Lalibela, Danakil Depression & Gheralta Cluster: 15 days
Lalibela is famous for its monolithic rock-cut churches and one of Ethiopia's holiest cities. Unlike Aksum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. The rock-cut churches are beautifully carved with fragile-looking windows and different forms of crosses, and several churches also have wall paintings. Each church has its own resident monk who appears in the doorway in colorful brocade robes. Holding one of the church's elaborate processional crosses, usually made of silver, and sometimes a prayer staff, these monks are quite happy to pose for pictures.
The Danakil Depression is a desert basin which lies in the Danakil Desert in north-eastern part of Ethiopia. It belongs to the homeland of the Afar people and lies up to 100 m below sea level as a result of tectonic activity caused by plate movements. The presence of many volcanoes in the region, including Erta Ale and the Dabbahu Volcano in the middle of the depression, also finds its cause in these plate movements.
Day 1 Addis Ababa – Kombolcha:
North 365km via Debre Birhan in to Kombolcha.
Day 2 Kombolcha – Lalibela:
Northwest 312km via Dessie, Weldiya, Gashena in to Lalibela.
Day 3 Lalibela:
Walking visit Bet Medhane Alem, Bet Maryam, Bet Meskel, Bet Danaghel, Gedamit Maryam, Monastery of Yemrehanna Kirstos & Sarsana Mikael.
Day 4 Lalibela:
Short off-road trek on the hills of Neakutolab & afternoon 170km southeast to Weldiya.
Day 5 Lalibela – Mek’ele:
North 268km via Alamata, Korem, Maychew, Ambalage, May Keyih in to Mek’ele.
Day 6 Mek’ele – Hamd Ela:
The Danakil Depression can be said to 'begin' here. It is one of the most inhospitable regions of the world, but is nonetheless spectacular, full of eye-catching colors, as in the sulphur springs. The desert has several points lying more than 100 meters (328 ft) below sea level; You pass through a small town of Berhale where the camel caravan stop before they proceed to the northern highlands. En route you see many long camel caravans coming to the salt mine and others going out of the Danakil with their salt loaded camels. (3-4 hrs drive)
O/n Hamd Ela, Camping.
Day 7 Hamd Ela – Dodom:
Start early drive to Dodom (at the base of Erta Ale). Leave after an early breakfast, possible at 06:30. This is may be one of the worst roads in the world. The 80 km distance may take about 6 hrs passing through changing landscape of solidified lava, rock, sand and occasional palm lined oasis. After you pass several small hamlets scattered here and there in this desert land, Dodom is about 17km from Erta Ale and it takes about 3 hrs trekking. Early dinner around 17:00 and trek up to Ertale at 20:00 hours. Camels transport all the camping materials and some food (sleeping materials like light mattresses and mat and water) to the rim of the volcano, where we spend the night watching the dramatic action of the boiling lava. Erta Ale ranks one of the most alluring and physically challenging natural attractions anywhere in Ethiopia. It is a shield volcano with a base diameter of 30 km and 1km square caldera at its summit. Erta Ale contains the world’s only permanent lava lake.
Overnight camping on the top of the mountain, Erta Ale is 613 meters, with a lava lake, one of only five in the world, at the summit. It is notable for being the longest existing lava lake, present since the early years of the twentieth century.
Day 8 Dodom - Hamd Ela:
Erta Ale around 9 am Dodom - Hamd Ela. Leave back to Dodom after an early breakfast, if possible at 07:00. You will reach latest at 10:30 am at the camp, time to relax. After drive to reach Hamd Ela, better village with a total population about 500 people.
O/n Hamd Ela, Camping.
Day 9 Hamd Ela – Dallol – Hamd Ela:
Ragad (Asebo) the place where the localities are mining salt, look the activity of breaking the salt from the ground, cutting in to rectangular pieces and loading on camels. You drive ahead to Dallol and visit the difference landscape formed by volcanic activity, Dallol + Lake Assal + camel caravans. Excursion to Dallol (116 meter below sea level, one of the lowest places in the world) colorful salts mining, visit Lake Assal, follow u camel caravans and walk with the Afar people.
O/n Hamd Ela, Camping.
Day 10 Hamd Ela – Mek’ele:
Dramatic outcrops of the Mesozoic sediments & via Berhaile in to Mek’ele.
Day 11 Mek’ele – Wukro:
Morning rest & walking City Tour Mek’ele & afternoon north 48km in to Wukro.
Day 12 Wukro – Hawzen/Gheralta:
Visit Wukro Chirkos then take Wukro-Dugem road to visit Aberha we Atsbeha & in to Hawzen.
Day 13 Gheralta:
Gheralta Cluster Excursions.
Day 14 Gheralta – Weldiya:
South 357km via Mek’ele in to Weldiya.
Day 15 Weldiya – Addis Ababa:
504km south via Debre Birhan in to Addis Ababa.
O/n Addis Ababa.