Danakil Depression and Ghralta Churches

20th Dec 2017

Dalol, Danakil Depression 

Photo of Danakil Depression and Ghralta Churches by Samantha Tour and Travel

Ethiopia distinguished from most of the African destinations by the fact that the country’s wealth of historic sites and the identity by its own history and diverse cultures. Danakil depression which is one of the most spectacular regions with the world’s rare active volcano, full of eye-catching colors as in the sulfur springs make up and the magnificent rocky churches of Ghralta are the highlights of this Itinerary.

But the itinerary can easily be amended to include/exclude more days to fit our clients’ schedules, budget and special interests.

Tour Summary

Day 1: Fly from Addis to Mekele and drive from Mekele to HamedeEla

Day 2: Drive from HamdEla to Dodom and walk to Erta Ale

Day 3: Drive back fromErta Ale to Dodom and ghralta

Day 4: Excursion to Mariyam Korkor church and /or Abuna Yemata church

Day 5: Drive from Ghraltha to Mekele and fly back to Addis

Tour itinerary

Day 1: Arriva and sightseeing in Addis

Up on your arrival at Bole International Airport and you will clear immigration and proceed to baggage claim, after collecting your checked bags, clear customs and pass through the arrivals hall where you will be met by our representative, who will assist you with your transfer to your hotel.

After a short break in the afternoon you will start your city tour looking down on Addis Ababa from Entoto Mountain, the capital of Ethiopia before Addis Ababa. Here you will have panoramic views of the city with fresh air from the eucalyptus forests.

After the visit, proceed down to Addis Ababa via ShiroMeda, the city’s largest market for traditional clothes. Afterward drive to the National Museum. The museum houses the nation's artistic treasures as well as many of the most precious archaeological finds such as the fossilized remains of early hominids, the most famous of which is "Lucy," the partial skeleton of a specimen of Australopithecus afarensis. The well-known Lucy is said to be 3.2 million years old.

After visiting the museum, you will drive to Trinity cathedral Church. This church is the highest ranking Orthodox cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was built to commemorate Ethiopia's liberation from Italian occupation and is the second most important place of worship in Ethiopia, after the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum. Finally, you will be transferred to the hotel.

Overnight: Monarch Addis hotel

Day 2-4: Desert Tour to the Danakil Depression

The Danakil Depression is a desert basin which lies in the Danakil Desert in northeastern 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.

Despite the temperature, the Dalol Depression is a truly extraordinary place to visit with superb scenery, a fantastic experience for the adventurous traveler. Moreover, they are unique to Ethiopia, as they are not found anywhere else.

Day 2: Fly from Addis to Mekele and drive to HamedeEla

Fly from Addis to Mekele. Up on arrival at Mekele Airport you will be met by our agents, driver, camping teams and as you will be joined you will be driven to Hamedela via Berhale. The Danakil Depression can be said to ‘begin’ here. It is one of the most spectacular regions, 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 caravans stop before they proceed to the northern highlands. En route you see many long caravans going to the salt mines and others coming out of the Danakil with their salt loaded camels

Overnight: Camping at HamedEla

Day 3: Drive from HamdEla to Dodom and walk to Erta Ale

We start early, shortly after a 06:30 breakfast, and drive to Dodom at the base of Erta Ale. This may be one of the worst roads in the world. The 80 km distance may take about 6 hrs passing through changing the landscape of solidified lava, rock, sand and the occasional palm-lined oasis. You pass several small hamlets scattered here and there in this desert land, before reaching Dodom. You will trek from Dodom to ErtaAle which takes about 3 hrs. Early dinner around 17:00 and trek up to Ert Ale at 20:00. Camels transport all the camping materials and some food, sleeping materials, mattresses, 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 and you will spend an unforgettable night on the top of the mountain.

