Ethiopia: Harar and the Danakil Depression

Ethiopia: Harar and the Danakil Depression

9 Days



Ethiopia: Harar and the Danakil Depression

9 Days

Visiting: Ethiopia

Tour operator:

Wild Frontiers

Tour code:


Recommended For:

Couples, Singles

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

4 - 12

Age range:


Special diets catered:

Vegetarians, Please contact Wild Frontiers with any specific dietary requirements

Tour operated in:


Private Available:

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$4228 (USD) The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$223

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Tour Overview

The contrasts of Ethiopia never cease to amaze. While it may be home to the fertile headwaters of the Blue Nile and the striking Simien Mountains which rise to 4,550m, this adventurous tour focuses instead on the arid north-east of the country which counts amongst its treasures the fascinating medieval walled city of Harar as well as the unforgiving Danakil Depression, one of the lowest and hottest places on earth! Along the way our journey will see us encounter the famed ‘hyena man’ of National Geographic fame, take a drive through Awash National Park, where Wilfred Thesiger once explored in the 1930s and reach the shores of Lake Afrera which sits 100m below sea level. In addition we’ll undertake a memorable trek to the top of the active volcano Erta Ale before discovering the alien salt landscapes of Dallol. Finally we will emerge from the Danakil by following the route of the Salt Caravans, climbing the mountains that rise steeply from the Rift Valley into Tigray region and on to highland city of Mekele where our journey ends.


  • Discover life in the salt flats as you catch a glimpse of the salt miners plying their ancient and gruelling trade of salt extraction

  • Visit the holy city of Harar and experience the age-old tradition of Hyena Man

  • Immerse yourself in nature as you sleep under the stars and camp on the edge of Erte Ale's dramatic volcano

  • Take a dip in the hot springs near Lake Afrera, located deep in the barren landscapes of the Danakil Depression

  • Experience the amazing waterfalls in Awash National Park whilst trying to spot one of the 350 species that are recorded in this area

  • Enjoy local palm wine and Ethiopia's famous national dish - injera, as you pass through some of the country's more remote areas


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Day 1: Tour Starts In Dire Dawa
Accommodation: Samrat Hotel or similar
Meals Included: Lunch, Dinner

The tour starts this afternoon in the eastern city of Dire Dawa, strategically located along the newly revamped railway line linking Addis Ababa to the coast at Djibouti Town. After lunch and a chance to rest we’ll have an introductory briefing before taking a wander through the town including a visit to the historic train station.

Day 2: Dire Dawa - Harar
Accommodation: Traditional Guesthouse or Simple Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning we will drive up to the medieval walled city of Harar. Known locally as Jugal, the old town is enclosed by a 5m-high wall that effectively defined the whole of Harar until the Italian occupation. On our tour we will see mosques, churches, the house of the French poet Rimbaud, the Adere people’s traditional houses, the markets, basket productions and much more. In the evening we will also visit a man who continues an age-old tradition of feeding wild hyenas on the outside of the city wall – a spectacle not to be missed!

Day 3: Harar - Awash National Park
Accommodation: Falls Lodge or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we will drive to Awash and although a full day in the vehicles, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to stop and see the impressive countryside we are driving through. We will visit the famous local qat market in the village of Awedae before heading into Awash National Park. We plan to arrive in time to take a late afternoon drive through the park, which has seen better days but whose main highlights still include its impressive bird population as well as the 150m-deep gorge, carved by the Awash River and its substantial waterfall.

Day 4: Awash National Park - Semera
Accommodation: Agda Hotel or camping
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Heading north today, we’ll follow the Awash River north towards Afar country and the small town of Semera, the gateway to the Danakil. Here we will obtain the necessary permission required to enter the Danakil region tomorrow.

Day 5: Semera – Lake Afrera
Accommodation: Remote Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning we’ll start making our way into the barren landscape of the Danakil Desert. All the while we will be slowly losing altitude and by the time we reach Lake Afrera we will be 100m below sea level. The road is asphalt all of the way, as the lake is used for salt extraction, so we will reach the lake in good time to set up camp and explore this fascinating but scruffy frontier town. Our camp will be on the shores of Lake Afrera, next to a hot spring which is perfect for an evening bath!

Day 6: Lake Afrera – Erta Ale Volcano Basecamp
Accommodation: Remote Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After a short walk back into town from our campsite through the salt extraction works, we leave the tarmac and head out over the sand towards Erta Ale Volcano. After several hours we reach Kuswarad, an Afar village where we have lunch and pick up our local Afar guides. We then continue through the desert where we reach the basalt rock formed by old lava flows. A slow and bumpy drive brings us to the base of Erta Ale Volcano. After loading up the camels we will start our trek to the rim of the volcano at around sunset, to avoid walking during the heat of the day. The trek will take about 4 – 5 hours, with the latter part of the walk taking part in the dark. The path is not that steep, but it is important everyone has a torch and sticks together. We camp on the crater rim, a safe distance away from the lava!

Day 7: Erta Ale Volcano
Accommodation: Remote Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Erta Ale is an active volcano, which has one of only 5 lava lakes in the world. Today we have the full day to explore the volcano and its surrounds but due to the heat of the day, our explorations will be confined to the early morning & late afternoon with a long break in between.

Day 8: Erta Ale Volcano - Dallol
Accommodation: Remote Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning will be an early start as we leave camp before dawn. On arriving at the bottom of the volcano we will freshen up before driving to Dallol. The driving is all off road, through the desert. We stop at a palm grove for lunch and should have a chance to try some of the local palm wine. In the evening we will arrive at Ahmedela, a small settlement where the salt caravans meet before their long walk to Mekele.

