The volcano is one of the lowest volcanic vents in the world, but it is Dallol’s hot springs that make the region so visually striking. The earth releases chemical compounds like ferrous chloride and iron hydroxide within the springs, which harden some upon release and paint the subsequent salt deposits and lakes a greenish white.

After some time, inactive springs oxidize and become brown just like metal rusts in the rain. The process repeats for years, drenching an otherwise lifeless area in incredibly vibrant tones.

Sulphur and solidified black lava engulf some springs; vibrant cyan pools hide poisonous waters. Openings in the Earth’s crust, called fumaroles, spew steam and gas into the burning hot air, raising the surrounding temperature even more. This alien terrain is literally coming apart at the seams and in a hundred million years, scientists predict that the Earth will rip open and the nearby Red Sea will swallow the painted desert whole.

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