The Danakil Depression in the north-east of Ethiopia is officially listed as the hottest place on Earth, with an average temperature of 34 – 35C. It lies at the junction of three tectonic plates and has developed as a result of Africa and Asia moving apart.
A plain, measuring around 200 by 50 kms, it is about 125 m below sea level. It is sometimes referred to as the cradle of hominids after Donald Johanson and his colleagues in 1974 found the famous Lucy Australopithecus fossil, which has been dated as 3.2 million years old.
One of the driest and most tectonically active areas on the planet, the Danakil is an area of singular geological fascination, a strange lunar landscape studded with active volcanoes. You will see some of the world’s most unique malodorous sulphur-caked hot springs, solidified black lava flows and vast salt encrusted basins.
Salt mining at Lake Assale has been carried out for centuries, providing local people with a very basic living. Camel caravans carrying loads of salt can be encountered on the way.
Among the geological points of interest to tourists are numerous hot springs, among them Yellow Lake.This is harsh country, and a tour through this area needs to be planned carefully, allowing for the climate, geological conditions and, occasionally, security challenges.