Danakil Depression

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The Danakil Basin (also known as the Danakil Basin, the Afar Basin, or simply Danakil) is a place in northeast Ethiopia in the Afar region near the border with Eritrea, a region of volcanic activity and the hottest place on Earth in average annual temperatures.
Volcanic activity : To the west and older of the two volcanoes in the south of the depression is inactive Mount Ayalu. The second volcano, Erta Ale, is Ethiopia’s most active volcano, with one, sometimes two, active lava lakes on top. There are also thermal sulfur springs near Dallol. This humid environment in the depression is being explored by scientists in an effort to understand the emergence of life on other planets and planets. Any microorganisms that may be present will certainly be extremelyophilic and will therefore be of interest to astrobiologists.
Despite the remoteness from major cities, this is one of the main tourist attractions of the north of Ethiopia. The reason for this is unusual natural landscapes, often unparalleled anywhere on Earth. Geographically, the Danakil Depression is part of the so-called Afar Triangle – a desert area stretching in the Horn of Africa at its intersection with the East African Rift Valley, and when highlighted on a geographical map resembling a triangle that covers parts of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia all the way to Red the sea (once there was a seabed). However, the main and most “untwisted” natural attractions of the triangle are located in the Afar region of Ethiopia. This is the Dallol volcano, famous for its alien landscapes, volcanoes of the Ertal Range, including Ertale with a constantly active lava lake, and the salt lakes of Karum and Afrera, where salt is mined to this day by the same methods as several centuries ago.

The tourist season is from November to February  the rest of the year, the heat in Danakil is almost guaranteed to be comparable to hellish, and his visit may be of interest only to extreme people.

Access : Coordinates: / The nearest major city is the capital of the Tigray Mekele region, and usually excursions to Danakil start from here , Berhale is the closest city to Dallol, the journey time from Mekele by car is about 3 hours, then you need to travel about an hour by dirt road to a place called Hamad-Ela, where the base camp for visitors to Dallol and Lake Karum is located. From there, again, for about an hour, first along a dirt road, then along the salt crust of Lake Karum, then along volcanic rock to the foot of Dallol, from where it takes about 15 minutes to walk on a gentle slope of the volcano to sulfur springs.

Highlights :

  •  Active lava lake on Ertal : the most active of the Ethiopian volcanoes, as well as one of the five volcanoes on the planet with a permanent lava lake. Actually, it is for the sake of this lake that tourists go there, and it is it that makes Ertale one of the main (along with Dallol) points of attraction in the Danakil Basin.
  •  The abandoned settlement of Dallol : Located on the edge of the Dallol Crater. Former working village, built around 1918 in the mining sites of sylvinite of one of the Italian companies. From here, an industrial railway line was even laid to the Red Sea through the modern territory of Eritrea. After World War II, the railway was dismantled, potash production ceased, and the village was desolate. The salt block houses with which Dallol was built have been partially preserved.
  •  Volcano Dallol : This is an active volcano, which, however, has an insignificant height – less than 100 meters from the foot to the crater and still 48 meters below sea level, while the diameter of the crater reaches 1450 meters. It is this crater that is a tourist attraction, since its surface, which is a solid rock with formations of various forms from salts, sulfur and andesite, practically does not have analogues in the species that open there anywhere on Earth and, thanks to its unusual color palette, looks more like a surface another planet
  •  Lake Bakili : Another Danakil salt lake, located near Karum to the south-east of it, with an area of 40 km²
  •  Karum Lake : is one of the three largest salt lakes in Danakil and a place for the industrial production of salt. Near the shore, the lake is covered with a thick salt crust, which can be easily reached by car, like on the ice of winter Baikal.
  •  places of salt production : The main “must-see” for visitors to Karum are places of salt production, where workers break out blocks from the same salt crust, which are ground on the spot in slabs measuring about half a meter to half a meter. This centuries-long, almost unchanged process continues all day from dawn to dusk, and in the evening the finished plates are loaded onto camels, and exactly when sunset sets in, camel caravans go to Berhale.
  •  Lake with geysers : A small but picturesque salt lake, known as the Gaet’ale Pond, is located 4 km south of Dallol on a hot spring, the second most saline lake in the world (43%). Formed after the earthquake in 2005
  •  Salt Canyons. Located at the southwestern outskirts of Dallol, they are formed up to 40 meters high as a result of erosion processes. From afar, they remind a bit of the ruins of ancient buildings
  • Hot springs : the hydrothermal system of Dallol /  the Yellow Lake.

Tourist infrastructures : In Danakil  it is not possible to find wealthy accommodations in which to spend the night. The nearest city where there are relatively decent hotels is Macalle./ Dallol Base Camp is an hour’s drive from Berhale, near Lake Karum.

precautionary measures : the Afar region is included in the list of areas in Ethiopia that are not recommended for visiting. Tourists, however, go there. When visiting the region, one must take into account the increased terrorist danger. Dallol and Ertale are just a few kilometers from the border with Eritrea, which to this day is controversial. Adequate fortifications are often lacking along the border, and gangs from neighboring countries can leak into Ethiopia. The last major incident occurred in 2012, when several European tourists were killed and several more abducted in the Ertale volcano.
Warning : For safety reasons , individual trips to the Danakil Depression are currently prohibited, the only way to visit is to join an organized excursion group, accompanied by a guide and soldiers.

Activities : desert 4wd tours dallol – Adventure and Nature Tours / sightseeing / photo opportunities / trekking , walk from the base camp to the top of the volcano / four-day excursion from Mekele /  Bathing in a salt lake /

Go next : Berhale / Abala , A small town near the administrative border of the Afar and Tigray regions / Mekele , the nearest major city , the capital of the Tigray region / Afar Triangle / Danakil Desert

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