I went on a Brilliant Ethiopia expedition to visit Lake Afdera and Erta Ale – an active lava lake – in the Danakil region, and then on to Dallol in the Danakil Depression (“one of the driest, lowest and hottest places on earth“) to admire the colourful salt deposits that make you feel like you’re on another planet.

The expedition itinerary

Day 1: Drive to Afdera via the small village of Eribt. Afdera is home to Lake Afdera, where you can have a swim and enjoy the hot springs around the lake. Spend the evening camping by the lake in this beautiful region.

Day 2: In the morning, drive to Mekele to begin your journey into the Danakil Depression. Visit the salt miners before driving to Dodom at the base of Erta Ale. The trek to the crater takes about 3 hrs. Have an early dinner around 17:00 hrs and trek up to Ertale at 20:00 hrs. Camels transport all the camping materials and food to the rim of the volcano, where you spend the night watching the boiling lava. You will sleep in a local shelter on the top of the mountain.

Erta Ale ranks as one of the most amazing 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. The north crater is noted for being the longest existing lava lake, and south crater is the most active lava lake.

Day 3: Wake up early to enjoy the sunrise and visit the north crater. Descend from Erta Ale around 07:00am. Drive to Dodom. After breakfast, proceed to Hamad Ela (100km), having a picnic lunch on the way in the shade of palm trees. Reach Hamad Ela at 16:30. Hamad Ela has a total population of about 500 people.

Day 4: In the morning while it is still cool, drive to Dallol. The fantastic greens, reds, yellows, pinks, whites and blacks of the salt deposits here are kaleidoscopic sights amidst the searing heat of this remote, alien landscape. Drive back to Ragad (Asebo), where the locals mine salt and load their camel caravans. Following your visit here, drive ahead to Hamedela and proceed to Mekele. Overnight hotel in Mekele.

Day 5: Fly from Mekele to Lalibela for the last part of the tour (see the Lalibela page).

Over time I will write my experiences of each day, in the meantime I hope my Danakil Gallery (below) gives a flavour of the tour.