Exotic guides to the most unusual places: a trip to volcanoes

Exotic guides to the most unusual places: a trip to volcanoes

Extreme tourism lovers should definitely take a breathtaking hike to the heart of a volcano! However, they should know about risks and dangers that they might encounter while exploring this mysterious nature phenomenon.

It is recommended to use experienced guides while hiking active volcanoes since their behavior is unpredictable and can be dangerous even for experienced hikers.

Volcanoes that attract most tourists are Etna and Stromboli of Sicily.

Excursion to Mount Etna

Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe and has the most magnificent landscapes in Italy. One of this volcano’s features is that sometimes Etna erupts smoke rings which is extremely rare. You can take a train ride around Etna which is about 3 hours long. The train ride starts in Borgo in Catania and in Randazzo and Gierre. During the train ride you will get to see local vineyards, volcanic black basalt plates and ruins of ancient villas.

It’s only possible to hike Etna when the top of it is covered in snow.

You can take a bus form the main station in Catania to get to the cableway in Sapienza Refuge or Nicolosi. Another option is to go to Piano Provenzana where you can start hiking the volcano or take a bus ride to the observatory (at elevation of 7,874 feet). The landscape at the top of Etna is similar to the moon desert: different size volcanic rocks are spread all over the place, different color craters are erupting gases containing volcanic ashes and sulfur.

November to March you can visit Etna to go skiing or snowboarding. There are ski resorts that offer everything you can possibly need for a ski trip. There is a variety of slopes for any level of experience.

Trip to the island volcano Stromboli

Stromboli is located in the Tyrrhenian Sea about 19 miles north of Sicily amongst other islands of the Aeolian arc. The coast of the island is covered in greenery and the beaches are full of black sand. There are two villages on the sloping side of the island - San Vincenzo and Ginostra. The other side of the island is a black cliff where the lava flows down. In all actuality Stromboli volcanic activity is an endless eruption that has been going on for the last 20,000 years!

Near the island of Stromboli there is a sea stack of volcanic origin called Strombolicchio. It’s 430 feet high and there are 200 steps that lead to the oldest lighthouse in Europe that is located on the top of the cliff. Once you get there you will have a breathtaking view of never-sleeping island-volcano Stromboli that is spitting out bursts of smoke and ash. Strombolicchio is the remain of an ancient volcano that started Stromboli.

To get to the Stromboli Island you can take a ferry of a speed boat. You can also stay on the island for a few days – there are a couple of hotels on northeast part of the island.

Even though the volcano elevation is only 3,012 feet the hike up there can be pretty difficult.

It varies depending on the trail you are hiking but is at least 4 hours long. Make sure you bring warm clothes, a raincoat, drinking water, a headlight, a helmet and wear tall hiking boots.

To hike Stromboli you can sign up for a group excursion or hire a private guide. There is even a fine for hiking without assistance in order to protect tourists’ safety. The excursions are primarily held at night time since the bright-red sparks and purple lava flows bursting out of the crater as well as hissing sounds of hot rocks falling into the sea are a special sight to see during the twilight. Also, the lights of the cruise ships anchored by the Aeolian Islands look very nice from the top of the volcano.

Hiking Pico

Pico is located on Pico Island of archipelago of the Azores. It has the highest elevation in Portugal (7,713 feet) and is well-deserved considered one of the most beautiful volcanoes in the world!

This volcano is basically a mountain a large part of which is hidden under water, which is why Pico was placed in the Guinness Book in 1972. Many tourists visiting the island hike the volcano especially since at first look it doesn’t seem too difficult.

However, that is not exactly true. The hike starts at the elevation of 4,039 feet (you can get there by taxi) and lasts about 4 hours. Every 328 feet of the trail there are marked poles. The weather can be unpredictable, the wind is very gusty at the top of the mountain, and the slopes are pretty steep and are very slippery when it rains. All of these conditions lead to an increased risk of injuries if not following safety rules. The tourists have to be in good shape and have at least some hiking experience. For those who are hiking volcanoes for the first time it is recommended to hire a private guide to have help should a difficult situation occur.

The surroundings of a volcano Pico is mostly grassy fields.

As you hike higher up most of greenery disappears and changes to gravel at the elevation of 6,562 feet. As soon as you get to the top an amazing view opens up: the whole island is right in front of you with the biggest crater Pico Alter right behind you. Not too far from the crater in the smoke you can see a pinnacle of the mountain – Piquinho (230 feet).

A trip to Icelandic volcanoes

An amazing island of Iceland – its small territory holds over 140 different types of volcanoes (shield volcanoes, underwater volcanoes, mudpots, subglacial volcanoes and so on). 26 of them are currently active! Here you can see flat shield volcanoes with giant round craters, for example Trölladyngja and Kollotadyngja.

