In the far north of Ethiopia, part of the Great Rift Valley’s Afar Triangle, the Danakil Depression is one of the lowest, hottest and driest places on earth.
It’s a vast Venusian landscape of salt pans, sulphuric springs, sun-baked mountains, endless desert and hyper-saline lakes into which the mighty Awash River spills. This extraordinary place is also home to one of the world’s six persistent lava lakes, the broiling Erta Ale.
Despite its inhospitable nature (so much so that astrobiologists work here to help understand how life may arise on other planets), the hardy Afar people lead snaking camel trains through the heat haze, carrying hand cut slabs of salt to market at Mekele. Living nomadically, they survive off an incredibly small amount of water and simple bread on week-long treks across the desert.
A trip here is a true adventure, with long drives or unforgettable helicopter flights out to remote spots, cool nights camping out, and meeting the proud people that call this place home.
When to go
One of the best times to visit the Danakil Depression is during November and December as temperatures are lower and there is little rainfall.