Djibouti may be a tiny country, but it's jam-packed with interesting things to do, see, and taste for adventurous travelers. Situated in the Horn of Africa on the Gulf of Aden and at the southern entrance to the Red Sea, Djibouti has beaches, mountains, lakes, deserts, wildlife, and many other Instagrammable attractions that make this a truly unique destination. Even the most jaded world traveler is sure to be thrilled when visiting this remote, multi-ethnic country that has a little something for everyone.
Not only is Lac Assal one of the saltiest lakes in the world, but it's also the lowest point in all of the continent of Africa at 508 feet below sea level. You'll float with very little effort when you enter the warm waters of this gorgeous crater lake that has solid salt crystals all along its bottom. Be sure to wear tough-soled water shoes, though, because the sand and salts are very sharp. Bring a bag with you to scoop up some free salt crystals yourself if you don't want to purchase them from the on-site vendors.
Gaze up from Lac Assul, and you'll see the Ardoukoba Volcano. Its only eruption occurred in 1978 after an earthquake shook the area. Back then, lava flowed towards Lac Assal and a nearby cove, covering the surrounding landscape in black lava fields. Drive beside a herd of camels passing through and then hike over to this rift volcano where you'll trek up to crater's rim. This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that you can't miss.
On the Djibouti-Ethiopian border lies Lake Abbe, a saltwater crater lake with surreal travertine chimneys rising and emitting puffs of steam across the landscape. Parts of the film Planet of the Apes were shot on these wild-looking grounds where the rifting tectonic plates will eventually create a new ocean and make the Horn of Africa an island. Camp here to experience the superb sunrise and sunset views.
The country's capital is a busy urban port city that turns heads with its dizzying mix of social and cultural influences. Take a walk around town, and you'll likely pass Afar tribesmen in their traditional robes, conservative-looking business people in suits, soldiers, and decked-out Somali women jostling for space. Stop for a bit of drinking and dancing in one of the half-dozen or so bars and nightclubs. If you feel lucky, check out the Aden Bay Casino in the Sheraton Hotel.
This large closed forest is a pleasant spot in the spectacular Goda mountains to escape some of Djibouti's heat and enjoy nature. If you're a lover of birds, you'll enjoy spotting and listening to the critically endangered Djibouti francolin and other species searching for food among the juniper trees.
The Gulf of Tadjoura is where whale sharks love to gather and feast on the abundance of crabs that spawn in those tropical waters. You can take a dive and snorkel tour to swim with these beautiful harmless creatures for memories to last you a lifetime. You'll also probably encounter some rays, barracudas, eels, and a variety of coral to boot.
Over the centuries, Tandouri had been ruled by the sultanates, the Ottoman Empire, and France, giving it an interesting cultural mix. This sleepy port town is linked to Djibouti City by ferry. Tadjoura sits on the gulf, making it a pretty spot for a few hours of quiet reflection. While in town, walk along the streets and admire the quaint whitewashed homes and lush palm trees, and visit one of its seven beautiful mosques and relaxing nearby beaches.
The Tropical Aquarium in Djibouti's historic section of town is a must-see for anyone visiting the country. You don't have to go deep-sea diving to explore the depths of the Red Sea. Once inside this well-designed aquarium, you'll feel like you're at the bottom of the sea with just some clear glass above separating you from the fantastic colors and rare species of marine life.
Spend a couple of hours and a few Djibouti francs dealing with locals who sell their wares in this market. Open early in the morning until late afternoon, Marche Central in Djibouti City is a vibrant commercial market with a variety of stalls. The market is an excellent spot for you to buy all kinds of locally made items and souvenirs. The stalls are run by vendors hawking things like shoes, spices, masks, carvings, and tee shirts.
Djibouti is a bit of a cultural melting pot, with French, Yemeni, Ethiopian, and Indian cuisine influencing its restaurant menus. In Menelik Square, dine at Restaurant La Chaumiere for inexpensive but tasty bar food. Enjoy delicious Mukbaza, a Yemenese-style fish dish, at Mukbassa Central Chez Yousseff, where the locals go to eat. You must try the traditional Djibouti flatbread meal, Injera, at a local eatery.