Danakil Depression Expedition in Ethiopia
Explore one of the most geographically active regions on earth, via salt flats, acid green lakes and psychedelic geysers
3 days off work
Apr, Oct, Nov
Up to 12 people
Mekelle Airport (MQX)
Campsite · Wild camping · Hotel
You don’t need to be super fit, but a pioneering attitude and readiness to rough it and hike for 5-6 hours is required.
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 that are saltier than the Dead Sea
‘Walk on water’ atop the vast salt flats of Lake Asale - a mirage like you’ve never seen before
Local, professional, English-speaking guides
1 night in a hotel and 2 nights camping
Everything you need to eat will be laid on for you
You'll be transferred between locations in a 4x4
Everything you need for camping is provided
All your permits and entry fees are covered and sorted
Flights to and from the meeting point
Tips for your guides
Mekelle Airport (MQX)
Mekelle Airport (MQX)
You'll be picked up from Mekelle Airport and dropped off in time for departure.
There are regular flights to Mekelle from Addis Ababa. For more details see the flights FAQ.
Campsite · Twin share
Wild camping · Twin share
Hotel · Twin share
What is the food like?
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.
What is the accommodation like?
You'll camp for two nights in remote conditions with no infrastructure (toilets are 'wild') sleeping on raised beds and matresses under the stars. Your host will set up a field kitchen and your meals will be served out in the open.
During your overnight stay in Mekele you'll stay in a comfortable hotel. The exact hotel will be confirmed nearer the time based on group size and availability, but all are chosen for their excellent reputation, location and welcoming service.
If you would prefer a private room for your night in Mekele, this is available for $30USD, depending on availability. Please request upon booking.
To the Afar Region and Asale Salt Lake
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 that was 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 at Hamed Ela, a remote desert settlement that's 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.
Dallol Volcano and a thousand camels
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 certainly won’t be, but floating in the warm volcanic salty water is an experience in itself.
Your next stop is the flat 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.
Sunrise Saba Canyon trek
5-6hrs · 15km · 454m up · 400m down
Set off early to avoid the heat alongside the camels, 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.
Alas, this is where your expedition ends as you make your way to the airport and bid goodbye to Ethiopia.
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.
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.
- 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
- Hiking boots or shoes (worn-in)
- Hiking socks
- Something to sleep in
- Flip flops or sandals for camp
- Sleeping bag liner (silk or cotton)
- 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
- Personal first aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
- Power bank or solar charger (there is no electricity)
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.
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!
Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.
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.
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!
All of our group adventures are especially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded.
"I cannot recommend this highly enough! The people on the trip were amazing. Easily the best trip I've ever been on!" Charlotte, 2019, Trustpilot.
We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.
If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.
Cancel up to 31 days before departure and we'll transfer your deposit into credit for a future booking.
Free Date Changes
Free date changes up to 31 days before departure.
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