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Danakil Depression and Eastern Ethiopia (11 days)

About this Tour:

An adventure expedition to some of the most surreal landscapes in the world. We start off in the Ethiopian highlands before going into the Danakil desert. Incredible highlights lie ahead of us, such as the spectacular landscapes of Dallol, the ascent of Erta Ale volcano with overnight camping at the rim of the crater or the salt mining at lake Afrera. We then cross the savanna and semi dessert until reaching Awash National Park in the Great Rift Valley exploring and. Last but not least we will pay a visit to the fascinating holy town of Harar, where amongst many other attractions, you may experience the legendary nightly hyena feeding.

Highlights:

  • Crossing of the Ethiopian highlands with a visit to Senbete market
  • Expedition into the Danakil depression with ascent of Erta Ale volcano and overnight camping at the rim of the crater
  • Surreal landscapes of Dallol
  • Visit of Harar (UNESCO world heritage site) with legendary hyena feeding at night
  • Overnight at Awash National Park

Short Info:

  • Tour code: WET-DDEE -11
  • Time: October – February
  • Next date for seat-in group tour (max. 8 Pax):
  • Number of domestic flights: 1
  • Overnight: basic hotels / lodges or camping in the Danakil
  • Fitness requirements: reasonably fit and good heat tolerability

Day 1: Arrival in Addis Ababa and City Tour

Upon arrival at Bole International Airport you will be met by a Welcome Ethiopia Tours representative and be taken to your reserved hotel. Depending on your arrival time, we have various sightseeing options:

  • Mount Entotowith the best views over the capital.
  • Institute of Ethiopian Studies, where you can see a variety of artifacts from all the different regions reflecting the history and culture of the country
  • National Museum which among other exhibits the 3.5-million-year-old bones of Lucy.
  • George Cathedral, where paintings by the famous Ethiopian artist Afework Tekele and other ecclesiastical wealth and cultural heritage of the past are displayed.
  • Trinity Cathedral: this is the burial place of members of the imperial family and noted patriots; the cathedral is the most magnificent of its kind in the country, ornamented with carvings, mosaics and other artistic works.
  • The Mercato, the largest open-air market in Africa

Accommodation: Lobelia Hotel or similar, Addis Abeba (www.hotellobeliaaddis.com)

Day 2: Addis Ababa – Senbete Market – Dessie (383 km)

Morning/ Afternoon:
Early in the morning, we start our drive to Dessie (approx. 8h). We will make a stop at the Senbete market (Sundays only). The market is frequented by different ethnic groups such as Oromo, Afar and Amhara and is one of the most authentic and colourful markets in Ethiopia. It also has a dedicated area for the trade of livestock, particularly camels, cattle and donkeys. In the late afternoon, we will arrive in Dessie, where we will spend the night.

Hotel: Melbourne Hotel or similar

Day 3: Dessie – Woldyia –  Mekelle (375 km)

 Morning /Afternoon:
Today we continue our journey from Dessie via Woldyia to Mekelle (driving time approx. 8h). After arrival in Mekelle in the afternoon, we still have sufficient time to buy stocks for tomorrow’s expedition into the Danakil dessert.

Hotel: Axum Hotel or similar, Mekelle (www.axum-hotels.com)

Day 4: Mekelle – Hamed Ela (160 km)

Today we start our expedition into the Danakil depression via Berhale to Hamed Ela (approx. 3-4 hours). Here starts one of the world’s most inhospitable yet most spectacular regions, full of intense colours and eye-catching sights. Several locations are more than 100m below sea level. In Berhale we will see the huge camel caravans resting on their way to the highlands. Our destination of the day is Hamed Ela, where, in the afternoon, we can observe how the salt is excavated from the ground, cut in to rectangular pieces and loaded onto the caravans.

