethiopian main guide and volcanologist Enku and his friendly team will safely take you through the desert in 4x4 jeeps. The sometimes Spartan character of living conditions in the Danakil are partially compensated by the large variety of meals freshly prepared by our cook!
  • Spectacular, varied scenery of forested highlands, upland grassland, steppe, desert, shield volcano and salt lake deposits
  • Short morning safari in Awash National Park
  • Afrera salt lake camping with hot springs bath under the stars
  • 3 full days/nights on the summit of Erta Ale active volcano
  • 2 visits to the colourful and fascinating hydrothermal activity at Dallol
  • Century-old salt mining and camel caravans at Lake Assale
  • Full day for Lalibela rock hewn churches (UNESCO world heritage site)
  • Small international groups
  • Experience - we organise Danakil adventures since 2007
  • Professionally outfitted expedition and thorough preparation
  • Excellent Ethiopian volcanologist as main guide
  • Comfortable travel in 4x4 jeeps (window seat guaranteed)
  • Dedicated supply vehicle and experienced cook
  • Competent and friendly local team and drivers
  • No rushing from place to place - plenty photographic opportunities
  • Interaction with local people, introduction into local customs

14 days itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Addis-Abeba
Arrival at the airport of Addis Ababa, transfer to the hotel and welcome dinner
Acc.: Nice hotel in Addis-Abeba (D)
Day 2: From Addis Ababa to Awash
Morning start of our jeep expedition: driving into the Rift Valley and arrive in Awash by the evening. Besides lunch, there are a few stops planned along the way to take in the changing landscape and get an introduction into its geological formation.
Acc.: comfortable hotel or guesthouse in Awash (B, L, D)
Day 3: Awash National Park and drive to Logiya
Morning safari in Awash National Park and continuing our drive through the Rift Valley to the small town of Logiya.
Acc.: basic hotel or camping in Logiya (B, L, D)
Day 4: From Logiya into the Danakil, camping at Afdera salt lake
Continue driving along the main road from Logiya to Serdo, then turn northward through a volcanic desert landscape into the Danakil depression - campsite at the shore of Afdera salt lake.
Acc.: camping next to Lake Afdera (B, L, D)
Day 5: From Afdera salt lake to Erta Ale base camp
Morning option to further explore the salt works and mining town before we drive onward to the Erta Ale´s base camp, the final hours being a proper off-road 4x4 drive through the Afar desert.
Acc.: camping at Erta Ale base camp (B, L, D)
Day 6: Early morning ascend - daytime exploring of Erta Ale´s caldera
Early morning ascend to Erta Ale´s summit (ca. 3 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.
Acc.: camping on the caldera rim of Erta Ale (B, L, D)
Day 7: Exploring Erta Ale´s fissure eruption site
Hiking expedition to the site on the volcano's flank where since January 2017 a new eruption is going on.
Acc.: as before (camping on Erta Ale´s caldera rim) (B, L, D)
Day 8: Third full day on Erta Ale for observation and photography
Full day and night on Erta Ale to observe the volcanic activity at both the eruption sites
Acc.: as before (camping on Erta Ale´s caldera rim) (B, L, D)
Day 9: 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.
Acc.: camping in the Afar village of Hamed Ela (B, L, D)
Day 10: Full day to explore Dallol
This day focuses on discovering the colourful alien landscape of the hydrothermal system at Dallol. We organise two visits - around sunrise and sunset - to optimise light conditions for photography whilst also minimising exposure to the mid-day sun and heat.
Acc.: as before (camping in Hamed Ela) (B, L, D)
Day 11: Lake Assale, salt mining and camel loading - transfer to Mekele
This day is reserved for the glistening plane of Assale salt lake, traditional salt cutting and camel loading, and the irregularly formed salt deposits and colourful acid ponds south of Dallol. In the afternoon we leave the Dallol area and drive up to the highlands and spend the night in Mekele.
Acc.: comfortable hotel in Mekele (B, L, D)
Day 12: Drive from Mekele to Lalibela
Full day (about 400 km) drive from Mekele (Tigray region) southwards to Lalibela (Amhara region) which is one of the most historic towns in Ethiopia due to its world famous, UNESCO world heritage, rock hewn churches.
Acc.: comfortable hotel in Lalibela (B L, D)
Day 13: Lalibela rock hewn churches
Full day visit of the UNESCO world heritage site of the rock hewn churches of Lalibela.
Acc.: As before (comfortable hotel in Lalibela) (B, L, D)
Day 14: Flight from Lalibela to Addis Ababa - end of tour
A morning flight takes us back to Addis Ababa, free afternoon prior to international flight
Acc.: none (optional hotel nights in Addis Ababa on request) (B)

Arrival info:

The expedition starts and ends in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia´s capital. International flights to and from Ethiopia are not included as default, but feel free to contact us if you would like any assistance with finding the best flight connections for you.

Tour code: ETH_EDA
Tour type: Expedition: active volcanoes - photography - adventure
Difficulty: Moderate
Group size: 4-11
Duration: 14 days / 13 nights

Dates:

17-30 Nov 2018
8-21 Dec 2018
9-22 Feb 2019
2-15 Mar 2019

Price (p.p.): $ 4530  ? 

Included:

  • Accommodation in double rooms / tents
  • Full board from dinner on the first day until breakfast after last hotel night
  • Drinking water, up to 8 liters per person per day from day 4 to 10
  • Professional Ethiopian guide who is an English-speaking geologist
  • Private transport in 4WD vehicles
  • Guaranteed window seat in 4WD jeeps
  • Experienced 4WD drivers and cook
  • Full camping equipment
  • Camels, camel drivers and porters to and from Erta Ale´s summit
  • Armed Afar guards and guides on Erta Ale and in Dallol
  • All fees for transits, entries etc.
  • Tips for local staff (porters, camel drivers, guards, local guides, ...)
  • Internal flight from Mekele back to Addis Ababa

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!
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