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Tourism in Djibouti: A Hidden Jewel in Africa?

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Tourism in Djibouti has a lot of potential. But what is so appealing about this under-rated tourist destination and what makes this country so interesting? Read on to find out.

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    Tourism in Djibouti

    Often overshadowed by its more renowned neighbours, Djibouti is a mosaic of surreal landscapes, rich culture, and untapped tourism potential. Nestled at the crossroads of Africa and the Middle East, this tiny nation packs an astonishing array of wonders into its borders. Let’s embark on a journey to uncover the tourism treasures that make Djibouti an adventurer’s dream and a traveller’s best-kept secret.

    Geography of Djibouti

    Tourism in Djibouti

    Djibouti is a small country located in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Eritrea to the north, Ethiopia to the west and south, and Somalia to the southeast. The country has a total area of 23,200 square kilometres and a coastline of approximately 314 kilometres along the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

    The landscape of Djibouti is characterised by rugged mountains, plateaus, and deserts. The country’s highest point is Mount Moussa, which reaches an elevation of 2,028 metres. Djibouti is also home to several active and dormant volcanoes, including Ardoukoba, which last erupted in 1978.

    The climate of Djibouti is hot and arid, with very little rainfall. The average temperature ranges from 25°C to 35°C, with the hottest months being June through September. The country experiences occasional cyclones and floods.

    Djibouti is known for its unique geological formations, including the salt pans of Lake Assal, which is the lowest point in Africa, and the Day Forest National Park, which is home to a variety of wildlife such as antelopes, baboons, and warthogs.

    The country’s economy is largely based on its strategic location, serving as a major transit hub for trade between Asia, Africa, and Europe. The Port of Djibouti is one of the busiest ports in East Africa and a major gateway to Ethiopia, the largest landlocked country in the world.

    Tourism in Djibouti: Industry overview

    The tourism industry in Djibouti is relatively underdeveloped, but the country is gradually gaining attention as a destination for adventure tourism, ecotourism, and cultural tourism. Here are some statistics related to tourism in Djibouti:

    • Tourist arrivals: According to the World Bank, the number of tourist arrivals in Djibouti increased from 37,000 in 2010 to 76,000 in 2019. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourist arrivals declined sharply in 2020.
    • Tourism revenue: In 2019, tourism revenue in Djibouti was estimated to be US$84 million, representing 3.1% of the country’s GDP, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). This figure is expected to decline significantly in 2020 due to the pandemic.
    • Popular tourist destinations: Djibouti’s main tourist attractions include Lake Assal, the lowest point in Africa and one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world; the Day Forest National Park, which is home to wildlife such as gazelles, baboons, and warthogs; and the beaches along the Gulf of Tadjoura.
    • Adventure tourism: Djibouti is also gaining attention as a destination for adventure tourism, with activities such as hiking, snorkelling, scuba diving, and whale watching. The country is home to an array of marine life, including whale sharks, manta rays, and dolphins.
    • Ecotourism: Djibouti is a biodiversity hotspot with a unique and fragile ecosystem. The country is home to several endemic plant and animal species, including the Djibouti francolin and the Somali ostrich. Ecotourism initiatives are being developed to promote sustainable tourism and conservation.

    While the tourism industry in Djibouti is relatively small compared to other countries, it has significant potential for growth with its unique geography, culture, and wildlife.

    Why people travel to Djibouti

    Tourism in Djibouti

    There are several reasons why people travel to Djibouti, including:

    • Unique geological features: Djibouti is home to several unique geological features, including the salt pans of Lake Assal, which is the lowest point in Africa and one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world. The country also has several active and dormant volcanoes and hot springs.
    • Adventure tourism: Djibouti is gaining attention as a destination for adventure tourism, with activities such as hiking, snorkelling, scuba diving, and whale watching. The country is home to an array of marine life, including whale sharks, manta rays, and dolphins.
    • Cultural tourism: Djibouti has a rich cultural heritage and is home to several ethnic groups, including the Afar, Issa, and Somali. Visitors can experience traditional music, dance, and cuisine, as well as visit historic sites such as the old city of Djibouti, the Arta Plage, and the Ali Sabieh Railway Station.
    • Eco-tourism: Djibouti is a biodiversity hotspot with a unique and fragile ecosystem. The country is home to several endemic plant and animal species, including the Djibouti francolin and the Somali ostrich. Ecotourism initiatives are being developed to promote sustainable tourism and conservation.
    • Strategic location: Djibouti is strategically located at the crossroads of trade between Africa, Asia, and Europe, and serves as a major transit hub for international shipping and air traffic. Visitors can experience the bustling port city of Djibouti and the vibrant markets and shopping centres. 
    Tourism in Djibouti

