Danakil Depression and Tigray Rock-Hewn Churches
DST 003 - 12 nights and 13 days
This adventurous trip takes you from the unforgiving Danakil Depression, one of the lowest, hottest places on earth, to the mountains of Tigray. A journey of contrasts. The trip starts with a visit to Harar and its renowned market, a cultural crossroad between the Oromo, Amhara and Arari people. From here we drop down into the Danakil Depression. Exploring the Danakil takes us to the shores of Lake Afrera, the alien landscapes of Dallol, and a trek to the top of the active volcano - Erta Ale. From about 120m below sea level we then follow the route of the Salt Caravans, climbing the mountains that rise steeply from the Rift Valley into Tigray, where we trek through beautiful mountain scenery, with visits to rarely visited rock churches and a level of interaction with the local communities.


  • Tour Code: DST003
  • Duration: 12 nights (13 days)
  • Transport: Surface (4WD) and Air
  • Tour Start: Addis Ababa
  • Tour End: Addis Ababa
  • Escorted by a professional English speaking guide
  • Best season to travel from September to February
  • Temperature: 25-40 degrees in most of the places
  • Tour Type: Active volcanoes expedition
  • Difficulty: Good physical condition required
  • Highlights:
    • Game view in Awash National Park
    • Visit Harar, the fourth Muslim's holiest city in the world after Mekka, Medina and Jerusalem
    • Explore the only permanent lava lakes on the planet
    • Visit Dallol depression, which is one of the lowest depressions on earth
    • Explore the magnificent rock-hewn churches of Tigray


Upon arrival in Addis Ababa meet our representatives and transfer to the given Hotel. During the day, visit historical sites in Addis Ababa including the National Archaeological Museum, where we will view the 3.2 million year old remains of "Lucy", whose skeletal remains when discovered in 1974. You will also visit the Holy Trinity Cathedrals and Mount Entoto which rises up to an altitude of 3,200 meters and offers the panoramic view of the metropolis.
Overnight at a hotel
Awash falls / AR Drive from Addis Ababa to Awash National Park. The park offers quite good wildlife and outstanding birdlife viewing. It also contains an interesting range of volcanic landscapes. The Beisa Oryx and Sommering Gazelles - in the open areas, Greater and Lesser Kudus - in the bushed areas, the endemic Swayne's Hartbeest - in the grass plains, the tiny salt Dik-Dik - under the dry acacia bushes and Defarsa waterbuck - in the bushy river area and the two monkey species - the Anubis and Hamadryas - can be seen near the river. Among other monkeys, Colobus and Grivet monkeys are found in the riverside and drier areas respectively. Leopards, Lions, Black-Backed and Golden Jackals, Caracals, Servals and Wildcats are also seen in the park very rarely.
During our stay in the park we drive through the park for game-view and we also visit the magnificent Awash waterfall where you spot Crocodiles. The park is also ideal for bird watching as there are more than 452 species recorded.
Overnight in a lodge
Market / DF In the morning drive to Harar. On the way we visit villages of Kereyou nomad people and the colorful market in Dire Dawa, the second largest city in the country. We also visit the biggest chat market at Aweday and proceed to Harar.
Overnight in lodge
Day   4: HARAR
We visit the whole day the famous walled city of Harar. We walk in and around the walled city and explore the unique lay out houses, narrow & winding streets, intricate basketry and taste its best coffee. Visit also the beautiful Harar museum and Arthur Rimbaud's House, a fine traditional house dating from the period when the French poet Rimbaud lived in Harer. In the evening, we participate in the Hyena feeding ceremony.
Overnight at a hotel
Fetching water / AG 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, where we meet the first of the brave Afar people in which homeland we will be traveling the coming week. When you are lucky you might see some game while traversing the Yangudi Rassa NP which holds the last population of the African wild ass. Here we will also finish some paper works - permits for the visit then we continue to a small town called Logia.
Overnight at a local hotel
Salt mining / AG Today we drive to Lake Afrera, which is a salty lake where common salt is extracted.
Overnight in camping
Erta Ale / AG Drive from Afrera to Dodom. At Dodum we will start walking to the Erta Ale volcanic hills (613 meters above sea level) which is about 15km away. We arrive to Erta Ale around mid-night and walk to see the volcanic eruption. The eruption is so colorful and spectacular. We will camp nearby the eruption considering the direction of the wind because of the volcanic acid which is not good for health, anytime any one can see or take a picture. To get Best pictures of the volcano will be a night shooting.
Overnight in camping
Dallol Depression / AG This day we will walk back the 15 km from Earta Alle to Kusrewad and meet the vehicles then drive to Ahmed Ela , crossing the desert on the way visit the Afar Village in the desert and continue to the settlement of Ahmed Ela, base for the salt caravans transporting the precious salt from the nearby Lake Asale to the market in Mekele. It is a place with lots of activity connected to the arrival and departure of the endless caravans. Ahmed Ela is our base for the coming days to explore the surrounding area.
Overnight in camping
Dallol Depression / AG Morning drive to Lake Asale where you meet people extracting the bar salt from the salt plain. Bar Salt used as a currency in the 18th century. Ethiopia and Asale was the center for curving bar salt as equal to minting coins. In the afternoon, drive to the Dallol depression which is one of the lowest depressions on the Earth and the landscape covered by colorful phosphate. Then drive back to Ahamed Ela.
Overnight in camping
Camels / DF Today we travel back into civilization through the river bed with the camel Caravans and reach Hausien, where we visit the magnificent Gueralta's rock-hewn churches.
Overnight in camping or in lodge
Climb for about 2 hours to visit Mariam Korkor and Daniel Korkor. Picnic. In the afternoon visit Abouna Yemata Guh church. These are the most spectacularly situated rock-hewn churches anywhere in Ethiopia.
Overnight in a lodge
In the morning we visit Yohannis Maikudi, one of the most interesting rock-hewn churches of the region, Abreha we Atsbeha and Wekro Cherkos rock-hewn churches. Drive to Mekele, the capital city of Tigray region.
Overnight at hotel
On the last day of this great Danakil Depression tour you will fly back to Addis Ababa. The rest of the day visit historical sites in Addis Ababa and Merkato, the biggest open air market in Africa. You will also have some time to do shopping. In the evening, you have a fare well dinner in one of the Ethiopian restaurants for cultural dinner and folkloristic dances. After the delicious meal, transfer out to the airport for departure back home.
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Price inclusive of:
  • Accommodation on the basis of sharing twin bed room
  • Meal - full board
  • Drinking water from day 6 to 10 (8 liters per person per day)
  • Full camping Equipment
  • Armed Afar guards and guides
  • Internal flights
  • All ground transportation with conformable 4x4
  • Professional guide accompanying throughout the tour
  • All entrance fees
  • Portage fees
  • Local guides
  • Professional cook
  • Government tax

    Price exclusive of:
  • International airfare
  • Lunch and dinner in Addis Ababa
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Tips
  • All other expenses not listed in the inclusive part above



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