For those who think hell is “real,” congratulations: Beelzebub’s lair does exist and can be found in Ethiopia — at least according to National Geographic.
Dubbed the “cruelest place on Earth” by the publication, the Danakil Depression sits deep below sea level (more than 100 meters below at some of its lowest points) in northern Ethiopia’s Afar region. Not only is the depression one of the hottest places on the planet, it’s also one of the most geologically active: the depression is essentially a molten, acidic, and bubbling expanse of land unlike anything else you’ve ever seen.
The depression contains a mixed bag of minerals, salt, sulfur and dissolved iron, all of which manifest themselves in the vibrant combination of yellows, oranges, and reds that make the landscape look equal parts neon and deadly.
Some of the Danakil Depression’s pools boast a pH level below 1 (which in terms of acidity sits somewhere between battery and stomach acid), with thin salt crusts frequently disguising underlying pools of deadly acid. Life isn’t really a thing here, which means that Danakil is one of the most barren and desolate ecosystems in the world.
What it lacks in life, it gains in geological activity. The floor of the Danakil Depression is covered in basalt flows, shield volcanoes, and cinder cones. In 1926, magma rose to the surface, causing a steam explosion that formed a small maar (a low-relief volcanic crater).