The Danakil (Afar) Depression; is a geological depression near the Horn of Africa, in the northern Ethiopia, One of mostly geologically active. Afar is well known as one of the cradles of hominids, containing the Middle Awash, site of many fossil hominid discoveries; Gona, site of the world’s oldest stone tools; and Hadar, site of Lucy, the fossilized specimen of Australopithecus afarensis. The Afar Depression includes the Danakil Desert and the lowest point in Africa, Lake Asal (–155 meters or –500 ft).
Dallol is also part of the Depression, one of the hottest places year-round anywhere on Earth. Temperatures reached up to an all-time high of 64.4°C (148.0°F) in the 1930’s. The area is one of the hottest places on earth.
The Afar Depression is one of two places on Earth where a mid-ocean ridge can be studied on land, the other being Iceland.
One of Earth’s great active volcanoes the 613 metres tall Erta Ale, is found here. It is the most active shield volcano in the Afar Region of northeastern Ethiopia. The volcano itself is surrounded completely by an area below sea level.
Erta Ale is, with a lava lake, one of only five in the world, at the summit. It is notable for being the longest existing lava lake, present since the early years of the twentieth century. The name of the volcano means “smoking mountain” in the local Afar language and its southerly pit is known locally as “the gateway to hell”.