The most famous volcano has been continuously erupting since 1967, is consisting of seven active peaks extending over an area of 2350 km2, and rising to 1501 meter. Erta Ale, with long chain of extinct volcanoes is located in Afar National Regional state, northeast of the country close to the Dallol/Denakil depression. Overland cruise into this harsh, but outstanding world is something every one can handle and will not ever forget throughout his/her life time, and it’s best to visit during the relatively coolest time between December – February.
Erta Ale means “smoking mountain” in the local Afar language and its southernmost pit is known locally as “the gateway to Hell”. In 2009, it was mapped by a team from the BBC using three-dimensional laser techniques, in order for the mapping team to maintain a distance and avoid the lakes’ searingly hot temperatures.
Erta Ale is centered over the East African Rift system, which is a triple junction setting whose movements are resulting in the formation of a pull-apart basin or rift. The volcano comprises mainly Mafic material which has been brought up to the surface caused by unroofing of the mantle due to this rift formation.
There was a major eruption on 25 September 2005 which killed 250 head of livestock and forced thousands of nearby residents to flee. There was further lava flow in August 2007, forcing the evacuation of hundreds and leaving two missing. An eruption on 4 November 2008 was reported by scientists at Addis Ababa University.Another eruption was reported in January 2017.
Not much is known about Erta Ale and the surrounding terrain is some of the most inhospitable on Earth making travel difficult and dangerous. The Afar region also experiences intermittent ethnic violence due to unification struggles by the native Afar people. On January 16, 2012, a group of European tourists and academics was attacked at Erta Ale. Five tourists were killed, two taken as hostages and seven others wounded. The Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF) claimed responsibility for the attack and released the two kidnapped tourists in March 2012. One travel guide recommends hiring “one or maybe two armed guards or police” as guides to visit Erta Ale. Commercial tour companies offer tours to Erta Ale which are generally accompanied by military escort.