Contact Us

Ethiopia: Harar and the Danakil Depression

Group Tour

9 Days From $4,599

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 ‘ ...

Read More

HIGHLIGHTS

At a glance

MEALS

8 x Breakfasts
9 x Lunches
9 x Dinners

TRANSPORT

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

GROUP SIZE

Maximum: 12

CARBON CONTRIBUTIONS

A carbon-offsetting contribution to Eco Act for all bookings

EXPERT TEAM

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

ACCOMMODATION

All accommodation as outlined in the itinerary

ACCOMMODATION

Ultra
The best of the best, the ultimate in luxury
Luxury
Outstanding service and facilities, giving you the 5* experience
Premium
Excellent standards without the big price tag
Superior
Good quality service and overall comfort
Simple
No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

ENTRANCE FEES

All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary

FITNESS RATING

Moderate

FITNESS RATING

LOW: You should be comfortable walking around towns and cultural sites. May include some optional walks (typically 1-2hrs).

LOW/MODERATE: May be of a long duration and/or involve numerous border-crossings. May include easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-3hrs/day). You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle.

MODERATE: May include several easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-5hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle. Previous experience of similar trips helpful.

MODERATE/HIGH: May involve several days of moderate hiking (up to 3-6 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

HIGH: May involve several days of moderate/strenuous trekking (up to 4-7 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a very fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

Map & Itinerary

Individual departures may vary so please refer to the information in the tour specific links in the Dates and Prices section below

Ethiopia: Harar and the Danakil Depression
EXPAND ALL ITINERARY DAYS
COLLAPSE ALL ITINERARY DAYS

DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN DIRE DAWA

DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN DIRE DAWA

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.

Samrat Hotel or similar
Lunch, Dinner

DAY 2: DIRE DAWA - HARAR

DAY 2: DIRE DAWA - HARAR

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!

Traditional Guesthouse or Simple Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 3: HARAR - AWASH NATIONAL PARK

DAY 3: HARAR - AWASH NATIONAL PARK

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.

Falls Lodge or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 4: AWASH NATIONAL PARK - SEMERA

DAY 4: AWASH NATIONAL PARK - SEMERA

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.

Agda Hotel or camping
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 5: SEMERA – LAKE AFRERA

DAY 5: SEMERA – LAKE AFRERA

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!

Remote Camp
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 6: LAKE AFRERA – ERTA ALE VOLCANO BASECAMP

DAY 6: LAKE AFRERA – ERTA ALE VOLCANO BASECAMP

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!

Remote Camp
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 7: ERTA ALE VOLCANO

DAY 7: ERTA ALE VOLCANO

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.

Remote Camp
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 8: ERTA ALE VOLCANO - DALLOL

DAY 8: ERTA ALE VOLCANO - DALLOL

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.

Remote Camp
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 9: DALLOL - MEKELE - TOUR ENDS

DAY 9: DALLOL - MEKELE - TOUR ENDS

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.

Day Rooms at the Zemarias Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

ACCOMMODATION USED ON THIS TOUR

Hotel Rating

Ultra
The best of the best, the ultimate in luxury
Luxury
Outstanding service and facilities, giving you the 5* experience
Premium
Excellent standards without the big price tag
Superior
Good quality service and overall comfort
Simple
No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

Accommodation displayed here should be taken as a guide only. *Please refer to the Detailed Itinerary of your individual departure for more information.

PRIVATE HOLIDAYS: DATES DON’T FIT?

All group tours can be taken on a private basis.

Additional Details

Responsible Travel

Responsible travel and sustainable tourism are fundamental ideas that Wild Frontiers has been committed to since our birth. It is our strong belief that these words should not be simply ‘tagged on’ to itineraries and websites but should be at the very core of each trip, and our adventures are therefore designed with the local people, culture and eco-system in mind. We believe that a successful trip not only delivers a unique and unsurpassable journey for our clients, but that it also benefits the peoples whose lands we are privileged to visit. For more information, please see our responsible travel page.

Supporting Education in Ethiopia

The Wild Frontiers Foundation is proud to support Camara, an international charity and social enterprise that uses technology to deliver 21st century skills to improve education in disadvantaged communities around the world.

In 2012, with £2500 initial funding from the foundation, Camara was able to install 25 recycled computers, loaded with educational software, and create a new E Learning Centre at Aba’ala Secondary School in the remote Afar region of northern Ethiopia. Teachers from the school have also been trained in basic digital literacy skills, simple hardware maintenance and how to use computers to teach other subjects.

In 2015 we sponsored our second school with a further £2500 to establish an e-learning classroom at the Bruh Tesfa Primary School, in Addis Ababa. These students now have access to affordable technology and are learning new skills to improve their education and ultimately gain better future employment.

We are continuing to raise money to install more e-learning centres in other Ethiopian schools.

Promoting Gender Quality

In 2020 Wild Frontiers is sponsoring the Gondar Girls’ Football Team. The team initiative, set up by partners Link Ethiopia, promotes gender quality, builds confidence, and develops the leadership skills of girls aged 13 to 16. Training twice a week, it also provides opportunities for girls to move beyond the limitations of traditional gender roles in a fun, safe environment and develop a supportive network of friends, while improving their physical fitness.

The programme also runs regular sessions for the 20 girls on puberty, sexual health, family planning, and the right over their bodies, along with providing menstrual hygiene management kits.

Getting There

If you would like us to send you a quote for the suggested tour flights or on any alternative flight that may suit you better, please let us know, noting that for our US clients, we will most likely refer you to one of our preferred partners. For this trip our suggested flights from the UK (subject to change) are shown below.

