This tiny dry and arid desert nation is eclipsed by its gigantic neighbors – Somalia and Ethiopia. Its Red Sea coastline as well as its close proximity to the Arabian Peninsula makes it strategically important and a stepping stone to another continent. Tourists need little excuse to visit, with dive sites, clean beaches and rich culture condensed into this petite part of eastern Africa.

When to Go

Djibouti is generally a desert with minimal rainfall and very high temperatures. Because of these conditions, the country is prone to droughts and earthquakes. It also experiences occasional cyclones during the wet season that cause flash floods and heavy rains due its proximity to the Indian Ocean. The best time to visit Djibouti is during the cooler months of October to April.

Getting There & Away

Djibouti has two airports of significance, with the main entry point being Djibouti City. The majority of its roads are unpaved and passable only by four-wheel drive vehicles, making land travel difficult and uncomfortable. Traveling to the outer portions of Djibouti can be done by rail or boat, which will be less painful on your backside. Livestock have a habit of littering the roads, and while it can be funny to be stuck in among them for a short time, you won’t be laughing if you hit one, especially when you have an angry farmer ranting at you in Arabic. Most of the roads do not have electricity, making it dangerous to drive after dark.

Health & Safety

There have been several reported cases of bird flu in Djibouti, so it is best to avoid visiting poultry farms or live poultry markets. Also, do not come too close to wild, domestic or caged birds. Waterborne diseases are a risk, so stick to bottled water to avoid diarrhea or worse. HIV/AIDS is also rampant in the country therefore protect yourself if you engage in any holiday romance. Djibouti has a high threat of terrorism, and western travelers may be targeted. You could always don some traditional clothing to blend in?

Food & Hospitality

Because of minimal rainfall, food in Djibouti is limited to fruits and vegetables. Other types of food and meat are imported from nearby countries. Predominantly Muslim, drinking alcohol in public places is not encouraged. Seafood is available on the coast. Most of the comfortable hotels in Djibouti are found around the harbor of Djibouti City. Despite Muslim customs, skimpy swimwear is permitted at hotel swimming pools and public beaches.

Itineraries

Two days in Djibouti city

Three days in Tadjoura

Two days in Les sept-freres islands

A day each in Lake Abbe, Lake Assal, and Maskali and moucha islands

Highlights

Djibouti City: an important harbor and the capital of Djibouti, Djibouti City is the main entry point and a hub of international trade. Don’t miss the Hamouli Mosque and the Presidential Palace.

Tadjoura: is famous for its spectacular dive sites such as Trevalley Valley, Ras Ouan, Ras Ali, Sables Blancs and Alices Fault.

Les Sept-Freres islands: are another popular dive destination made up of volcanic islands.

Lake Abbe: offers hot springs frequented by nomadic shepherds and flocks.

Lake Assal: is home to the Arboukoba volcano, seismological probes and salt flats. It is the lowest African surface at 155 meters below sea level.

Maskali and Moucha islands: consist of uninhabited dive sites and beaches which are only a 30-minute boat ride from Djibouti harbor.

Activities

Water sports: take a plunge and explore the dive sites of Maskali and Moucha islands, Tadjoura and Les Sept-Freres. While the beach may not be the pick-up spot it often is in Europe, they are clean.

Shopping: Djibouti City has many markets where animal hide, fruits and vegetables are sold, should those items be at the top of your souvenir list.

Sightseeing: the salt flats and seismological probes of Lake Assal are definitely sights to see.