Lalibela and Danakil Depression - 6 Day Tour » Venture Ethiopia - Tours and Travel

Lalibela and Danakil Depression - 6 Day Tour

  • Trek to the summit of Erte Ale
  • Camp out on the rim of an active volcano
  • Experience sunrise over the spectacular lava lake
  • Witness traditional camel caravans
  • Capture a magical sunset over Lake Assal
  • See traditional salt mining in action
  • Be amazed by out-of-this-world sulphur formations
  • Visit the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, carved over 800 years ago

In this tour, you'll trek to the summit of Erte Ale and camp out on the rim of an active volcano, experiencing sunrise over the spectacular lava lake. You'll also witness traditional camel caravans and see traditional salt mining in action, as well as hopefully capturing a magical sunset over Lake Assal and being amazed by out-of-this-world sulphur formations. You'll also explore the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, carved over 800 years ago.

The Danakil (or Dallol) Depression has an average temperature of 34-35 degrees C and drops to 116m below sea sea level at its lowest point near Lake Asale.  This vast and practically unpopulated region is tectonically active and has strange lunar landscapes, active volcanoes, pungent sulphur hot-springs, solidified black lava flows and huge salt-encrusted basins.

Lalibela is in a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia, some 645 km from Addis Ababa, and is famous for eleven medieval monolithic churches were carved out of rock. Their building is attributed to King Lalibela (1181-1221 AD) who set out to construct in the 12th century a ‘New Jerusalem’, after Muslim conquests halted Christian pilgrimages to the holy Land. Lalibela flourished after the decline of the Aksum Empire.

The churches were not constructed in a traditional way, but huge monolithic blocks were carved out of the ground. These blocks were further chiselled out, forming doors, windows, columns, floors and roofs. This gigantic undertaking was further completed with an extensive system of drainage ditches, trenches and ceremonial passages, some with openings to hermit caves and catacombs.

Biete Medhani Alem, with its five aisles, is believed to be the largest monolithic church in the world, while Biete Ghiorgis, the most famous of the churches, has a remarkable cruciform plan. Most were probably used as churches from the outset, but Biete Mercoreos and Biete Gabriel Rafael may formerly have been royal residences. Several of the interiors are decorated with mural paintings.

These exceptional churches have been the focus of pilgrimage for Coptic Christians since the 12th century.  Near the churches, the village of Lalibela has two storey round houses, constructed of local red stone, and known as the Lasta Tukuls.

Day 1: Addis Ababa to Erte Ale

Take an early flight from Addis Ababa to Semera and get ready to explore the amazing world of the Danakil.  Leaving Semera at around 10am, you'll then make an excursion to Dodom via Abala, The Gate of Danakil Depression. This journey takes around 3 hours by 4x4. Along the way, you'll stop to admire the eye-catching views and out-of-this world scenery. In the afternoon/early evening, you'll make the trek from Dodom to Erta Ale Volcano. The trek is about 10 miles and takes 3-4 hours, depending on your fitness.  Erta Ale is one of the most active volcanoes in Africa and has a spectacular permanent lava lake.  We'll set up camp near the rim of the volcano (camping equipment and food is carried up by camels) and you can enjoy spectacular views over the lava lake. 

Day 2: Erte Ale to Lake Assal

Wake up early to experience sunrise in this stunning location.  You'll then make the trek back from Erte Ale to Dodom. After breakfast, you'll then drive from Dodom to Hamd Ela and witness the traditional camel caravans making the long journey to transport salt from the mines to markets in town. In the evening, we'll set up camp near Lake Assal and there'll be chance to capture a magical sunset over Lake Assal.

Day 3: Lake Assal to Semera

From Lake Assal, you'll drive to Ragad, where you'll see salt mining in action.  Here, workers from the local Afar tribe carve salt from the ground and shape it into slabs, before loading it onto camels for transportation to market. You'll then continue your journey on to Dallol, where the multi-coloured vibrant landscape again looks as though it belongs to another planet. From Dallol, you'll drive back to Semera, via Hamd Ela.

Day 4: Semera to Lalibela

The journey to Lalibela will take most of the day, but it's a good chance to view the changing landscapes of the highlands and to see day-to-day life in rural Ethiopia.

Day 5: Lalibela

A full day of sightseeing in and around Lalibela.  Lalibela is one of Ethiopia's holiest cities and a centre of pilgrimage.  It was built in the 12th century to be the ‘New Jerusalem’, and was laid out to resemble that city.  Lalibela is most famous for its rock-hewn churches which, like those of Tigray, are literally carved out of the surrounding rock.  In all there are 11 ‘rock churches’. Bete Giyorgis (the Church of Saint George) is the best known and most impressive. Described as the eighth wonder of the world, the church is carved in the shape of the cross.

Day 6: Lalibela to Addis Ababa

In the morning, you'll take a flight from Lalibela to Addis Ababa.  In the afternoon, you'll have a city tour of Addis Ababa, including its museums, churches and the 'mercato', reputedly the largest market in Africa. Finally, the tour ends with dinner at a cultural restaurant in Addis Ababa, where you can sample local dishes and watch energetic traditional dances from across the country.


 Services Included

  • An experienced professional English-speaking guide

  • All meals from lunch on day 1 to dinner on day 6

  • All land transport involved in the itinerary

  • 2 nights accommodation in campsites

  • 3 nights hotel accommodation
  • Entrance fees and local guides for all excursions described

Services Not Included

  • International or internal flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Ethiopian Visa
  • Tips for staff
  • Miscellaneous expenses – alcoholic drinks, souvenirs etc.

Upcoming tour dates:

If you are interested in this tour, we can also arrange dates to suit you so please contact us.



The cost of this itinerary depends on your group size.

A tour for 1 person costs 92,312 ETB (1,708 USD / 1,572 EUR / 1,380 GBP).

A tour for 2 people costs 72,048 ETB (1,333 USD / 1,227 EUR / 1,077 GBP) per person.

A tour for 3 or more people costs 65,293 ETB (1,208 USD / 1,112 EUR / 976 GBP) per person.


Please see the further details tab for information about services included.

A deposit is required upon booking.  For more details, please see our FAQ page, or read our full terms and conditions.