 Overnight: Camping in Hamed Ela

Driving in the Danakil

Day 5: Hamed Ela – Dallol – Aba Ala (90 km)

Morning:
We start early in the morning to explore the unbelievable landscapes around Dallol and Lake Assal. Dallol lies 116 meters under sea level turning it into one of the lowest and hottest places on earth. The Dallol volcano is covered by a thick layer of salt, however, it still shows its presence through bizarre salt formations, hundreds of fumaroles (escapes of gas) as well as acid lakes in all colours.

Afternoon:
We drive from Dallol to the Afar village of Aba Ala (approx. 3 hours).

Overnight: Basic guesthouse or camping in Aba Ala

Day 6: Aba Ala- Kursuwat- Dodoma- Erta Ale volcano (140 km)

Morning:

After breakfast, we continue to Kursuwat, where we will process our permit to climb Erta Ale. We then continue to the Afar village of Dodoma, the starting point of our trekking to the Erta Ale volcano.

Afternoon:
We will have an early dinner and will start trekking up to Erta Ale after sunset. The trekking will take us 3-4 hours. Camels will transport our camping materials and food to the rim of the volcano, where we will spend the night watching the dramatic action of the boiling lava. Erta Ale is 613 meters high and ranks as one of the most alluring and physically challenging natural attractions in Ethiopia. It is a shield volcano with a base diameter of 30 km and a 1km square caldera at the summit containing the world’s only permanent lava lake.

 Overnight: Camping at the rim of the crater of Erta Ale Volcano

Day 7: Erta Ale Volcano– Lake Afrera– Semera (210 km)

Morning:
After a spectacular sunrise over the lava lake we start our descent down to the vehicles from where we will continue to lake Afrera. Here we can not only admire the traditional way of the local salt mining but also freshen up and recover from the trekking in the hot springs.

Afternoon:
We continue southward to Semera, now again on a well paved road.

 Overnight: Hotel in Semera

Day 8: Semera – Awash National Park (285 km)

Today we leave the Afar region and drive into the Great Rift Valley through the savanna to semi-desert with an occasional oasis along the Awash river. We will reach the Awash lodge, spectacularly located next to the Awash Falls, in the late afternoon. Here we have the opportunity to spot a great variety of birds and mammals in the savannah as well as crocodiles living at the river. We also will enjoy an impressive sunset over the Awash gorge

 Overnight: Awash Falls Lodge, Awash National Park (www.awashfallslodge.net)

Day 9:  Awash National Park –  Harar (328 km)

Morning / Afternoon:
Early in the morning we undertake a game drive through the Awash National Park. After breakfast, we start our drive to Harar (approx. 8 hours). On the way, we will visit Ethiopia’s biggest Khat market in Avadai. We will reach Harar in the late afternoon.

Evening:
In the evening we will see the “Hyena Man” feeding the hyenas that gather nightly in the town. With a little courage, you may of course also feed the hyenas yourself. One more incredible experience on this trip!

Hotel: Wonderland Hotel or similar, Harar

Day 10:  Full Day in Harar

Morning/Afternoon:
Today we discover the 16th century walled city of Harar, the fourth most important city in the Islamic World and a UNESCO world heritage site. It feels as if time has stood still here. We will visit the home of Arthur Rimbaud, the renowned French poet who lived in Harar, the National and Harari museums; the house of Ras Mekonnen (the father of Haile Selassie); traditional Harari homes, the market and many more interesting places.

Hotel: Wonderland Hotel or similar, Harar

Day 11: Harar – Dire Dawa – Addis Ababa (flight)

Morning:
Flight in the morning from Dire Dawa back to Addis Ababa.

Afternoon:
You will be picked up at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa and taken to your hotel. According to your interests, there are various sightseeing and shopping opportunities.

Evening:
In the evening you will be invited to a memorable farewell dinner in one of Addis Ababa’s traditional restaurants with cultural songs, dances and traditional food and drinks. You will then be transferred to either Bole International Airport or, if you continue your stay in Ethiopia, to your reserved hotel.

End of Tour

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