Lac Assal

Lac Assal

In the Danakil desert, just over 112 kilometers west of the capital, lies one of Djibouti’s national treasures, the crater lake Lac Assal.

This geological phenomenon sits 155 meters below sea level, making it the lowest point on the African continent and the third lowest point in the world. The hot environment (with temperatures exceeding 50C degrees in the summer) has evaporated some of the water, leaving a wide white salt bed around the green-blue waters. Above this the black rock of the surrounding dormant volcanos make a stark contrast to the gleaming shores.

The lake was linked to Ethiopia thorough caravan routes created by salt trading Afar nomads. Salt extraction from the shores of the crater lake is still carried out to this day.

 

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Lac Abbé

Lac Abbé

Approaching the salt lake Lac Abbé is like stepping off a spaceship onto a different planet.

The lake is situated on the Djibouti-Ethiopian border, in the hot Afar depression created by the earth’s tectonic plates pulling away from each other. Here vast salt plains stretch for kilometers, scattered with towering steam-spewing limestone chimneys, of which some are 50 meters tall. Views of the otherwise rather flat landscape is interrupted by the dormant volcano Mount Dama Ali, rising up 1,069 meters in the horizon.

The best time to visit Lac Abbé is in the late afternoon as the sun sets and creates surreal silhouettes of the limestone chimneys.

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Djibouti City

Djibouti City

The country’s capital, Djibouti City (pop. 529.000 according to 2013 census), is located on the coast of Tadjoura. Its strategic location at the entrance to the Red Sea and its busy shipping lanes has contributed to a thriving city and a booming economy.

Before heading out to the hinterland visitors can explore the lively fruit and spice markets in the African quarter and pass by the iconic Hamoudi Mosque with its spectacular minaret. The European quarter in turn, houses a mix of Arabic and French influences and is a great place experiencing an eclectic mix of fine cuisines.

 

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Gulf of Tadjoura

Gulf of Tadjoura

The Gulf of Tadjoura is a 347 square kilometer inlet just south of the entrance to the Red Sea. Below the surface is a rich and diverse marine life full of colorful corals and fish species, making the Gulf of Tadjoura a prime spot for scuba diving, snorkeling with whale sharks and underwater photography.

 

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Tadjoura

Tadjoura

The old port town of Tadjoura is best admired from a sea approach. Nestled below the Goda mountains, the town’s whitewashed buildings and palm tree lined streets dotted with minarets and mosques, paint a pretty picture. Leisurely walks along the waterfront and visits to the nearby beaches are a popular pastime, while the more active can go in search of the rare Djibouti francolin and other bird species in the Day Forest National Park, just west of the town.

Tadjoura is accessible from the capital by road (3 hrs) or by ferry (1.5 hrs).

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