Just over 100km west of the capital lies one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in Africa: Lake Assal.
Situated 155m below sea level, this crater lake is encircled by dark, dormant volcanoes. It represents the lowest point on the continent.
The aquamarine water is ringed by a huge salt field, 60m in depth. The salt field has been mined by the Afar nomads for centuries, and they can still be seen loading up their camels for the long trek south to Ethiopia.
GETTING THERE & AWAY
There’s no public transport to Lac Assal. Most visitors come with tours or hire their own vehicles from the capital.
Grand Barra & Petit Barra
The road from Djibouti City to Lac Abbé crosses two spectacular desert plains that are the remnants of an ancient lake: the Petit Barra and Grand Barra, the latter being 27km long and 12km wide.
The Grand Barra is basically a plain of white clay, which has dried and cracked in the desert sun. It can be visited en route to Lac Abbé.
You’ll never forget your first glimpse of Lac Abbé. The scenery is sensational: the plain is dotted with hundreds of limestone chimneys, some standing as high as 50m, belching out puffs of steam.
Located 140km southwest of Djibouti City, it is often described as ‘a slice of the moon on the crust of the earth’.
Though desolate, it is not uninhabited. Numerous mineral-rich hot springs feed the farms of local nomads who graze their camels and goats here. Flamingos also gather on the banks of the lake at dawn.
The best time to visit the lake is in the early morning when the chimneys appear to belch smoke in the cool morning air.
An even better plan is to arrive in the late afternoon, stay the night, and leave after sunrise the following morning. In the evening, when the sun sets behind the chimneys, the landscape can look almost magical.
SLEEPING & EATING
Campement Touristique d’Asboley (HUTS, BUNGALOWS), This camping Touristique (traditional huts with shared showers and toilets) is set in the most surreal landscape you’ve ever imagined.
It lies on a plateau that proffers stupendous views of the big chimneys – whatever the time of the day, you’re guaranteed to be hypnotised by the scenery.
It comprises traditional Afar huts and three simple bungalows made of cement (true, they don’t really blend in such a grandiose environment).
GETTING THERE & AWAY
The only way of getting here is by hiring a 4WD with driver or by booking a tour with us.