Set on the eastern coast of the island of Sicily, Mount Etna is Europe’s tallest active volcano and one of the world’s most active volcanoes. The mountain was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013 and has shaped much of Sicily’s past while continuing to impact life on the Italian island today. Eruptions have been responsible for serious damage to cities and towns lying close to Etna, including one in 1669 that destroyed the mountainside villages. A walk in the area, through the Valle del Bove, reveals craters, volcanic lava flows and cones of the type found only on active volcanoes.
Travelers can trek, walk, ride, or take a cable car up Mount Etna, with day trips offered from nearby cities such as Catania, Taormina, and Messina. The Funivia dell’Etna runs a cable car from Rifugio Sapienza up the mountain to about 8,200 feet (2,500 meters). From there, you can choose to head out on a 3.5-hour round-trip hike, best attempted with a local guide who knows the area well. In addition, a variety of full-day jeep rides allow travelers to catch sunset.
A Mt Etna excursion is best accomplished with a local guide.Opt for a walking or hiking tour, or take a shorter trip via 4-wheel-drive truck.Combine a stop here with a tour to Alcantara, Agrigento, or Piano Provenzana.Keep in mind that even during the summer months, the upper elevations of Mount Etna can be quite cold and you’ll want to bring adequate gear. Dress for cooler temperatures as the elevation increases.
How to Get There
The mountain isn’t too far from the major port city of Catania. Catch a local bus that runs once daily from Catania and Nicolosi up to the Rifugio Sapienza, the starting point for many hikes and treks.
When to Get There
Sunset is one of the most beautiful times to visit Mount Etna. Eruptions occur on Mount Etna with such regularity that no matter when you visit it’s possible you could witness an eruption. Eruptions that come from the summit of the mountain (rather than out from the side) can be the most visually stunning, especially at night with brilliant orange lava spitting into the dark night sky.
Wine and Food at Mt Etna
People continue to inhabit the mountain, partly because the rich volcanic soil makes an excellent base for crops. You’ll find not only fruits and vegetables growing on and around Mount Etna, but also grapes—there are many wines that owe their prominence to the volcano. Choose a tour that combines wine tasting with a visit to see Mt Etna’s striking physical landmarks.