Durations – 4 days and 5 nights
Transportations – Flight and Drive
Accommodations – Camping and lodging
Tour Code: ATT-AD-0022
The Danakil is located in Northern Ethiopia, in the Afar department. Danakil Depression is known as 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 barebones 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.
Mekelle is the ideal and easy place to access the Danakil. Our departure tours starts from Mekelle around 9AM. If you are travelling to and from Addis our tours are arranged so that you are able to leave Addis on the morning flight to arrive in Mekele, where you will be met at the airport by one of our guides and you can join the group that will leave for the Danakil that morning.
You return to Mekele after your Danakil trip at around 5pm. This gives you time to catch the flight back to Addis if you wished to return that night.
DAY 1 – MEKELLE CITY TOUR
After a relaxed morning breakfast, take a city tour of Mekelle, founded by Emperor Yohannes IV as his capital, after he relocated his power base from Debra Berhane, to Mekele in 1881. Mekele is also the capital city of the Tigray National Regional State. Late this afternoon we will take a Mekelle City Tour. We will view to the impressive DejatchAbraha Castle built in the heart of the city around 1906. Today the castle is a hotel. We will also stop to visit the Hawelti (Monument of the Martyrs) erected to dignify the valiant fighters who sacrificed themselves to emancipate their people from the dictatorial military regime (1974-1991). The artistic tower, spiraling more than 100 feet above the ground and mounted by a large ball, is visible through much of Mekele. This is the centerpiece of the large war memorial. The memorial is modern and engrossing. As you enter, on each side, there are larger than life figures representing the victims and victors of the war. Appropriately black and stick like, the figures include mothers and children trekking out from the famine, several of them not making it. With them are the hardy Tigrain fighters, machine guns over their backs and trusty donkeys in tow. These peasant fighters overcame the Soviet backed might of the Derg military regime.
Later after a lunch break, we will visit historical Atse Yohannes IV Palace, which is named after the famous King who ruled Ethiopia from 1872 to 1889. Emperor Yohannes chose Mekele as the seat of his government and built his graceful palace, still intact, in the 1870s. The palace now serves as a museum and is highlighted by the Emperor’s throne, the royal bed, his ceremonial dress, rifles, and many other valuable historical collections. The fantastic throne of Atse Yohannnes IV was made by the Italian engineer Giacomo Nareri in 1874 and it is the eye catching centerpiece of the museum.
DAY 2 – DRIVE HAMED ELA VIA BERHALE
Drive to Hamedela via Berhale. 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 caravans stop before they proceed to the northern highlands. En route you see many long caravans going to the salt mines and others coming out of the Danakil with their salt loaded camels. (3-4 hrs drive) Camp at Hamedela.
DAY 3 – DRIVE DODOM
We start early, shortly after a 06:30 breakfast, and drive to Dodom at the base of Erta Ale. This may be one of the worst road in the world. The 80 km distance may take about 6 hrs passing through changing landscape of solidified lava, rock, sand and the occasional palm lined oasis. You pass several small hamlets scattered here and there in this desert land, before reaching Dodom. You will trek from Dodom to Erta Ale which takes about 3 hrs. Early dinner around 17:00 and trek up to Ert Ale at 20:00. Camels transport all the camping materials and some food, sleeping materials, mattresses and water, to the rim of the volcano, where we spend the night watching the dramatic action of the boiling lava. Erta Ale ranks one of the most alluring and physically challenging natural attractions anywhere in Ethiopia. It is a shield volcano with a base diameter of 30 km and 1km square caldera at its summit. Erta Ale contains the world’s only permanent lava lake and you will spend an unforgettable night on the top of the mountain.
DAY 4 – DRIVE HAMED ELA
Early morning you will rise with the sun with time to walk around pits and craters. The main pit-crater, 200 m deep and 350 m across, is sub-circular and three storied. The smaller southern pit is 65 m wide and about 100 m deep. You will leave around 7:00 to head back to Dodom for breakfast. You will reach latest at 10:30 am at the camp and after some time to relax you will drive on to Hamad Ela, a village with a total population about 500 people. Over night camping at Hamed Ela.
DAY 5 – DRIVE MEKELLE
Morning driving tour to Ragad (Asebo), the place where the salts are mined. Observe the breaking of the salt from the ground, cutting into 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 Mekele.