If you wish to arrange your own flights you are completely free to do so and in this case we can arrange any transfers or supplementary accommodation that you may require. However please note that if you are planning on making your own flight arrangements, we recommend that you first check with us to see if the trip is guaranteed. We then suggest that you purchase flights that are flexible and ideally refundable as due to the nature of adventure travel, itineraries and destination accessibility can change at any time. For more information, please refer to our booking conditions.
 

Flight Code Departing Arriving
ET 701 London Heathrow (LHR) 20:15 Addis Ababa Airport (ADD) 06:15
ET 214 Addis Ababa Airport (ADD) 11:45 Dire Dawa Airport (DIR) 12:45
ET 149 Mekele Airport (MQX) 21:00 Addis Ababa Airport (ADD) 22:25
ET 700 Addis Ababa Airport (ADD) 01:20 London Heathrow (LHR) 06:35

Visas

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 www.travcour.com 

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.

Extensions

If you have more time available, why not arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts? Or alternatively you might choose to allow a few extra days after the tour to relax or to undertake some further exploration.

The choice is completely yours and we can usually arrange anything from simply additional accommodation and transfers to full tailor-made itineraries.

Below is just a small sample of what you could do. Please contact the office for more details and to discuss your individual requirements.

Omo Valley

Visit one of the most culturally diverse regions in Ethiopia, home to several unique and fascinating tribes. Allow for 12 - 15 days

Historical Northern Circuit

Visit the best of the historical northern circuit of Ethiopia including Mekele, Tigray, Yeha and Axum or spend some time exploring the stunning UNESCO Simien National park and mingle with Gelada baboons. Allow between 3 - 6 days. 

Governmental Travel Advice

Many governments issue advice which highlights potential hazards their citizens might experience when travelling abroad. We strongly suggest you refer to your country’s particular advisory site before booking and contact us if you have any queries or concerns. Click to follow links to the advice of the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or the US State Department.

Non-UK citizens should consult the travel advice of their respective governments.

Key Information

CLIMATE

The Danakil Depression is one of the hottest places on Earth so please come prepared. Our trips to the Danakil run from Nov – Feb as this is the cooler time of year but this can still mean daytime temperatures up to and around 40C. Night time temperatures in the Danakil are in the 20s (C) and rainfall is very rare. Harar and Mekele will be cooler, but the vast majority of this trip is likely to be very hot.

IS THIS TRIP FOR ME?

It may sound obvious but Wild Frontiers tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. All our tours have a fitness rating as a guideline but you should check the day-by-day itinerary carefully. In certain instances we may ask you to complete a travel questionnaire before confirming your booking in order to ensure your suitability. Should you have any concerns about your ability to partake in any aspect of the tour then please contact the office.

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.

THE NATURE OF ADVENTURE TRAVEL

We feel that it’s worth pointing out that while we will always strive to stick as close to the stated itinerary as possible, it may be necessary from time to time to make changes to our itineraries or services (due to weather, political and religious influences etc.) and this can happen with little or no notice. This unpredictability can be one of the most exciting aspects of adventure travel and for many of our clients often leads to unexpected highlights as the tour-leader necessarily adapts the tour to the changing conditions. However we are aware that this lack of assuredness may not suit everyone. As such, with the greatest respect, if you are someone who needs to know that everything will happen exactly as planned, we would kindly suggest that perhaps our tours are not for you. Adventure travel can be infectious and once you’ve caught the bug, it is likely to never leave you, but especially if this is your first such tour we would strongly urge you to give us a call if you have any concerns whatsoever about your suitability for this trip.

TRAVELLING SOLO AND SINGLE SUPPLEMENTS

As a company approximately 70% of our clients are solo travellers, so it’s very unlikely you’ll be alone!

Our prices are typically based on twin-share accommodation but single supplements are not compulsory for any Wild Frontiers tour. If you prefer not to pay a single supplement we’ll pair you with someone else of the same sex for you to share with throughout the trip.

On this trip, if you do opt to pay for a single supplement then please note that it will cover you for all nights of the tour including all camping nights. The only exception is in Harar where it may be necessary to share a room with someone of the same sex due to the limited infrastructure of some of the guesthouses.

Please note that paying a single supplement entitles you to lone occupancy of a single room. In many cases these rooms will be of the same size as a double/twin room, but in some cases they may be smaller.
 

INSURANCE

Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all tours. You should be aware that due to some of the geographical areas visited and some of the activities included on certain of our trips some standard insurance policies may not always provide adequate cover. As such we strongly recommend that you purchase a policy that adequately covers your trip. If you choose to purchase the Wild Frontiers bespoke policy through Travel & General (currently available to UK residents only) then please note for this trip the minimum required level of cover will be the Standard policy. Please see the Insurance section for more details.

General Information

TOUR PRICE

All our tours are priced on a land-only basis, giving you maximum flexibility when deciding how to get to and from your tour.

DEPOSIT

A £200 (or equivalent) deposit is required to confirm your booking.

PROTECTION FOR YOUR MONEY

For further details please see our travelling with peace of mind page

WILD MILES

This tour will earn you 7468 Wild Miles

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 mandatory
Tips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documents
International Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UK
Airport Transfers: We include complimentary transfers if arriving/departing on the suggested group flights
Beverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs

WILD FRONTIERS COMMUNITY

If you’re still not sure if this trip is right or just want to see get some different perspectives, then why not have a look at the wide variety of resources we have on our website? Browse our community section to read our blogs, watch videos and find out about our events. 

WHY WILD FRONTIERS?

We are frequently asked what makes Wild Frontiers different from other tour operators. Visit our Why Wild Frontiers page to find out.

INSPIRATION