Much Better Adventures

Adventures / Epic Treks

Danakil Depression Expedition in Ethiopia

Explore one of the hottest and most geographically active regions on earth, via salt flats, acid green lakes and psychedelic geysers

Annual Leave

3 days off work

Location

Ethiopia

Difficulty

Moderate

You won’t need to be super fit but you should be ready to rough it and happy to hike for 5-6 hours. A pioneering attitude is required.

Why it's Much Better

‘Walk on water’ atop the vast salt flats of Lake Asale. A mirage like you’ve never seen before

Visit the flat and active Dallol Volcano. A colourful cauldron of burning salt, acid pools and bubbling magma

Float and relax in hot volcanic pools, saltier than the Dead Sea

Trek the Saba River Canyon with 1000 camels as they transport mined salt with the Afar people

Spend each night sleeping out in the open under a blanket of stars

Get seriously bumped about in a 4x4 as you bounce through windy roads and epic terrain

Tag this trip on to our Simien Mountains Trek for added Ethiopian goodness

What's Included

Guides

Local, professional, English-speaking guides

Accommodation

1 night in a hotel and 2 nights camping

Meals

Everything you need to eat will be laid on for you

Transfers

You'll be transferred between locations in a 4x4

Equipment

Everything you need for camping is provided

Permits

All your permits and entry fees are covered and sorted

Happiness Guaranteed

We're so confident that your holiday will be your best yet, we actually guarantee it

Feel Good Vibes

We mitigate 4x the carbon emitted by all our travellers and support important conservation projects

Itinerary

Day 1

To the Afar Region and Asale Salt Lake

Accommodation Type

Campsite

Meals

All meals

Driving

4-5 hours

Your host will pick you up in Mekelle where you’ll be begin the journey to the Afar Region. Setting off in a 4x4 you’ll travel to one of the most inhospitable landscapes on the planet. Temperatures can easily reach 50°C and hot winds blow across the flat desert plain at night.

You’ll head towards the Asale Salt Lake - a magical place where giant salt flakes form patterns and as the sun sets, create a mirror effect and never-ending lake. The area's vast salt flats are the last remnants of a long-evaporated sea and once part of the Red Sea. You’ll have ample time to explore and get that iconic shot of you 'walking on water'.

After sunset you'll head to your overnight camp. Hamed Ela is a remote desert settlement, home to a tiny military compound and just a few houses. For those who fancy a cold beer, the military bar is close by.

You’ll sleep out in the open tonight on a raised bed under a blanket of stars.

Day 2

Dallol Volcano and a thousand camels

On your Feet

Approx. 3 hours of trekking & exploring

Accommodation Type

Wild Camping

Meals

All meals

Today you'll continue your expedition over the Asale Salt Lake. Check out the turquoise pools that appear on the edges and if keen, have a quick dip. Refreshing it won’t be, but floating in the warm volcanic salty water is an experience in itself.

Your next stop is the flat, land-based Dallol Volcano, a cauldron of burning salt, volcanic rock and sulphuric acid - and a kaleidoscope of colour. Think green acid lakes and mounds of bubbling magma.

In the afternoon, you’ll head to Saba River Canyon. The canyon is still used by ‘dromedary caravans’ and their owners, Afar residents and workers. The salt from the lake is mined and carried by thousands of camels who travel in long lines by day and rest overnight in the canyon.

You’ll spend the night under the start near these camel caravans on a small river bed tucked in the canyon.

Day 3

Sunrise Saba Canyon trek

On your Feet

Approx. 5-6 hours trekking

Distance

15km

Elevation

454m up / 183m down

Accommodation Type

Hotel

Meals

All meals

Setting off early today to avoid the heat, you’ll leave with the camels and head back out of the canyon, weaving your way uphill as the sun rises. You’ll need to navigate the huge canyon walls and cross the river umpteen times so bring your hiking sandals!

The steep and barren cliff walls will slowly glow with the first light en route to the village of Malebidyi. You may even get the chance to join a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony before being picked up by your 4x4 for the bumpy journey back to Mekelle.

The town is a great place to find some traditional music, often performed in restaurants serving up injera - a kind of fermented flat-bread used to scoop up everything else on your plate.

Day 4

Goodbye Ethiopia!

Activity

Easy day

Alas, this is where your expedition ends as you make your way to the airport to bid goodbye to Ethiopia.

Please Note

All our adventures take place in wild places. Things can go wrong in wild places. Your perfectly planned itinerary may change a bit (or a lot) if the weather turns, someone gets hurt, or a volcano erupts. Usually though, changes make it all the better.

Accommodation

Danakil Camping

Accommodation

Campsite

Rooms

Twin share

Meals

All meals

You will be camping for two nights in remote conditions. There is no infrastructure at either campsite (toilets are 'wild'). Your host will set up a field kitchen and your meals will be served out in the open. This is the theme - due to the heat, the beds are also uncovered i.e you will be sleeping on raised beds and matresses under the stars.

Mekele Hotel

Accommodation

Hotel

Rooms

Twin share

Meals

All meals

During your overnight stay in Mekele you will be staying in a comfortable hotel. Most groups will stay at the Axum Hotel, if not available you will stay in a hotel of the same standard. The exact hotel you stay in will be confirmed nearer the time based on group size and availability, but all are chosen for their excellent reputation, location and welcoming service.