Overnight: Camping at Erta Ale

Day 4: Drive back from Erta Ale to Dodom and Ghralta

Early morning you will rise with the sun with time to walk around pits and craters. 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. You will leave around 6:00 to head back to Dodom for breakfast. Afterward, you will drive to Ghralta. En route you will have a chance to visit the camel caravans and the beautiful landscape of Tigray.

Overnight: Ghralta lodge or similar

Day 5: Excursion to Mariyam Korkor church and /or Abuna Yemata church

This morning you will drive to one of Gheralta’s rock-hewn churches, AbuneYemata (Guh), named for one of the nine saints who came to Ethiopia. A 12 km drive from the lodge and a further 30 minutes’ walk will bring you to the foot of the perpendicular rock mountains of Guh, which appear as though they are pillars to the sky. The church is carved on the cliff face of one of the mountains of Guh and it is the most spectacular of all rock churches in Ethiopia, as well as the most challenging to access. The interior of the church is reached via a small crack in the rock, and is noted for its beautiful ceiling frescoes. It is surprising that such great works of art have existed for centuries in such unusual place that seems rather closer to the moon than to the earth.

And /Or

Debre Maryam Korkor is one of the biggest and most complex churches in the area and is situated on one of the high mountains of Gheralta. While the climb up to the church is not technical, it is steep and takes just over one hour to reach the summit. Climbing up to the church we will enjoy the panoramic view of the Hawzien plain. The church of Maryam Korkor faces west and it has a white-washed facade nestled into the cliff face. The interior has a series of beautifully decorated arches, and both the arches and ceiling of the church are decorated with bas-reliefs, similar to those at AbrehaAtsbeha. The walls and columns of the church are decorated with paintings of stories from the bible, from both the Old and the New Testament. The church also has a wide collection of parchment manuscripts, archaic bibles and crosses.

Day 6: Drive from Ghraltha to Mekele and fly back to Addis and departure

Morning After breakfast you will have a drive from Ghralta to Mekele. En route we will visit AbrehaAtsbeha, an outstanding rock-hewn church dedicated to the famous twin Axumite kings, Abreha and Atsbeha, who introduced Christianity to Ethiopia during the 4th century. The church is said to be the final resting place for the Axumite twins who are commonly known by their other names, Ezana and Saizana, respectively. Every year on October 14th, thousands of pilgrims make the religious journey to Abreha Atsbeha creating quite a unique spectacle. Up on arrival in Mekele you will be transferred to the airport for your flight back to Addis. This day in Addis you will have a farewell dinner and in prior of 3 hours for your departure you will be transferred to the airport.


• Danakil tour should be quoted as per the size of the group. It can be as you are joined in a group for 2 nights and 3 days, a single group in a car can be a maximum of 4 people.

• Please note that the price for visiting the Danakil Depression is as high as it involves lots of fragmented costs and due to the harsh conditions and its remoteness as well. That might make the total offer a bit higher than expected.

Price includes

• All accommodation based on twin/double room sharing

• All meals on full Board

• All entrance fees at sites, parks, and churches

• All transfers in Addis Ababa using a new model minibus

• All ground transportation using recent model Minivan & 4x4 with Ac supplement according to the itinerary (ground transportations for the sites other than Danakil depression will be using High roof minibus).

• An English-speaking professional regional guide at each destination

• Portage fees

• Cold bottled water throughout the trip

• 15% Government taxes

For the Danakil tour

• Afar Police

• Afar guide

• Cook and assistance cook in Afar

• Cooking utensils

• All meals

• Camping equipment

• Camel for portage of goods

• Afar permit

• All entrance fees

• Bottled water in the vehicle throughout the tour and 15% VAT.

• Extra 4X4 Land Cruisers for the cooks, security people, and local guides

Price doesn’t include:

• Flights

• Insurance

• Alcoholic drinks

• Video filming and photography fees

• Incidental meals, lunch, snacks, and drinks other than in the Danakil

• Tips and items of personal nature like laundry, souvenirs, etc.

• All that is not included in the list above

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