Djibouti: A Hidden Gem in the Horn of Africa

Djibouti is a small country in the Horn of Africa that may not be on your radar as a tourist destination, but it has a lot to offer for adventurous travelers. From colonial architecture to prehistoric rock art, from alien landscapes to tropical islands, Djibouti has something for everyone. In this article, we will show you how to spend one week in Djibouti and explore its diverse attractions.

Day 1: Arrival and Djibouti City

The easiest way to get to Djibouti is by flying to its capital, Djibouti City. There are several airlines that connect Djibouti with neighboring countries and beyond, such as Air France, Turkish Airways and Ethiopian Airways. You can also apply for an e-visa online before your arrival, which is very convenient and fast.

Once you land in Djibouti City, you can check in at one of the hotels in the city center. There are luxury and upscale properties such as the Sheraton or the Kempinski, as well as more budget-friendly options such as the Atlantic Hotel or the Hotel Residence de l’Europe. You can also exchange money and get a sim card at the airport or in the city.

After settling in, you can start exploring Djibouti City on foot or by taxi. Some of the highlights include:

  • The European Quarter, where you can admire the colonial buildings and monuments such as the Place du 27 Juin, the Presidential Palace and the Cathedral.
  • The African Quarter, where you can experience the local culture and markets such as the Central Market and the Khat Market.
  • The Port of Djibouti, where you can see the busy maritime activity and enjoy the views of the Gulf of Tadjoura.
  • The Hamoudi Mosque, one of the oldest and most beautiful mosques in Djibouti.

Day 2: Moucha Island Day Trip

On your second day, you can escape the city and head to Moucha Island, a small island in the Gulf of Tadjoura that is a paradise for snorkeling and diving. You can book a day trip with a local tour operator or arrange your own transportation by boat from the port.

Moucha Island has white sandy beaches, crystal clear water and colorful coral reefs that are home to hundreds of fish species. You can spend the day swimming, snorkeling or diving with turtles, rays, sharks and dolphins. You can also relax on the beach or explore the island on foot.

Moucha Island is also a great place to enjoy fresh seafood and local cuisine. You can have lunch at one of the restaurants on the island or bring your own picnic.

Day 3: Lake Abbe Day Trip

On your third day, you can embark on a more adventurous day trip to Lake Abbe, one of the most spectacular natural wonders in Djibouti. Lake Abbe is a salt lake that lies on the border with Ethiopia and is part of a chain of six lakes that form part of the Afar Depression.

Lake Abbe is famous for its surreal scenery of limestone chimneys that spew steam and create a lunar-like landscape. The lake is also home to flamingos, pelicans and other birds that add a touch of color to the barren environment.

To get to Lake Abbe, you will need a 4×4 vehicle and a guide, as the road is rough and remote. You can book a tour with a local agency or hire your own driver. The journey takes about six hours one way, so be prepared for a long day.

Once you reach Lake Abbe, you can explore its surroundings on foot or by camel. You can also visit some of the nomadic Afar villages that live near the lake and learn about their culture and lifestyle.

You can spend the night at Lake Abbe if you want to see the sunset and sunrise over the lake, which are stunning. There are some basic campsites near the lake where you can sleep in traditional huts or tents.

Day 4: Lake Assal Day Trip

On your fourth day, you can visit another amazing salt lake in Djibouti: Lake Assal. Lake Assal is located about two hours drive from Djibouti City and is the lowest point in Africa at 155 meters below sea level.

Lake Assal is also the saltiest lake in the world, with a salinity of 34.8%, which is 10 times higher than the ocean. The lake has a bright turquoise color and is surrounded by white salt crusts and black volcanic rocks.

You can admire the lake from different viewpoints along the road or get closer to the shore and see the salt formations. You can also swim in the lake, but be careful not to get the water in your eyes or mouth, as it is very salty and can sting.

You can also visit the nearby hot springs, where you can soak in the mineral-rich water and enjoy the views of the lake and the mountains.

Day 5: Abourma Rock Art and Foret du Day

On your fifth day, you can discover some of the cultural and historical treasures of Djibouti. You can start by visiting the Abourma Rock Art site, which is one of the best examples of prehistoric rock art in Africa.

The Abourma Rock Art site is located about three hours drive from Djibouti City and consists of a series of cliffs that are covered with paintings and engravings that date back to thousands of years ago. The rock art depicts animals, humans, geometric shapes and symbols that reflect the beliefs and traditions of the ancient people who lived in this area.

You can explore the site on foot with a guide who will explain the meaning and significance of the rock art. You can also admire the views of the surrounding landscape, which is rugged and dry.

After visiting the Abourma Rock Art site, you can continue to the Foret du Day, which is a national park that protects one of the last remaining patches of forest in Djibouti. The Foret du Day is home to endemic plants and animals, such as the juniper tree, the frankincense tree, the beira antelope and the hamadryas baboon.

You can hike through the forest and enjoy the contrast between the green vegetation and the arid terrain. You can also visit some of the villages that are located inside or near the park and see how the locals live in harmony with nature.

Day 6: Northern Desert and Mangroves

On your sixth day, you can explore another side of Djibouti: its northern desert and mangroves. You can start by driving to Obock, a town that lies on the northern coast of Djibouti and was once an important port for trade and colonization.

Obock has a rich history and culture that you can learn about by visiting its landmarks, such as the old French fort, the lighthouse, the mosque and the market. You can also enjoy some fresh seafood at one of its restaurants or cafes.

From Obock, you can take a boat to Godoria, which is a mangrove forest that lies at the mouth of a river. The mangroves are a vital ecosystem that provides habitat for many birds, fish and crustaceans. You can cruise through the mangroves and observe the wildlife and vegetation.

You can also visit some of the islands that are located near Godoria, such as Ras Siyyan, which is a volcanic island that has a lagoon and a beach. You can swim, snorkel or relax on the island before returning to Obock.

Day 7: Continental Rift and Djalelo National Park

On your seventh day, you can witness one of the most fascinating geological phenomena in Djibouti: its continental rift. Djibouti lies at the junction of three tectonic plates: the African Plate, the Arabian Plate and the Somali Plate. These plates are moving away from each other, creating a rift valley that is splitting Africa into two continents.

You can see this process in action at Goubbet al Kharab, which is a bay that lies at the end of a narrow strait that connects it to the Gulf of Tadjoura. The bay is surrounded by volcanic mountains and cliffs that mark the edges of the rift. The bay is also filled with hot springs and geysers that indicate volcanic activity.

You can drive along the strait and stop at different viewpoints to admire the scenery. You can also take a boat ride on the bay and see some of its underwater features, such as lava flows and vents.

From Goubbet al Kharab, you can drive to Djalelo National Park, which is a protected area that covers part of Lake Assal and its surroundings. The park is home to many endemic plants and animals, such as dragon trees, acacias, gazelles and ostriches.

You can hike through the park and enjoy its diverse landscapes, from salt flats to sand dunes to rocky hills. You can also visit some of its attractions, such as Ardoukoba Volcano, which erupted in 1978 and created a new island in Lake Assal.

Day 8: Departure

On your eighth day, you can say goodbye to Djibouti and head back home or to your next destination with amazing memories and pictures.