Day 9: Dallol - Mekele - Tour Ends
Accommodation: Day Rooms at the Zemarias Hotel or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Dallol is like nowhere else; a bizarre landscape of colourful mineral deposits, sulphur pools and geysers, where we’ll have the morning to explore this seemingly alien terrain. We will also visit the bizarre landscape of the salt canyons before making our way towards the town of Mekele, where en route we may get the chance to see the arduous work of salt being extracted by hand and loaded onto the camels. After the first chance in several days for a proper shower we’ll then have our final dinner and the opportunity to reflect on the remarkable adventure we’ve taken. Those on the suggested group flight will then be transferred to Mekele airport for their flight to Addis and beyond.

What's Included


    8 x Breakfasts, 9 x Lunches, 9 x Dinners


    On this tour we will use a combination of a mini bus and 4WD vehicles.


    Maximum: 12


    Contributions to carbon offset & tree planting projects for all bookings


    The full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides where appropriate


    All accommodation as outlined in the itinerary


    All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary



What's Not Included

We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour/nationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatoryTips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documentsInternational .Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UK.Beverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs


Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact our recommended visa agency, Travcour  For this tour UK passport holders currently require a visa for Ethiopia, which can be obtained as an E-Visa. Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements. Further details will be sent out to you on booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.

Key Aspects to Consider

Anyone in a good state of health, be reasonably fit, with an open mind, not worried about creature comforts and a big sense of adventure should be able to cope with this tour. That said, the camping will be very basic with no facilities and at times especially when at Erta Ale the temperatures may be very hot!Please be advised that on this trip vegetarians can be catered for but the selection and variety may be limited. Other dietary requirements may be very difficult to provide for, but that said we will do our best.The Erta Ale Volcano trek is not technically demanding but it will be undertaken partially at night when the temperature is lower but still in the late 20s (C). During non-trekking days in the Danakil, temperatures can exceed 40C so you must be able to cope with extreme heat.Due to the ever-changing nature of the volcano and the region, the visibility of the lava lake and lava flows may vary. Please contact the office for the current situation and up to date information.

Check out our Q&As

  • What policies are in place for Covid-19?

    We have a complete Covid-19 hub here:

  • Do you operate a “single share” option and how does it work?

    Over 70% of passengers on our group tours are solo adventurers. Unlike many tour operators, we don’t believe in charging solo travellers a premium, so if you are happy to share a room with a fellow traveller of the same sex, you will pay exactly the same as a couple..Occasionally you may even end up with your own room. You can travel as a single traveller on any of our holidays, from our escorte

  • Will the accommodation included meet local health and safety regulations?


  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    Since 2002

  • Do I need to be double-vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel with you?

    In most cases, yes. Not only are many destinations making double-vaccination a requirement of entry to the country and/or access to restaurants, museums etc., but additionally on all our group tours for the foreseeable future, for everyone’s peace of mind, we are asking that all clients be double vaccinated.

Reviews from Travellers on this Tour

Amanda Rencontre  

Amanda Rencontre

amping in the Danakil Depression at the Hotel of a Million Stars was a true delight

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Dates & Availability

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Wednesday - Thursday

Jan 22, 2025 - Jan 30, 2025
$4450 $4228 (USD)

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Nov 12, 2025 - Nov 20, 2025
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Book with Confidence

  • Free Date Changes

    Wild Frontiers allows you to make 2 free date changes, as long as the change is made at least 90 days before the start of the tour.

  • Low Deposit

    Wild Frontiers requires a minimum deposit of 200 GBP per person or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 70 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of wild frontiers charges.

    Up to 71 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 51 days before tour starts: Forfeit 50% of booking price.

    At 30 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

  • Wild Frontiers' COVID Promise

    You will have the right to transfer without any transfer fee, from any of our trips at ANY time if your trip is not Covid Viable (see below).*
    We will not ask you to pay your final balance if your trip is not yet Covid Viable.
    If your trip is not Covid Viable, by 30 days prior to departure at the latest, we will cancel your holiday and you can either transfer your funds to another departure or have a refund.**

    We will only consider a trip Covid Viable*** if pre-departure it meets all of the following criteria:

    There is no national lockdown or ban on foreign travel for the period when your trip is due to depart.
    Destinations on the tour must not be on the UK’s Red List. ****
    No destinations visited on the tour have in place any significant COVID-19 restrictions for travellers.
    Tourist visas (if required) are available.
    There is reliable airline access to/from the start/end of the trip.
    Following an assessment by both Wild Frontiers and our local partners we are confident that your trip is able to run in both a safe and enjoyable manner.*****

    ** If you were originally booked to travel before 30 April 2020 and transferred to a later date, or if you have a tailor-made booking, there may be some irrecoverable costs which we cannot refund. Please speak to us and we will be able to advise you if this is the case for your booking.
    ***Since our HQ is in London, Covid Viable status for our Group Tours will be assessed on UK-based travellers. However we are fully aware that many of our clients live in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and beyond. As such, when we deem a trip to now be Covid Viable, everyone booked will have a chance to review their own personal situation before deciding whether or not to remain booked on the trip. Anyone wishing to, will have the option to transfer without fees to another trip at this time. For tailor made bookings, we may also able to consider additional countries’ travel advice when deciding if a trip is Viable. Please discuss this with us at the time of booking.
    **** This relates to bookings from UK clients only. We may operate trips to destinations which the British FCDO advise against travel for Covid reasons. If this is the case, anyone wishing to will have the option to cancel with a refund or transfer to another trip. In some cases we may choose to offer a tour to a Red destination but these will be at both clients’ and Wild Frontiers’ discretion and will be subject to alternative conditions to be discussed on an ad hoc basis.
    *****If a destination, that we have deemed to be Covid Viable, subsequently fails any aspect of the criteria for two consecutive weeks, you will have the right under our Covid Promise to transfer without any fees.

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