    Most popular tourism attractions in Djibouti

    Some of the most popular attractions that make tourism in Djibouti popular include:

    Lake Assal

    Located in the Danakil Depression, Lake Assal is the lowest point in Africa and one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world. The lake’s unique scenery, including the surrounding salt pans and volcanic landscape, make it a popular destination for tourists.

    Arta Beach

    Arta Beach is a popular destination for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. The beach offers crystal-clear waters and soft sand, as well as stunning views of the Gulf of Tadjoura.

    Day Forest National Park

    Day Forest National Park is a protected area that is home to several endemic plant and animal species, including the Djibouti francolin and the Somali ostrich. The park offers hiking trails and picnic areas for visitors to explore.

    Moucha Island

    Located off the coast of Djibouti City, Moucha Island is a popular destination for snorkelling and scuba diving. The island’s coral reefs are home to a variety of marine life, including whale sharks, manta rays, and dolphins.

    Djibouti City

    Djibouti City is the capital and largest city in Djibouti. The city offers a range of cultural and historical attractions, including the old city of Djibouti, the Ali Sabieh Railway Station, and the Presidential Palace.

    Lac Abbé

    Lac Abbé is a large salt lake located near the border with Ethiopia. The lake’s unique rock formations and geysers make it a popular destination for photographers and adventurers.

    Tourism in Djibouti

    Crime and Safety in Djibouti

    Djibouti has a relatively low crime rate compared to other countries in the region, and is considered to be a safe destination for tourists. However, travellers should still exercise caution and take some safety measures to avoid becoming a victim of crime or other safety risks when embarking on tourism in Djibouti.

    Some of the safety tips for tourists in Djibouti include:

    • Avoid walking alone at night or in secluded areas.
    • Use licensed taxis or reputable transportation services to travel around the country.
    • Keep valuables such as wallets, jewellery, and electronics out of sight.
    • Be cautious of pickpockets and purse-snatchers in crowded areas such as markets and public transportation.
    • Avoid displaying signs of wealth or carrying large sums of cash.
    • Be vigilant when withdrawing money from ATMs, and avoid using them in isolated or poorly lit areas.
    • Be aware of your surroundings and report any suspicious activity to local authorities.

    In addition to these safety measures, travellers should also be aware of the risk of terrorism and political instability in the region. Djibouti has a military presence from several countries due to its strategic location near the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, and there have been occasional incidents of violence and terrorism in the past. Visitors should stay up-to-date on local news and travel advisories and exercise caution when travelling in certain areas.

    Overall, visitors to Djibouti should approach their trip with an open mind and be respectful of local customs and traditions. With a little bit of planning and preparation, Djibouti can be a rewarding and unforgettable destination.

    Ten interesting facts about Djibouti:

    Tourism in Djibouti

    Impacts of tourism in Djibouti

    Whilst tourism in Djibouti might not be well developed yet, it is important to plan carefully and ensure that tourism development is undertaken with sustainability at the forefront. Lets take a brief look at some of the positive and negative impacts of tourism in Djibouti that we are currently witnessing.

    The social impacts of tourism in Djibouti

    When you immerse yourself in the heart of Djibouti’s local scene, it becomes evident how deeply tourism in Djibouti has integrated with the social fabric. The positive ripples of tourism in Djibouti are evident in the enhanced cultural exchanges. As travellers unearth the rich tapestry of Afar and Somali cultures, Djiboutians, in turn, benefit from the global perspectives tourists bring.

    Yet, it’s pivotal to remain vigilant. There’s a looming concern: the potential dilution or commercialisation of Djibouti’s deep-rooted traditions to appease the tourist gaze. Protecting the authenticity of tourism in Djibouti is paramount.

    Environmental impacts of tourism in Djibouti

    Djibouti’s breathtaking array of natural wonders, from its salt lakes to its mesmerising coral reefs, beckons nature enthusiasts worldwide. As tourism in Djibouti burgeons, conservation initiatives gain momentum, channelling more resources to safeguard its natural marvels.

