How to travel to Danakil, Ethiopia

There are places in the world that are truly unique, and this is one of them. It’s called “Danakil depression”, “Afar depression” or “Afar triangle” and it’s located north of Ethiopia, in the border with Eritrea. Be advised: you have to be ready for quite an adventure.

We set off from Gondar and after 12 hours we got to Mekelle, the second largest city in the country. We spent the night there and had a jeep waiting for us the next morning to star our adventure. The journey lasted 3 hours. It was hot. The jeep fits four people plus the driver, and food and water were included in the tour’s fee. Since there were some incidents 4 years ago with tourists, the region can only be accessed with custody and prior notice to the police. I paid € 300 for the 4-day tour.

We crossed through a desert area, where temperatures reached 113 °F. Although, to be fair, between June and August it can get up to 131 °F. We had lunch on a village. It wasn’t easy: the heat came out of the walls. Besides the driver, there was also a tour guide and a cook, who made all of our very tasty meals.

We reached the base of the “Erta Ale” volcano, whose name means “smoking mountain”, one of the few volcanos with easy and allowed access, by the afternoon. At 6 pm, once the sun came down, we started walking towards the top of the volcano. It took us roughly 3 and a half hours. You can also climb on camels, but that’s a different price. That night we would not only see the volcano on its peak, with flashes of lava included, but we’d also sleep at barely 164 yards from it. The mattresses were brought on the camels and we carried the sleeping bags.

While it was one of the best experiences of my life, I must confess I was afraid.

The volcano has been active for a long time and its last eruption was in 1967. For instance, two months ago, access was prohibited for a week, given that lava had started to erupt beyond 218 yards from the volcano.

We took our pictures, admired the eruptions, and then had dinner and went to bed.

Sleep is done in open air, with the camels close by. Although it wasn’t that hot, there was a sort of tornado the next morning, which seems to be pretty normal and therefore advised to bring a windbreaker. So, when I saw the “tornado” approaching, I took cover in a house of sorts that had a roof. An hour later, we embarked on our descent, that took another 3 hours. A big breakfast was waiting for us once we reached the base of the volcano again.

Basically, that day was spent on the jeep. We had lunch at a home and then went to a camping site near the salt flats. There were “beds” on which we placed our mattresses and sleeping bags.

I actually slept quite well. The next morning, we went through the salt flats on the jeep, or on top of it, to be more accurate. That was amazing! 3 hours later we reached the astonishing sulfide, salt and sulfur formations, a unique landscape in this world. I strongly recommend taking a lot of pictures, they look great.

That day we set our way back to Mekelle, with other beautiful landscapes. The next we devoted it to getting back to Gondar, going through the Simien National Park, where the Simien mountains, part of the Ethiopian massif, are located.

If you’re visiting Ethiopia, you definitely cannot miss Danakil region.

You can read more about Ethiopia The Omo Valley : how to visit the Mursi, Hamar and karo

Lalibela: the most amazing churches I haver ever seen

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