Day 2 in the Land of the Devil

Left the lake early in the morning, we drive to the small village at the base of Erta Ale. The road is very bad and it takes a long time passing through incredible changing landscape of sand, rock, dry land and solidified lava with its black colour.

Dry land on the way, Danakil Depression
Dry land on the way, Danakil Depression

We get to the village around 4 p.m. and after picking up our camping material and placed it on the camel, our guide, a young Afar guy, start leading us along the volcano’s path.  It’s wonderful to climb the rock face surrounded by solidificated lava with odd shapes and see the red sun to dip below the horizon. We reach the base camp after almost 4 hours when it’s already dark….now we are on the rim, in front of us the active Erta Ale volcano!

Solidified lava in Erta Ale, Ethiopia
Solidificated lava in Erta Ale, Ethiopia

Erta Ale means “smoking mountain” in the Afar language and its southernmost pit is known as “the gateway to Hell“. It ranks one of the most enchanting attractions in the east side of Africa. Erta Ale is a shield volcano with a base diameter of 30 km and 1km square caldera at its summit and it is part of the world’s only permanent lava lake .

Erta Ale caldera view, Ethiopia
Erta Ale caldera view, Ethiopia

We spend here on the rim an unforgettable night under a bright sky full of stars watching the exciting action of the boiling lava and its fumes (check our itinerary here) .

Erta Ale and Ahmad Ela – Day 3

While the sun is rising, we walk around the pits and craters to have the last look of this amazing place. The main pit-crater, 200 m deep and 350 m across, is sub-circular and three storied. The smaller southern pit is 65 m wide and about 100 m deep. It’s the time to go back to the village that we reach around 11 a.m., after 3 hours trekking under a very strong sun.

Camel caravans at Hamad Ela, Ethiopia
Camel caravans at Hamad Ela, Ethiopia

After a short rest, we jump on our car heading to Hamad Ela, a small village with a total population about 400 people, located at the end of the “salt flat“. It is the base to explore Dallol springs, the salt mines, watch the salt workers cut the salt and see camel caravans. Got there around 3 p.m., we take a couple of hours off, watching the caravans loaded with salt   cross the village before they proceed to Berhale and the northern highlands. Here the sky is very wonderful during the night, with no lights and a stiff breeze, you can stare and sleep under thousand and thousand bright stars.

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