Thrihnukagigur (which means Tree Peaks) located within the protected area of Bláfjöll Country Park is a very popular tourist destination - this volcano is dormant and that allows tourists to descend into volcano’s magma chamber which is 395 feet deep! The tour to the volcano is only open in a summer time, but even then the outside temperature is only about 43F.

About 80 miles away from Reykjavík there are a shield cone-shaped volcano Eyjafjallajökull which is about 5,466 feet tall. It became popular after its activity interrupted many flights in March of 2010.

When booking a tour, remember that the best time for visiting this volcano is May to September. Also, many companies only have excursions at the foot of the mountain so you might need a personal guide to hike the volcano.

Eyjafjallajökull eruption usually predicts an eruption of another more active subglacial volcano Katla which is located about 8 miles away.

Another volcano - Grímsvötn - is located nearby Eyjafjallajökull. Due to its eruption in 2011 the tours to Eyjafjallajökull were cancelled temporarily. But it has been calm since then so extreme tourism lovers are able to enjoy hiking Eyjafjallajökull.

In the middle of an Icelandic plateau there is an active volcano Askja (4,954 feet). It is known for the two large lakes that were formed as a result of its eruption:

  • Lake Öskjuvatn (4.25 sq mi and 722 feet deep) which is the deepest in Iceland
  • Geothermal Lake Viti (328 feet in diameter and 23 feet deep) with its water having a distinctive smell of sulfur that gives it a milky blue color and the water temperature between 68F to 81F.
  • You can drive to Askja only in a framed off-road vehicle. About 5 miles away from the volcano’s caldera there is a tourist camp where you can stay if needed.

The most active volcano in Iceland is Hekla ("Gateway to Hell"). The longer it stays calm, the stronger its eruptions are which are also almost impossible to predict. They can last from a few days to a few months and even years!  A fissure about 3.4 mi long named Heklugjá is considered to be the volcano Hekla proper.

Despite of constant danger of Hekla’s eruption it is still the most popular place for hiking and Irish horse riding as well as skiing (it’s covered in snow starting in August).

Hiking the mountains of Kamchatka

There are about 300 volcanoes in Kamchatka, 29 of them are active. Of course, it is impossible to visit all of them which is why it is important to pick the ones you are the most interested in.

The largest volcano in Kamchatka is Klyuchevskaya Sopka (15,912 feet). It is also the most active volcano on the peninsula. Hiking this volcano is very dangerous due to possible falling rock and ash bursts. During the whole hike infrastructure and cell phone reception is practically non-existent. This extreme excursion lasts a few days and is only suitable for very experienced hikers.

Hiking Ichinsky volcano (11,880 feet) is almost as extreme as hiking Klyuchevskaya Sopka. It is located in the central part of Kamchatka and is the only active volcano in that part of the peninsula.

If you only have 3 days you can hike active volcanoes Gorely and Mutnovsky, enjoy the view of the Opasny Waterfall while there, plunge into hot springs, spend the night on the mountain plateau and dine in the crater of a volcano.

The beauty of Mutnovsky volcano (7,618 feet) is in its crater: gases are bursting out in the shape of smoky cylinders, there are mud pots and pumice formations everywhere. You can go down into the crater. The hike is about 6 hours long.

Gorely volcano (6000 feet) has 11 craters, 2 of which are especially interesting: there are water and acid lakes on the bottoms of them. The hike is easier that hiking Mutnovsky volcano, it takes 4-5 hours. A great view of other volcanoes lose by opens up once at the top of the mountain.

Avachinsky volcano is a double volcano of a Somma-Vesuvius type and is considered the most active in the Koryaksky-Avachinsky volcanic group. Tourists are amazed at the similarity of Avachinsky volcano to the legendary Vesuvius that ruined Pompeii. It is 9,026 feet tall; the hike is 7 hours long. Even kids can hike this volcano. It used to have a funnel-shaped crater but after 1991 eruption funnel closed up almost all the way. At the top of the volcano there are views of the ocean, of the Gorely volcano, of the Mutnovsky volcano, of the Vilyuchinsky volcano and the city of Petropavlovsk. If the weather is good you might be able to see other nearby volcanoes.

Important to know

If you decided to take a breathtaking hike to the top of a volcano make sure you have the following items to avoid potential problems:

  • Comfortable footwear
  • Suitable clothing and gear
  • Plenty of drinking water and enough food
  • Experienced guide

You always have to consult with the specialist and sometimes have special gear when visiting volcanoes.



Read our previous article Your personal guide: a romantic trip for two to the islands made for lovebirds

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