Key information: Djibouti
- Thrilling desert and post-volcanic walking in this tough environment – plus some delightful mountains.
- Walkopedia rating87
- Natural interest18
- Human interest2
- Negative points0
- Total rating87
- Length: Variable
- Maximum Altitude: 1,750m
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
This walk description page is at an early stage of development, and will be expanded over time. Your comments on this walk, your experiences and tips, and your photos are very welcome.
This hot, barren and little-known enclave on the Red Sea east of Ethiopia will surprise you with its natural marvels and, as a result, great walking.
A very volcanic history means you will meet ancient volcanoes, weird formations and high plateaus from basalt outpourings, as well as canyons and salt lakes.
Djibouti City is a mixed place, until recently a post-colonial mess which is modernising fast as a result of its strategic importance.
Superb places to walk in its hinterland include the following.
This outstanding crater lake lies in a huge depression, at 155m below sea level the lowest point in Africa, some 100km west of Djibouti City. Around it is a ring of volcanic cones and their dark lava fields and a vast, white salt flat, 10km wide and 60m deep. Exceptional landscape, even by East African standards. Explore on foot.
Another absolutely extraordinary area: a huge, largely desolate plain on the Ethiopian border with a flamingo-lined lake, hot, bubbling springs and countless peculiar towers/chimneys of limestone which emit steam eructations. The chimneys are up to 150m high, so immensely dramatic (and some are climbable!). The whole area evokes less-believable sci-fi. Not to be missed.
Entering the Goda Mountains can be a shock, as you transition rapidly from harsh desert to dank cloud forest. These mountains, up to 1,750m high, tower to the north-west of the gulf in which Djibouti City sits. They capture the moisture that the rest of the area so evidently misses, and their flanks are patched with forest and surprisingly pleasant Afar villages nestled in their verdant fields.
The nearest area to Djibouti City is the Foret du Day, a fascinating cloud forest at around 1,500m on the south-eastern flanks. It is home to birds galore, including raptors, deer and monkeys. Next round, to the north land on the eastern side of the Foret du Day, is Dittilou. The furthest away is Bankouale, which sits in wonderful landscape, with peaks, cliffs, gorges and waterfalls.
Another extraordinary depression, west of the Goda Mountains. Aeons of volcanism have produced an endless array of wierdness, from crazed distortions of rock to dark lava fields and harshly white salt flats. You can make sorter walks, but the great experience here us to trek across the whole area; thus can be done in various ways, taking from 2 to 4 days.
This 298m red fissure volcano, surrounded by rough lava fields, sits between Lake Assal and the sea. Well worth a visit to view a very recently-born volcano (1978).
Western salt routes
In the west are routes along which salt has been carried for centuries. You can trek in utterly remote and often dramatic landscape, from overnighters in the areas of Lac Assal and Les Allols to much longer routes towards the Ethiopian border. You will be guided by Afar nomads, so this is a brilliant way to encounter local nomadic culture.
Abourma Rock Art Site
Round to the north-east of the Goda Mountains is this superb rock-art site, which is awash with detailed pictures of animals and people. A 2hr return walk through wild, stunning landscape, although check ahead that the access track is passable to vehicles. Guide compulsory. Very hot and exposed. Combine with a Goda Mts expedition.
Expeditions/guides often need to be organised in Djibouti City. Agence Safar is the most-recommended operator. Safar.email@example.com.
Lonely Planet's Ethiopia and Djibouti has decent basic information (including about guides and places to stay) on all the above - find it here.
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Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Books which mention these walks
Ethiopia and Djibouti – Lonely Planet
Find these and other books on Amazon.
Find these and other books on Amazon.
Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).
Best times to walk/weather
November-January for mildest weather. October and February-April are hotter but survivable. May-September – forget it.
Always hot(ish) at the least, unbearable in summer. The mountains are always relatively cooler.
There are flights from Addis Ababa and cities in Africa and Europe (plus Dubai) to Djibouti. For entry into Djibouti, you must have a visa: check the current position, and whether one can be got on entry.
All transport from Djibouti City tends to be sorted out for you and included in the price. You can also hike/drive yourself.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
Heights: can be dangerous if climbing into the mountains; not for those who have difficulties with heights.
Harmful animals, including snakes, scorpions and stinging/biting insects and plants. Take all appropriate precautions.
This can be a remote country: food and other supplies will not be readily available and help will be hard to get if things go wrong.
Health risks: this is a undeveloped country, and you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
Guides and other support can be arranged in Djibouti city.
Few, if any, walk alone here, beyond short excursions. They form or join organised/supported expeditions when doing multi-day walks. Choosing a suitable team or company is of course vital.
If hiring a guide/team locally, meet him/her/them and get comfortable before committing. Make sure all requirements are understood and agreed – including how you will eat and the importance of avoiding illness, as well as overnighting and, of course, remuneration!
Expeditions/guides often need to be organised in Djibouti City.
Agence Safar is the most-recommended operator. Safar.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The guidebooks have a selection of possible accommodation; once in the remote regions, camping (and a few lodges) are the only realistic option.
Other information and tips
Useful websites and information
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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