Private Room Upgrade:
If you would prefer a private room for your night in Mekele, this is available for $30USD, depending on availability. Please request upon booking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Absolutely! Our Trekking the Simien Mountains trip has been designed so that you can do this first and then jump onto the Danakil Depression Expedition. At the end of the trekking trip, you will be transferred to the airport (on Day 8) to fly from Gondar to Addis Ababa. You will spend the night here and the expedition will start the next day with a flight to Mekele.

You will need to book both trips separately and there will also be an extra charge applied for the flight from Gondar to Addis Ababa and for the flight from Addis Ababa to Mekele to start the expedition.

If you are doing both trips, you will need to fly into Gondar and out of Mekele where the trips start and end. It might work out more cost-effective to book your international flights in and out of Addis Ababa and the domestic flights separately.

Airport transfers are included for all flights that arrive on Day 1 and depart on Day 4. Just let your host know your flights and they will ensure you are met upon arrival. You must be ready to meet your host at the aiport on Day 1 by 10am to ensure a prompt departure.

If you have a long connection in Addis Ababa, your host can organise a city tour for you from the airport with a guide and a driver. Please inform your host if you would like to organise this.

The following are not included in the trip price:

  • International flights
  • Visa
  • Travel insurance
  • Tips for your guides (optional)

Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion but there is an expectation to tip for good service. Your guide will help with advice, however we suggest approx. $50USD/pp.

Of course, you are free to tip more or less, and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality - a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

There is one moderate trek included as part of this expedition. Although not technical it requires a decent level of fitness and some previous trekking experience on uneven ground. You will be crossing the river approx. 50 times so walking through sand and over rocky terrain.

The most challenging element of the trip will be the basic campsite conditions and the many hours spent in a 4x4 on uneven roads. This is remote Ethiopia so it comes with the territory!

This trip will run with a minimum of 2 people, and a maximum of 12.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

Ethiopian-style eating means rethinking the very way you eat; that's because the foundation of almost every meal in Ethiopia is injera, a one-of-a-kind pancake of near-universal proportions that is used as a utensil first and then eaten last. Plates, bowls, knives and forkes are replaced by 'injera'. Served on top, you can find a variety of meat or vegetable based dishes that are all scooped up by hand/using the injera. Injera is found easily in Addis Ababa and Mekele.

During the expedition, the cooks will provide simple energy filling foods such as pancakes, porridge, eggs and bread for breakfast and sandwich lunchboxes while trekking. Dinner will likely be rice or pasta dishes with some local flavouring. There will be the chance to try regional fresh fruits throughout and of course, to enjoy a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, an important part of the dining culture.

Most dietary requirements can be catered for - please just request with your host upon booking and they will confirm based on your requirements.

Your host will provide safe, bottled water for you to drink while on the expedition.

The Danakil Depression, located in the Afar Region, is consistently cited as one of the hottest places in the world. With an annual year-round average temparture of 35°C, the weather is permanently and overwhelmingly hot throughout the year. Also one of the lowest places on earth (125m below sea level), the desert volcanic climate means it is not uncommon to reach up to 50°C with sunshine all day. Low's at night rarely drop below 30°C.

Sure can! It will be possible to leave bags in a secure spot in Mekele at the beginning of the trip.

Many destinations require a visa and for your passport to be valid for 6 months minimum. Up to date advice for UK citizens can be found here.

We recommend checking out the country specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

We’ve teamed up with the guys at World Nomads to offer insurance designed for adventurous travellers across 140 countries that includes overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities. To get yours sorted, click here

We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book the trip, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

For current advice about travelling in Ethiopia, have a read of the UK Foreign Office pages here.

Afraid not, this group adventure is adult only so not suitable for children.

Meeting Point

Start

Where

Mekelle Airport (MQX)

When

10am

You will be met by your host at Mekelle Airport (MQX).

End

Where

Mekelle Airport (MQX)

When

Flexible

You will be provided with an airport transfer for any flight that departs on Day 4 from Mekelle.

Kitlist

15% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock, Runner's Need, and Cycle Surgery.

What's included?

  • All camping equipment (bed and mattress)

What do I need to bring?

  • Day pack (20 litres +)
  • Soft overnight duffel or rucksack
  • Dry fit t-shirts or tops
  • Hiking shorts
  • Buff or neck protection
  • Sunhat
  • Hiking boots or shoes (worn-in)
  • Hiking socks
  • Something to sleep in
  • Swimwear
  • Flip flops or sandals for camp
  • Sleeping bag liner (silk or cotton)
  • Passport
  • Copies of passport and travel insurance
  • Headtorch or torch
  • Reusable water bottle x1 ltr
  • Toilet kit (toilet paper, biodegradable bags to carry out)
  • Quickdry towel
  • Biodegradable wet-wipes
  • Sun protection (headgear, sunscreen, sunglasses)
  • Insect repellant
  • Earplugs
  • Personal first aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
  • Power bank or solar charger (there is no electricity)

Meet Your Host

Marco and team

Italian-born Marco has lived in Ethiopia for over 15 years and knows the mountains better than most. He created his company as a means to increase employment opportunities for the rural population - and to fund awesome projects like the 'Girls Gotta Run Foundation' that coaches women and girls to become professional runners and to stay in education. Simply by joining Marco and his team on an adventure you’ll be supporting their endeavours to aid important projects that help remote communities and conservation.

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Dates & Prices

Bespoke trips only

There are currently no planned group departures. Please contact this host to request a quote for a custom trip.

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