The Eastern Circuit
The east of Ethiopia is the embodiment of the country’s many and varied cultural influences. While still constituting some of the highlands, the climate is drier than the west of the country, creating some significant wildernesses with good wildlife and bird sightings. However, the Eastern Circuit is best known for its history, for its culture, and for its staggeringly different landscapes. The Afar still walk a countryside where once lived the earliest recorded hominid. Built into rocky outcrops and cliffs, rock churches stand testament to the technological capabilities of the medieval Solomonic dynasty. Incredibly remote, incredibly different, it’s a very special place.
Surrounded by stout ancient walls, Harar is the third most important city in the Muslim world and a centre for Islamic learning. It is renowned for its remarkable handicrafts, including fine weaving and beautifully bound manuscripts. The markets and museums are worth visiting, as are the old city’s many mosques. An unusual sight unique to Harar is the hyena man, who feeds the local population of hyenas each night. The hyenas will even take food from his mouth.
Based on the year-round average temperature, the Dallol Desert is the hottest place on earth. Some parts are more than 100 metres below sea level, and by noon the temperature here can soar above 50C. Situated on a fault line, it’s low lying volcanic landscape is the result of tectonic activity, the Afar Triangle the point at which three plates meet, known as the Afar Triple Junction. The Dallol is actually a volcanic crater surrounded by pungent and bizarre looking sulphur springs that serve to create an alien-looking landscape. Here also the Awash River dries up to form a series of salt lakes that provide a local industry for the Afar people, whose camel chains carting the cut salt out of the Danakil Depression are not to be missed.
While trips into the desert can be made from Gheralta, our own Danakil Expedition Camp provides a great base for exploring the region.
Meaning “smoking mountain” in the Afar language, Erta Ale is the most active volcano in Ethiopia. It is only 613 metres high with gentle slopes and is continually active with one - and sometimes two - lava lakes at the summit. This is a rarity as there are only six volcanoes in the world with lava lakes. Occasionally, these lakes will overflow down the south side of the mountain.
Danakil Expedition Camp.
Awash National Park
Awash National Park covers 756 square kilometres of arid and semi-arid woodland alongside the Awash River. Wildlife in the park include dik-dik, kudu, warthog, East African oryx, Soemmerring’s gazelle, and baboon. With a species count of 392, some of which are endemic, the birdlife is prolific, especially along the river, and in nearby Lake Basaka, making it something of a birder’s paradise.
Awash Falls Lodge.