Danakil Depression: the hottest place on the planet

Located in the center of the Horn of Africa, Danakil is the most remote and harsh place on the planet.

The Gate to Hell

During the hottest pẻiod, Danakil has a temperature of up to 50 degrees Celsius. With an annual rainfall of between 100 and 200 mm, this place is called "The Gate to Hell".


Formed by the collision of tectonic plates on the Ethiopian, Eritrea and Djibouti borders, the Danakil lowlands possess beautiful geological wonders. There are colorful hydrothermal fields, giant salt pans, and chemical-rich hot lakes and underground lava flows. In the highest acidic and hot lakes, the reaction of sulfur and salt forms bright yellow shapes. In cooler lakes, copper salt creates turquoise.

Afar people in Danakil

With a hot, dry climate and harsh conditions, very few plants and animals can live in Danakil. However, Afar people have settled here for hundreds of years in Hamadela village.


The Afar's main job is to extract salt from Danakil's mineral lakes and transport them through the camel desert. Every day, each person can cut about 120 salt blocks weighing 4kg. After cutting, salt is transferred to Berahile village, 80 km away. The journey lasts from 2 to 3 days each way. Each trip, the group earned 3,320 birrs (nearly 116 USD). However, most of this money belongs to the owners of the camels, and the hired workers receive very little. They used to transfer salt to the Mekele market, about a week's walk away. However, with the appearance of roads, trucks can directly take salt from Berahile village.


Afar people also live by nomadic lifestyles. They are in huts that can dismantle and care for cattle including goats, donkeys, and camels. Awash River is the main water flow into the area, bringing life to Afar people and their herds.

Awash River

Awash is one of the most unique rivers in the world. Originating from the Ethiopian plateau, the river flows into lakes in Danakil Depression. Under the impact of the scorching sun, lake water evaporates and leaves huge salt pans.


Adapting to Danakil's harsh living conditions, Afar bodies need less water and food than ordinary people. On the journey, they only need a loaf of bread and water. The road connecting Hamid Ela village (50 km away from the salt mine) to Berahile was built. Despite the transformation in Danakil, Afar people and their camel crew still maintain a long tradition.

Erta Ale


Due to low income, Afar people also do other jobs such as transporting goods for tourists who want to spend the night atop Erta Ale to take photos. Most visitors come here to visit this  613-meter high volcano with a rare lava lake in the world.

By: Abigail Harris

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