    But here’s the catch: every visitor drawn by the allure of tourism in Djibouti also amplifies the environmental pressures. Issues like waste management and preserving marine ecosystems underscore the pressing need for eco-conscious tourism practices in Djibouti.

    Economic impacts of tourism in Djibouti

    There’s no denying it: tourism in Djibouti is a significant economic catalyst. From job creation to invigorating local enterprises and ushering in foreign currency, the economic dividends of tourism in Djibouti are manifold.

    However, there’s a cautionary side to this tale. An over-dependence on tourism makes Djibouti vulnerable to global market fluctuations, emphasising the importance of a diversified economic strategy, even while promoting tourism in Djibouti.

    Summary Table: Impacts of Tourism in Djibouti

    Impact AreaPositive AspectsAreas of Concern
    SocialEnhanced cultural exchangesPotential dilution of local traditions
    EnvironmentalBoosted conservation initiativesIncreased pressure on natural habitats
    EconomicJob creation, business growthOver-reliance on tourism sector

    Understanding the intricacies of tourism in Djibouti provides a roadmap for sustainable and beneficial growth, ensuring this African jewel continues to shine brightly for generations to come.

    Interesting facts about Djibouti

    Tourism in Djibouti is growing steadily because this country is absolutely fascinating! Here are some of my favourite facts about the nation:

    • Djibouti is located in the Horn of Africa and is bordered by Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia.
    • The country has a population of around 1 million people, with the majority of the population living in the capital city, Djibouti City.
    • Djibouti has two official languages: French and Arabic, with Somali and Afar also widely spoken.
    • The country is home to Lake Assal, which is the lowest point in Africa and the third lowest point on Earth.
    • Djibouti is also home to the Ardoukoba Volcano, which last erupted around 3,000 years ago.
    • The country is known for its unique wildlife, including the Djibouti francolin bird and the Djibouti desert warthog.
    • Djibouti is home to one of the busiest shipping ports in the world, due to its strategic location on the Red Sea.
    • The country is also home to the Tadjourah region, which is known for its beautiful beaches and coral reefs.
    • Djibouti is a multi-ethnic country with a rich cultural heritage, including traditional music and dance, poetry, and cuisine.
    • Djibouti has been recognised as one of the top 20 countries in the world for marine biodiversity, with its waters home to a variety of marine life, including whale sharks and manta rays.

    FAQs about tourism in Djibouti

    Now that we know a bit more about tourism in Djibouti, lets finish off this article by answering some frequently asked questions.

    Is it safe to travel to Djibouti?

    Djibouti is generally considered safe for tourists, but visitors should exercise caution and be aware of their surroundings, especially in crowded areas or at night.

    What is the best time of year to visit Djibouti?

    The best time to visit Djibouti is from November to February, when temperatures are cooler and more comfortable for outdoor activities.

    What is the currency used in Djibouti?

    The currency used in Djibouti is the Djiboutian franc (DJF).

    Do I need a visa to visit Djibouti?

    Most visitors to Djibouti will need a visa, which can be obtained on arrival at the airport or through an embassy or consulate prior to travel.

    What language is spoken in Djibouti?

    French and Arabic are the official languages of Djibouti, but Somali and Afar are also widely spoken.

    What is the cuisine like in Djibouti?

    Djiboutian cuisine is a fusion of African, Middle Eastern, and French influences, and is known for its spicy stews, grilled meat, and fresh seafood.

    What are the most popular tourist attractions in Djibouti?

    Some of the most popular tourist attractions in Djibouti include Lake Assal, the Goda Mountains, and the historic city of Tadjourah.

    What types of activities can I do in Djibouti?

    Djibouti offers a range of outdoor activities, including diving, snorkelling, hiking, and wildlife watching.

    What is the dress code in Djibouti?

    Visitors to Djibouti should dress modestly, especially in public places, and women should consider wearing clothing that covers their arms and legs.

    Can I drink alcohol in Djibouti?

    Alcohol is available in Djibouti, but it is not widely consumed due to cultural and religious reasons, and visitors should be respectful of local customs and norms.

    Tourism in Djibouti- To conclude

    Tourism in Djibouti offers a captivating blend of cultural depth and natural splendour. As its appeal grows, it’s vital to navigate its impacts responsibly. Through informed choices and sustainable practices, we can ensure that the essence of Djibouti remains untouched, letting its charm resonate with travellers for ages to come.

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