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This tour is programmed in a way for you to have a calm & leisurely expedition where you will really feel and participate in the mysterious mythologies of the living land, to watch the miracle, as the centre of the earth seethes. Other programs details that are shorter or longer than this programs will be sent to you upon request


Desert, Salt and Volcanoes

Tour code: VET1000

Tour Duration: 13Days/12Nights

Transportation: Surface/Air

Type of Vehicle:  2009/10 Nissan Patrol or 2009/10 Toyota Land cruiser & 2010 Double AC Toyota HIACE minibuses for city tours

Tour Customizable: Yes

Tour highlights: Danakil Depression is one of the remotest, lowest and hottest places of the world in the Great Rift Valley system. This adventure takes you to explore Erta Ale and Dallol volcanoes and visit of the endless Camel Caravans.

Activities: Cultural Tours, Desert Tours, Geological Tours, Hiking, Walking SafarisExplodig_Lava_in_erta_ale

Erta-Ale is an exceptional volcano. It has been an active lava lake for a very long period, probably since the mid nineteenth century. It is part of a chain of active volcanoes located in the center of one of the six Afar rifts where an open ocean has formed in connection with a hot spot. The broad, 50-kilometer-wide volcano rises more than 600 meters from below sea level in the barren Danakil depression

Erta-Ale is the namesake and most prominent feature of the Erta-Ale Range. It has a 0.7 x 1.6 kilometers, elliptical summit crater housing steep-sided pit craters. Another larger 1.8 x 3.1 kilometer-wide depression elongated parallel to the trend of the Erta-Ale range is located to the southeast of the summit and is bounded by curvilinear fault scarps on the southeast side. Fresh-looking basaltic lavaHot_spring_on_the_salt_lakeflows from these fissures have poured into the caldera and locally overflowed its rim

The summit caldera is renowned for one or sometimes two long term lava lakes that have been active since at least 1967, or possibly since 1906. Recent fissure eruptions have occurred on the northern flank of Erta-Ale. Given its age, scientists think the lake must have a continuous link to a shallow magma chamber, which is itself fed on a regular basis by magma uplifts more directly connected to the formation of the rift

Day-to-day program

Day 1: Addis Ababa - Awash

When the group is complete in the late morning (many int. flights arrive in the early morning), we transfer from Addis Ababa to Awash National Park, already in the Rift Valley.
In the afternoon, a game drive into the savannah of the relatively unknown park (many species of birds and mammals to observe) and a stop at a viewpoint on the deep gorge of the Awash River and its powerful waterfalls are on the program.

HOTEL in Awash


Day 2: Drive to Logia

Today, we continue to drive through the Rift Valley into the Afar triangle, slowly loosing elevation. The landscape changes from savannah to steppe and half-desert, interrupted by oases from the Awash River.

Basic hotel or camping


Day 3: Drive into the Danakil - Afrera salt lake

We leave the main road and continue on an unpaved 4x4 road northwards into the Danakil. The trip leads through rugged moon-landscapes, characterized by volcanic rifts and faults, young black lava flows and gravel desert. After about 4 hours driving, we reach the flat, salt-covered Danakil depression at the salty lake Afrera by afternoon. There will be time to visit the interesting salines, where pure salt is being produced.

Basic hotel or camping


Day 4: Drive to Dodom village (base of Erta Ale)

If you are interested, you could join a group of salt workers in the early morning and watch the interesting technique to gain salt from the lake.
After breakfast, we pick up two Afar policemen and an Afar guide, then drive though the flat salt and lava desert to the Afar village of Dodom and set camp at the base of Erta Ale volcano. Unlike other expeditions, we don't rush you up the mountain the same night, but enjoy a magical night in the desert at the foot of the mountain: when it becomes dark, the intense zodiacal light of stardust and the red glow from the volcano lake and the brightest of starlit skies will compete with each other.

Night under the stars in camp


Day 5: Day-time ascend to Erta Ale volcano with camels

During the night, Afar guides will join us with their camels. At sunset, we will start the realtively easy ascend (ca. 10 km, 500 m climbing, ca. 3 hrs) during the fresher morning hours along the flat flank of Erta Ale's shield volcano, while the camel caravan carries our luggage and the equipment.
The gently climbing hike itself follows interesting lava formations (aa and pahoehoe lava fields, lava tubes, hornitos, sand deposits, rare vegetation) until we stand on the rim of the caldera. An easy descend brings us to the floor of the caldera and after 10 minutes, we stand on the active pit crater containing the boiling Lava lake.
This and the following two days are fully dedicated to observe the lava lake and the volcanic features of the caldera at our liking. 

Improvised camp on Erta Ale

Day 6-7: Two full days to observe Erta Ale's lava lake and the caldera

as before (camp on Erta Ale)


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.



Day 9: Transfer to Lake Assale - salt caravans

The sometimes difficult 4x4 drive through the desert northwards to the large, mostly dry salt lake near Ahmed Ela is our goal of the day.
In the afternoon and evening we can watch the endless camel caravans coming and going: arriving empty, they stay in the fascinating town. They are met by the ones leaving packed full with precious salt blocks. After nightfall, we can assisit the procedure of assigning walt cutters (the focolo) to the camel owners (the Arho), for the next day in the salt mine at the lake.



Day 10: DALLOL volcano

A full day will be available to explore the fascinating volcano of DALLOL- a volcano hidden under kilometer-thick deposit of salt. The volcano marks its presence by the up doming of the salt and hundreds of fumaroles and hot springs in all colors.
We can visit the remains of a ghost town, almost entirely built in salt, at DALLOL, where miners lived in the 1930s to extract potash from the DALLOL area. The town was the hottest inhabited place on earth.

as before (Ahmed Ela)


Day 11: Salt caravans - salt cutting and loading - transfer to the highlands

In the morning, we watch the sometimes thousands of camels leaving for the salt cutting area. We then drive to the lake and watch the salt cutters and salt shapers at work, following a century-old established order. By the time we leave in the late morning, the first camels are being loaded and the cycle is repeated.
For us, it's time to leave the desert. Our way out follows along a spectacular canyon into the highlands. At a small, clear waterfall, we stop for lunch, to bath and clean the cars from the salt.
In the late afternoon, we should already be back on the highland plateau where we stay the night in a small lively town, and enjoy the first cold beer after more than a week!



Day 12: Highland plateau sandstones - Debre Abraham rock-hewn church - transfer to Mekele

This day is a spare day. If not needed, we use it to take a short side-trip into the wonderfully colored and spectacularly scultpured northern highlands, where we hike to one of the oldest rock churches of Ethiopia, sitting on top of a multi-colored table-mountain of old eroded sandstones.
Transfer to Mekele in the afternoon, where we will stay in a good hotel and celebrate the expedition with all crew members in a stylish restaurant serving delicious Ethiopian and international food...  Hotel in Mekele


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. Time permitting The rest of the day visit historical sites in Addis Ababa including the National Archaeological Museum, where we will view the 3.6 million year old remains of “Lucy”, whose skeletal remains when discovered in 1974. You will also visit the Ethnological Museum at Addis Ababa University, Holy Trinity Cathedrals and Mount Entoto which rises up to an altitude of 3200 meters and offers the panoramic view of the metropolis.

Evening VIVA ETHIOPIA will prepare you a complimentary fare well dinner in one of the Ethiopian restaurants for cultural dinner and dances from the different ethnic groups. Then after transfer to the airport for your flight back home.


Note: Upon request the tour program can be modified rearranged mixed or extended to suit your interest, time and budget.

You will be given an adjusted program of this tour that goes along with your arrival time in Ethiopia upon request

Extension or reduction of this tour is possible






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