Volcanologists aren’t the only ones who appreciate the brutal beauty of the world’s 1500 potentially active volcanoes. Today’s travelers also want up-close-and-personal views of conical mountains that spew smoke, ash and occasionally molten lava.
So where to go on your volcano vacation? We’ve compiled a list of 10 volcanoes that shouldn’t be missed.
Mt. Bromo, Indonesia
If volcanoes are your thing, Indonesia is where you need to be. The island nation is filled with them—139 to be exact. Many are popular tourist sites, but the Mt. Bromo area is quite surreal, looking like a scene plucked right out of the Jurassic period. The smoldering Mt. Bromo and two other active volcanoes rise up from the misty remains of an ancient caldera that stretches six miles across eastern Java. Visitors like to make the two-hour hike very early in the morning so they can watch the sunrise coming up over Mt. Bromo. Next comes a journey across the “sea of sand” to the edge of the Mt. Bromo crater, which sounds likes a jet engine roaring and constantly spews sulphurous gas.
Hiking to the summit of the Villarrica volcano in central Chile is not an easy thing to do. You’ll need crampons, ice picks, a guide and cooperative weather to make your way up the side of the snow-covered mountain. But the reward at the top will be worth it. You’ll see one of the world’s only lava lakes if you peek over the edge of the crater. Or you can marvel at the 360-degree views of Chile’s Lake District, including seven other volcanic peaks. The best part is getting down the 9,300-foot mountain. You’ll sit on a plastic sled and slide down in luge-like tubes. The descent takes about 30 minutes and is an experience you’ll never forget.
You probably can’t pronounce its name, but you’ve heard of it. Eyjafjallajökull is the Icelandic volcano that wreaked havoc on air travel when it blew clouds of ash into the sky in 2010. Considered dormant since that eruption, you can explore Eyjafjallajökull and the surrounding glaciers by snowmobile or super-jeep. See the crater as well as a great view of the south coast of Iceland. And if you want to learn how to pronounce the volcano’s name correctly before heading to Iceland, here you go.
At 19,347-feet, Cotopaxi is one of the highest active volcanoes in the the world and has a near-perfect conical shape. It’s a 90-minute drive south of Ecuador’s capital city of Quito. Some visitors opt to drive to a way station at around 15,000-feet and take a thrilling mountain bike ride back down to the bottom. Others choose to climb to the summit, which requires special gear, some experience mountaineering and preferably a guide. A magnificent crater lake awaits at the top. Even if you choose not to summit, there are plenty of wild horses, Andean condors and foxes in the Cotopaxi National Park to pique your interest.
Mount Fuji, Japan
Japan’s most iconic symbol, Mount Fuji has been lauded in poetry and painting for centuries. It’s the country’s highest peak, and even though it hasn’t erupted since 1707, it’s considered an active volcano. Nearly a million climbers make the pilgrimage to the 12,388-foot summit each summer. Since so many people trek to the top, a series of way stations along the way resupply hikers and provide resting places. Most climbers start the ascent in the early afternoon and overnight at one of the last stations. In the morning, you ascend to the summit, watch the sun come up and explore the crater before descending. You can also drive or take a bus to the fifth station and hike the rest of the way.
Mt. Etna, Italy
Located on the island of Sicily at the toe of Italy’s boot, Mt. Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe. Volcanic activity is frequent, with some 200 eruptions recorded since 1,500 B.C., the last in 2016. But visitors flock here to witness the otherworldly scenery for themselves. The Etna National Park is a heavily visited park featuring volcanic craters, centuries-old lava flows and nearly 200 lava-formed caves used as burial chambers and storehouses for meat and wine. And Mt. Etna may be the only place in the world you can ski down the slopes of a volcano in the morning before spending the afternoon lounging on a sunny Mediterranean beach.
Cerro Negro, Nicaragua
Perhaps nowhere exemplifies the lengths to which humans will go for a thrill better than Cerro Negro near Leon in western Nicaragua. The active volcano is the only place in the world where you can go volcano surfing. Translated as “Black Hill,” the 161-year-old volcano is named for the loose grains of volcanic ash that cover its slopes. Visitors make use of the ash by hiking up the slope and sliding back down on a wood and metal sledge. It’s not without danger. Surfers can reach speeds of 30 miles an hour and have little control over their sled. Even with the risks, volcano surfing offers a rush like nothing else in the world. When you get to the bottom, enjoy some volcano burritos that were cooked right in the heat of the mountain.
Located in the center of Nisryos island in the Aegean Sea, this volcano isn’t as well known as others, but it’s very accessible and offers a unique experience. Part of the Dodecanese island group, Nisyros is virtually untouched by tourism, and its volcano is the youngest in Greece. You can actually walk across the volcano’s crater, peeking directly into 10 boiling holes. Thermal spas in the area afford rest and relaxation following a day of hiking and exploring the island’s monasteries and ancient ruins.
Ruapehu, New Zealand
MÄori for “pit of noise” Ruapehu is the largest active volcano in New Zealand. Chances are good that you’ve seen it before. The Ruapehu area served as the eerie backdrop for the land of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. If you’re familiar with the films, you might recognize some of the locations. If fantasy movies aren’t your thing, you can still enjoy a trip to Ruapehu. Skiing in the area is incredible, or you could hike across the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It’ll take the better part of a day as you travel from alpine meadow to the mountain’s summit, seeing brilliantly colored lakes, volcanic rocks and a moon-like landscape of craters.
Arenal, Costa Rica
Surrounded by lush jungle, the Arenal volcano in Costa Rica has historically been quite active. Since 2010, the volcano’s classic cone has remained relatively quiet. Even so, Arenal’s geothermal activity heats natural springs in the area which draw visitors aplenty. Some are set up like therapeutic spas; others function more like a swim-up bar. Regardless, soaking in the warm waters is a great way to spend an evening after exploring Arenal. Hiking to waterfalls, bird watching or touring the volcano’s crater on a hanging bridge are popular activities in the area.
While visiting active volcanoes offers a thrill, it can also be dangerous. Always follow local authorities’ instructions during your volcano vacation, and you’re destined to have an explosively good time!
Plan your next volcano inspired vacation with the help of go-today.