Ethiopia & Djibouti holiday, Danakil Depression

“Experience stunning visions in salt, lava and desert alongside Afar tribal culture on this unique adventure through the Horn of Africa.”


Djibouti | Lac Assal crater lake | Lac Abbe salt lake | Lake Afrera and Frachetti Island | Afar Desert | Mount Erta Ale lava lake | Afar tribal townships | Dallol | Addis Ababa

Description of Ethiopia & Djibouti holiday, Danakil Depression

The Horn of Africa is a fascinating mélange of cultures, from nomadic herders to Arabian traders and influences from across the Indian Ocean. It is also home to some of the continent’s most remote and breathtaking landscapes, a land where the taste of the wild is in the air, simply begging the intrepid traveller to explore.

After arriving in Djibouti, you'll travel to two of Africa's most eye-catching lakes. Lac Assal crater lake is the lowest point in Africa (-150 m), as well as the most saline body of water in the world – and one of the most colourful thanks to unusual crystalline formations. Lac Abbe is even more spectacularly strange - a vast salt lake with tall limestone chimneys belching gas into the air to create vistas that featured in the cult science fiction film Planet of the Apes.

Crossing into Ethiopia, you'll explore the Afar desert region and its once-feared local tribes people. At Lake Afrera, see how they harvest salt, and visit the world’s lowest lying island at -102m. From the very low to the high, you'll then hike upward to the rim of Erta Ale volcano to witness its jaw-dropping lava lake – one of only five in the world.

There's heat too at Dallol, and not just its hot springs – this is officially one of the hottest places on Earth! Look out for camel caravans carting blocks of salt across the desert as you pass through remote Afar settlements and visit the salt mines around Ahmedela, before ending your journey in Ethiopia's bustling and colourful capital Addis Ababa.

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08 Nov 2020
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07 Nov 2021
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06 Nov 2022
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Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

This tour travels through some very remote regions, many of which have barely been touched by the presence of humans, and we strongly believe in maintaining their pristine nature. The nature of this trip means that many nights are spent camping. We strive to ensure that we leave these areas as we find them and our team have been trained in strict no litter policies, meaning that we take all refuse to either be recycled or properly disposed of in nearby towns. We use gas for cooking, but on occasions may use firewood – but only where this does not deplete natural resources and deprive local communities from using this themselves. Washing of dishes is carried out well away from any water sources so as not to contaminate them.

We visit the Foret du Day National Park on this trip, a rare example of forest environment in an otherwise arid land which provides a habitat for locally rare and endangered species. We are careful to use tracks (where they exist) to avoid disturbing the flora and fauna of the region. Travellers are briefed on appropriate behaviour within the park and other areas. As well as this, the presence of tourism here provides a financial incentive for local communities to maintain the environment, as the park provides jobs for some.

In conjunction with our local team we work with the hotels to help them to implement best practice in terms of environmental issues, from energy conservation to waste disposal.

The lakes of Assal and Abbe consist of fairly fragile environments which could be easily be damaged – we expressly brief our travellers on appropriate behaviour here so that these natural wonders remain for others to see.

The Impacts of this Trip

This tour spends much of its time traveling through the remote Danakil Depression, an isolated area that is home to the Afar people. The Afar have traditionally been rather wary of outsiders and we feel that it is important that we respect their traditions and behave appropriately here; thus all travellers are carefully briefed on this. Where we stop to visit communities we ensure that our presence is welcomed – we do not want to treat the Afar as an exotic exhibit just to be photographed, but consult with tribal elders carefully. Photography can be a sensitive subject and so we ask all travellers to respect the wishes of local people in this respect.

We also sometimes offer donations to settlements and family groups – not financial but rather material goods which they may need and appreciate, and which can be hard to come by in the desert regions, such as tea and sugar.

We employ local Afar guides for part of this trip, meaning that this community is able to benefit financially from the presence of tourism in their homeland.

As head further into Ethiopia we visit a number of monasteries and religious sites. Again, appropriate behaviour here is key to ensure we do not offend local sensibilities.


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