Ethiopia :: Ethiopia
Category: Attraction :: Interesting Places
The Danakil Depression is located in the northern part of the Afar Triangle, near the Eritrean and Djibouti borders. This is a geological depression which is situated at the junction of three tectonic plates that are drifting apart at about 10 millimetres a year. It is a highly active seismic area, with earthquakes causing deep fissures in the terrain hundreds of metres long, a high level of volcanic activity and the valley floor imperceptibly sinking across the Depression. The Danakil Depression is known for being the hottest place on the planet year-round, holding the record high monthly average temperature for any inhabited area on earth at nearly 47 degrees Celsius. The temperature often rises to well into the 50’s. It's also one of the most remote places on earth and the 4th lowest at around -130m below sea level.
In the northern part of the Danakil Depression the Dallol area is extremely interesting and includes salt mines, sulphur springs, a salt pool in which you can float, Lake Asala (a solid salt lake) and Salt mountain. The salt originates from infrequent flooding by the Red Sea, which last occurred about 30 000 years ago. This produced about 1,200 square km of salt deposits which are mined by the Afar tribesman for animal licks and form a major source of income. Seismic studies have shown that the salt extends to a depth of around 2000 metres.
The Erta Ale volcano is located in the south of the Danakil Depression. Erta Ale volcano, with a base diameter of 30km and a 1km caldera at its summit is about 600m above sea level. The main pit crater is 200m deep and 350m across, whilst the lava lake itself is contained by its own smaller crater, about 120m across and perhaps 10m deep. This volcano last erupted in 2003, killing 250 livestock and causing tribesmen to flee. Currently it holds one of only six of the world's permanently molten lava lakes.
It is virtually impossible for individual tourists to explore the Danakil Depression on their own, as permits and obligatory security arrangements are complicated, involving police, army personnel and Afar tribesmen, all armed, and all of whom are quick to exploit inexperienced travellers. Also, the area is very inhospitable, remote and can only be reached with a 4WD.
Local tour companies offer four-day excursions to the Danakil Depression. ETT Tours is located in Mekele from where the tour to the Dallol area and the Erta Ale volcano leaves.
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