Located in the Afar Region of northeastern Ethiopia, the terrible road to Erta Ale volcano may be one of the worst roads in the world, in one of the most inhospitable regions on Earth. The drive is extremely dangerous (landmines, terrorism, malaria, extreme weather, kidnapping, banditry and armed assaults), making travel difficult and dangerous.
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, lowest and hottest places on earth. Erta Ale is the most active volcano in the country. It has been erupting continuously since 1967.
The road to the volcano is totally unpaved (sand and rough lava) in terrible conditions, often hidden in the dust. 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 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.
This drive is not recommended. Extreme care:
- 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.