The dangerous and not recommended drive to Erta Ale volcano

Located in Ethiopia's Afar Region, the treacherous road leading to the Erta Ale volcano stands as a contender for one of the world's most perilous routes, set amidst some of the most unforgiving terrains on Earth. Numerous hazards such as landmines, terrorism, malaria, extreme weather conditions, kidnapping, banditry, and armed attacks make this journey particularly challenging and risky.

Erta Ale volcano

A glimpse into Erta Ale’s fiery majesty

This 613 metres (2,011 ft) high continuously active basaltic shield volcano, known as the "Smoking Mountain" and the “Gateway to Hell" is a remote and rarely visited volcano. It’s located in the hostile Danakil depression, one of the driest, hottest and lowest places on Earth. Erta Ale is the most active volcano in the country. It has been erupting continuously since 1967.

The daunting road to Erta Ale

Tucked away in the central northern Danakil depression, on the northeastern part of the country, the road to the volcano is totally unpaved (sand and rough lava) in terrible conditions, often hidden in the dust, through one of the world’s most challenging environments. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable sandstorms, which bring the visibility down to a few meters. In these conditions, it's often difficult to see the road. Starting from Afdera, the road is 80km (49.70 miles) long and may take about 6 hours running through changing landscape of solidified lava, rock, sand and occasional palm lined oasis. It’s now possible to drive within 4.3 miles of the volcano. Due to the unstable political situation in the area, it’s recommended hiring one or two armed guards or police as guides to visit the area.

Risks & Cautions

Considering the myriad of dangers associated with this drive, utmost caution is imperative. Here are some potential hazards:
- The area is heavily mined with fatal incidents occurring each year
- High threat from terrorism
- Mosquitoes and malaria
- Extreme weather: temperatures during the year range from 77°F to 118°F
- Kidnapping and banditry occur often in the region
- Ongoing armed assaults with some attacks targeting tourists and convoys. In December 2017, a German tourist was fatally shot while descending the volcano.

Pic: asturKon