Erta Ale and Dallol, from heaven to hell

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The first is known as the biggest lava lake in the world, the second one is a huge volcanic maar, considered the most inhospitable place on earth.

A place where nature expresses all its dramatic potential. A hostile and dangerous land in a magical scenario.

Erta Ale is an active volcano and is 613 metres (2,011 ft) high. Technically, Erta Ale is the name of the mountain range in the Afar Triangle, in the north of Ethiopia. The crater of the volcano, which houses the largest and most impressive lava lake in the world, has a diameter ranging from 70 to 100 meters, depending on the eruptive activity. According to some studies, Erta Ale has been active for at least 90 years, seamlessly. The moderate lava accumulation near the volcano is probably due to the high density of the magma and its rapid cooling, which would impede the lava flows out of the crater. However, the lava lake conditions are constantly changing. It is possible to reach the crater for scientific and documentary reasons or for video footage and it can also be guaranteed the stay for several days on the mountain.

Moving northward, before the border with Eritrea, you venture into one of the most hostile places in the world: the Dallol. The Dallol, which in the local language means “dissolved”, is an enormous volcano, whose upper surface is formed by geyser, cones of salt, sulfur mountains and acids lakes. Also important is the presence of magnesium chloride deposits and, above all, potassium.

The Dallol is placed in a depression that reaches -116 meters below sea level. Temperature can reach over 60 degrees Celsius. These conditions make almost impossible any form of human life, in fact the area is completely uninhabited. Needless to underline the danger of the location, which features are obviously more “alien” than terrestrial.

Ph. F. Pandolfo

In collaboration with

logo agenzia di viaggi kailas

Logistics and transports
  • tent
  • jeep
  • animals

Points of interest

Volcanoes, salty and acidic lakes, sulphurous puddles.

Lake Afdera.

Awash Falls.

Ghost city.

Unique lavic surface in the world.


The area of the Erta Ale and the Dallol can be reached via a long way in the desert through off-road vehicles. The climb to the first volcano has no technical difficulties and can be tackled with the support of bearers and animals.

The social instability of the region require special permits and logistic support from the UN and local army