Durations – 3 days and 3 nights
Transportations – Flight and Drive
Accommodations – Camping and lodging
Tour Code: ATT-AD-0020
It’s located in North East Ethiopia, in the Afar department. Danakil Depression is known for the ‘hottest place on earth’ but that title does the place so much injustice. The Danakil region is so much more than how high the temperature gets – its unique geological features are the ones that draw visitors to visit despite the cost, the many hours of off road driving, and barebone accommodation. A trip to the Danakil Depression is without a doubt, the absolute highlight of Ethiopia. Also, it is a place where the prehistoric sites are located. Also, this trip will pass through Gheralta known for its ancient churches and breathtaking landscapes sometimes called as Ethiopian Arizona.
DAY 1 – FLY MEKELLE AND DRIVE TO HAMED ELA
The Danakil Depression can be said to ‘begin’ here. It is one of the most inhospitable regions of the world, but is nonetheless spectacular, full of eye-catching colors, as in the sulphur springs. The desert has several points lying more than 100 meters (328 ft) below sea level; You pass through a small town of Berhale where the camel caravan stop before they proceed to the northern highlands. En route you see many long camel caravans coming to the salt mine and others going out of the Danakil with their salt loaded camels.(3-4 hrs drive) Camp Hamedela. After drive to reach Hamad Ela, better village with a total population about 500 people. Sun set at Dallol. Over night camping at Hamed Ela.
DAY 2 – HAMED ELA – GHERALTA
Morning tour Drive to Ragad (Asebo), the place where the localities are mining salt. Look the activity of breaking the salt from the ground, cutting in to rectangular pieces and loading on camels. You drive ahead to Dallol and visit the difference landscape formed by volcanic activity, Dallol + Lake Assal + camel caravans. Excursion to Dallol (116 meter below sea level, one of the lowest places in the world) colorful salts mining, visit Lake Assal, follow up camel caravans and walk with the Afar people. Drive back to Hamedela and proceed to Gheralta, en route stop at Atsbi to visit Michael Imba. This church is almost a monolith and three of its walls are completely free of the cliff out of which it is carved. The interior decoration of the church is impressive. It is described as “an artistically finished church”. The church’s ceiling, like that of Wukro Cherkos, is geometrically patterned. Stepped capitals and a large Greek cross hewn in relief on the ceiling can also be seen. The walls have many carvings and the wooden doors are beautifully decorated. There are nine freestanding and sixteen pillars in relief. Mikael Imba is one of the painstakingly carved and complex churches of Tigrai. Mikael Imba is also one of the wealthiest churches in terms of treasures and manuscripts.
DAY 3 – DRIVE MEKELLE
Hawzien has a 3,000 year history. It was originally an old trading centre but today the area is exclusively agricultural. Many ruins in the area still bear testimony to the day in 1988 when the dictator Mengistu wanted to punish rebel fighters and 2,500 people died under an air attack which dropped napalm bombs. Morning drive to Abune Yemata, one of the best known of the “Rock Churches“ in the Gheralta Range with colorful paintings of the new and old testament. Climbing up to the church takes 40 minutes and the view is breathtaking. The church is dated to the late Axumite period around 7th – 8th century AD and the ceiling is decorated with painted domes of saints. Ascending and descending is an adventure by itself.
After descending from Abune Yemata, we drive to Mekelle and en route visit Abreha we Atsbeha. This church was believed to be built in the 4th century by two royal brothers, Abreha Atsbeha, who were responsible for converting Axumite Empire to Christianity. The church is large and cruciform in shape, with interesting architectural features such as cruciform pillars and stepped capitals. There are also well preserved 17th century paintings depicting saints and biblical scenes. The church contains many valuable masterpieces including a beautifully decorated prayer cross, said to have belonged to Frumentius, the first Bishop of Ethiopia, whose ecclesiastical name was Abba Selama, meaning the father of peace.
Through this trip, there will be discussion about the history of the churches of Tigrai and their contribution to the development of architecture in the region.
Danakil security is a safe area. Mobile coverage is now available in the camping site of Hamed Ela village, Dallol area and on the road between Hamed Ela to Ert’ale volcano. Tours travel in convoy and it is prerequisite to have security when visiting the Danakil.