Adventure in Afar: Danakil Depression, Erta Ale and Dallol
Over geological time, the northern part of the Great Rift Valley has formed a triangular basin between the Danakil Desert and the Afar Plain that today holds some of the most astounding terrain in the Horn of Africa.
Visit the Dallol one of the hottest areas on earth home to the Afar tribe of Ethiopia. Witness the age old activity of salt cutting, then accompany the camels on part of their three day trek, back up to Mekele to the Salt Market. View the live volcano of Ataele by night, an unforgettable experience.
Transport is expensive to this site, and you definitely need a four-wheel drive for safety and comfort, with a second vehicle for back up. ... At over $150 a day for vehicle hire, it is good to find friends to share the costs. You will also need space for the two Afar policemen and the tourist office guide ,whom the regional authority insist on accompanying you. This is despite having your own excellent guide, driver and appropriate pass papers. This isn't a hardship because a larger group creates a better atmosphere and a greater cultural experience.
Our advice, if you have the time, is to do a circular trip and not take the more direct way along the salt route from Mekele. Travel via Awash, Asaita and the salt lake at Afrera, visiting one or two live volcanoes. Camping overnight near the rim, allows you to witness the spectacular sight of a live volcano by night. It is worth it to see the bubbling lava.
Once in the depression, you may trek with the camels for some time, on their way up to Mekele or pass by the Camel train in the car arriving there within a day.You may opt to visit one or two of the famous Gare Alta churches of Tigray on your way back.
If you have a head for heights you may climb up to the highest churches to appreciate the view from the top of the mountains. The choice is yours. The Dallol will exceed all your expectations: fantastic scenery,sulphur springs,colourful mineral deposits and the salt lake area itself. However, nothing will match the wake up call of the 400 camels passing your tent in the early morning on the way to the salt cutting.