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Fire and Salt in the Desert

- expedition to Erta Ale volcano and the Danakil depression (Ethiopia) -

Erta Ale's lava lakeExploding lava bubble Hot spring on the salt lakeWatching the lava lakeBizarre salt structures at DallolCutting salt blocksBizarre salt geysers at Dallol
Tour code: ETH_FDD
Tour type: Expedition: active volcanoes - photography - adventure
Difficulty: Moderate
Duration: 9 days / 8 night


Custom tour dates only

Price (p.p.): on request


  • Accommodation in double rooms / tents
  • Full board from lunch on first day until breakfast after last hotel night
  • Drinking water from D4-10 (8 liters per person per day)
  • Full camping equipment (except sleeping bag for hygiene reasons)
  • Private transport in A/C 4WD vehicles
  • All fees / taxes for transits, entries etc.
  • Experienced driver guides and cooks
  • Satellite phone for emergency contact
  • Armed Afar guards and guides
  • Camels for luggage transport to Erta Ale
  • Professional English-/French-/ or German- speaking guide and staff
The Danakil depression is one of the world's most extraordinary places, where giant tectonic forces rip the crust apart. Active volcanoes, deep depression and infinite salt deposits are the result. The Danakil is one of the most hostile and fascinating places, but also home to one of the richest salt deposits. For millennia, the salt has been being faught over, exploited and exported. It is ruled over by the proud tribe of the Afar. Up to today, this work is being done as in biblical times.
We can arrange this expedition for individuals or small groups at custom dates on demand. The trip starts and ends in Mekele and can easily combined with other activities and tours in Ethiopia.
  • 2-3 full days/nights at the active lava lake of Erta Ale
  • Fascinating rock and salt formations at Dallol volcano
  • Spectacular and varied landscapes of highlands, volcanoes and deserts
  • Century-old salt mining at Lake Assale
  • Professionally outfitted expedition and thorough preparation
  • Comfortable 4x4 transfers: maximum 3 clients per car, 2 in each seat row
  • Interaction with local people - ecotourism principle
  • Small group sizes
  • Experienced professional staff
  • Flexible trip dates - individual departures

9 days Danakil expedition

This is a sample itinerary to visit the Danakil with both Erta and Dallol if you only have limited time. We do not recommend making this trip even shorter, which would mean taking out days at Erta Ale and Dallol.
Day 1: Arrival in Mekele
Arrival in Mekele (if needed flight to Mekele & pick-up from airport in Mekele) & transfer to hotel. Dinner and briefing with your guide.
Acc.: : good mid-class hotel in Mekele (D)
Day 2: Mekele - into the Danakil desert
Early start from Mekele and descend into the Rift Valley, ca. 2500 m below Mekele! A long and rough ride through a steep gorge awaits you, but this is rewarded by some of the most spectacular scenery you can imagine.
Half way into the desert, at Berahile, mandatory Afar policemen and guides are picked up after completing the permit formalities to enter the desert.
By late afternoon, you will arrive at the shore of the Salt Lake, where you spend the first night in the miners' village Ahmed Ela.
Acc.: : in your tents (or simply under the stars) or inside simple wooden shelters (B, L, D)
Day 3: Salt Lake to Erta Ale volcano
Drive south crossing the desert to the base of Erta Ale and camp there.
Acc.: : camp (B, L, D)
Day 4: Day-time ascend to Erta Ale volcano with camels
Easy hike up to the volcano (ca. 3 hrs), accompanied by a camel caravan to carry equipment.
Acc.: : Improvised camp on Erta Ale (B, L, D)
Day 5: Full day to observe Erta Ale's lava lake and the caldera
Acc.: : as before (camp on Erta Ale) (B, L, D)
Day 6: Descend from Erta Ale - transfer to the salt lake and Dallol (Ahmed Ela)
Leave Erta Ale in the morning, descend from the mountain and drive back crossing the desert to reach the salt lake in the afternoon.
Acc.: : camp in simple huts at Ahmed Ela (B, L, D)
Day 7: Dallol volcano
Full day to visit Dallol volcano and its ghost town in the salt lake.
Acc.: : as before (Ahmed Ela) (B, L, D)
Day 8: Salt caravans - salt cutting and loading - transfer back to Mekele
Watch camels leaving, visit the salt cutting and shaping area where. Return to the highlands along a 4x4 road through a river canyon. Lunch stop at a waterfall. Transfer until Mekele.
Acc.: : hotel in Mekele (B, L, D)
Day 9: Transfer to the airport, end of service
Our service ends with transfer to the airport or another nearby destination. You could start an additional tour from Mekele (e.g. Highland tour, Lalibela etc.).
Acc.: : none (B)

Arrival info:

The expedition starts and ends in Mekele. On request, we can book your flight to Mekele as well.


Mixed standards: in the towns, we use hotels of good local standards, but you should not expect any luxury. In the villages, the best options will be basic hotels or using the mattresses / tents. In the desert and on the volcano, we sleep usually under the stars or (if it's not too hot) in tents or under a cover.


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