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Desert, Salt and Volcanoes

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

"This travel was unique and exceptional." (Daniel F.)
Erta Ale's lava lake
Erta Ale's lava lake
Exploding lava bubble
Exploding lava bubble
Hot spring on the salt lake
Hot spring on the salt lake
Watching the lava lake
Watching the lava lake
Bizarre salt structures at Dallol
Bizarre salt structures at Dallol
Cutting salt blocks
Cutting salt blocks
Photographer at the lava lake
Photographer at the lava lake
Bizarre salt geysers at Dallol
Bizarre salt geysers at Dallol
Experience one of the geologically most active areas on the planet and some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes: the Danakil desert, an active volcano with a boiling lava lake, the surreal landscapes of colors, salt, geysers, springs and fumaroles at Dallol, and the great salt lake - an unparalleled moonscape, where salt mining and trading has been going on with camel caravans since Biblical times.
On this expedition, we cross the Afar area from South to North, climb active Erta Ale volcano and stay full 3 days and nights on the volcano, as well as 2 full days at Dallol and the Great Salt Lake. At the miners' town of Ahmed Ela near Lake Assale we'll watch the centuries-old ritual of salt cutting, the shaping of salt blocks and the endless caravans arriving and leaving loaded with the precious "white gold".
We have thorough experience with this expedition as we have been organising it since early 2007. This is reflected in an excellent preparation , highly competent professional and friendly staff, close interactions with local people and delicious food prepared by our cook - which will more than compensate for the sometimes spartan character of living conditions we'll find ourselves in.
  • 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
  • No "rushing" from place to place
  • Interaction with local people - ecotourism principle
  • Small group sizes
  • Experienced professional staff

Itinerary (13 days)

Day 1: Addis Ababa - Awash
In the late morning, transfer from Addis Ababa to Awash Natl Park, already in the Rift Valley. Game drive into the savannah and visit of the Awash river canyon and waterfall.
Acc.: : Guesthouse in Awash (B, L, D)
Day 2: Drive to Logia
Drive through the Rift Valley to the small town of Logia
Acc.: : Basic hotel or camping (B, L, D)
Day 3: Drive into the Danakil - Afrera salt lake
Drive to Afrera, visit the salt lake and the salines.
Acc.: : Basic hotel or camping (B, L, D)
Day 4: Drive to Dodom village (base of Erta Ale)
Morning excursion to the working area at the salines. 4x4 drive through the Afar desert to the base of Erta Ale volcano.
Acc.: : Night under the stars in camp. (B, L, D)
Day 5: 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 6-7: Two full days to observe Erta Ale's lava lake and the caldera
There has been a lava lake at Erta Ale since its discovery in 1906, making it not only one of the very few present-day constant lava lakes as well as the by far longest existing lava lake. Yet the remoteness of the Afar area and difficult access to the volcano made that this wonder of nature was largely unknown up to the 1960s. Since then, there has been a gradual increase of adventurous tourists visiting this lava lake - a particular tourism that experienced a sudden increase due to improved accessibility in more recent years. Our small group will therefore not be the only one on Erta Ale´s caldera rim, but our extended stay there will maximise the opportunities to explore, observe and photograph the volcanic activity both during day and night.
Acc.: : as before (camp on Erta Ale) (B, L, D)
Day 8: Descend from Erta Ale - camp near Afar village
After a last sunrise at the spectacular lava lake, we break down our camp and using the camels again, we return to the point of departure where the jeeps are waiting.
After lunch, we continue for 1-2 hours back into the desert, where we will set camp near a typical temporary Afar village. Refreshing showers will be available from simple wells in a river bed. For those interested, we can also visit the Afar village and get an impression of the nomadic culture of the Afar.
Acc.: : Camp (B, L, D)
Day 9: Transfer to Lake Assale - salt caravans
Drive to Ahmedela along unmarked sandy tracks. Lunch on the way at a palm oasis.
Acc.: : Camp (B, L, D)
Day 10: 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 11: Salt caravans - salt cutting and loading - transfer to the highlands
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.
Acc.: : Guesthouse or hotel (B, L, D)
Day 12: Highland plateau sandstones - Debre Abraham rock-hewn church - transfer to Mekele
Spare day. If not needed, short side-trip into the spectacular highlands to hike to an old church on top of a sand-stone mountain.
Short transfer to Mekele. Dinner in a stylish restaurant.
Acc.: : Hotel in Mekele (B, L, D)
Day 13: Return to Addis (flight from Mekele)
If you don't opt for an individual extension, the tour ends with a domestic flight back to Addis Ababa. If you leave on an international flight in the evening, we provide you with a day-room and suitable airport transfer in Addis.
Acc.: : none (optional hotel nights in Addis on request) (B)
Tour code: ETH_EDA
Tour type: Expedition: active volcanoes - photography - adventure
Difficulty: Moderate
Duration: 13 days / 12 nights


15-27 Nov 2015
20 Dec 15 - 1 Jan 2016
7-19 Feb 2016
28 Feb - 11 Mar 2016

Price (p.p.): $ 4700  ? 


  • Accommodation in double rooms / tents
  • Full board from lunch on first day until breakfast after last hotel night
  • Drinking water, up to 8 liters per person per day from day 4 to 10
  • Professional Ethiopian guide who is an English-speaking geologist
  • Private transport in 4WD vehicles
  • Guaranteed window seat in 4WD jeeps
  • Experienced 4WD drivers and cook
  • Full camping equipment
  • Camels, camel drivers and porters to and from Erta Ale´s summit
  • Armed Afar guards and guides
  • All fees for transits, entries etc.
  • Internal flight from Mekele back to Addis Ababa
  • Tips for local staff (porters, camel drivers, guards, local guides, ...)

Arrival info:

The expedition starts and ends in Addis Ababa, but the international flight to Ethiopia is not included as default.
For European departure airports, we can included a flight ticket for you at additional cost (ca. 900 EUR) if you let us know in advance.


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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