This is both the hottest region on earth averaged year round and one of the most geologically active. It is an area of singular geological fascination. A strange lunar landscape studded with active volcanoes malodorous sulfur-caked hot springs solidified black lava flows and vast salt-encrusted basins. Here, the Awash River dries up in a chain of salt lakes such as Lake Afrera, never reaching the Indian Ocean.

The Danakil Depression lies at the triple junction of three tectonic plates and has a complex geological history. It has developed as a result of Africa and Asia moving apart, causing rifting and volcanic activity. Erosion, inundation by the sea, and the rising and falling of the ground have all played their part in the formation of this depression. Sedimentary rocks such as sandstone and limestone are unconformably overlain by basalt which resulted from extensive lava flows.

Mount Ayelu is the westernmost and older of the two volcanoes at the southern end of the Danakil Depression. The other active volcano, Erta Ale, is one of several crater lakes of lava bubbling from the Earth’s mantle. Additionally, the area contains the Dallol sulfur springs or hot springs. These wet environments at the Danakil Depression are being investigated to help understand how life might arise on other planets and moons.

Many microorganisms living here are extremophilic microbes of major interest to astrobiologists. Nonetheless, in October 2019, scientists reported that terrestrial lifeforms, including extreme forms of archaea microorganisms, were not found to exist in the very hot, acidic, and salty conditions present in some parts of the Danakil Depression.

Among the geological points of interest to tourists are the hydrothermal system of Dallol and Yellow Lake. Gaet’ale Pond is a small hypersaline lake located over a tectonic hot spring in the Danakil Depression (Afar, Ethiopia). With a salinity of 43%, Gaet’ale Pond is the saltiest water body on Earth. The pond was created in January 2005 following an earthquake.

According to Wikipedia