Mount Etna is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and it is the largest in all of Europe. It rises to almost 11,000 feet above sea level. It truly is a remarkable experience because of how quickly the vegetation and temperature will change as you ascend to the top of the mountain. At the lower levels, it is very lush because of the volcanic soil. There are plants and vegetables that are unique only to this mountain. And some of the local wine that is grown alongside it is truly delicious. Then are you reach the higher levels, the surface becomes almost moon-like as you see the dead craters of the volcano and you truly appreciate the destructive force of Mother Nature.
There are truly some spectacular photos when the volcano erupts. The volcano is in a constant state of eruption, as you always see smoke coming out of the top crater. However, the major eruptions happen every ten years are so. Although, I do not remember a year where it will not make the news and cause havoc with your travel plans if you are in that area. In one of the restaurants, I saw a map that had tracked all the major lava flows of the eruptions that have occurred since the 1600’s.
How to get to Mt. Etna
There are a few ways to get to the volcano. Tour groups leave almost every day from Catania, a major Sicilian city located at the base of the mountain. You can also rent a car in Sicily and drive to one of the villages that are located at various levels on the mountain. To get to the top crater will depend on how the volcano is behaving. If it is very active, obviously there will not be any tours. If it is relatively calm, there are jeep tours that can take you very close to the top. The roads close to the summit are very treacherous, so you don’t want to drive your own automobile.
Hiking the mountain
You can hike the mountain on your own if you are an experienced hiker, although it can be risky. And of course, there are local guides that are familiar with the mountain that can take you to the top as well, if you are not that experienced.
Train tour of the volcano
Another option is the Circumetnea, a private railway that circles the volcano. It is a single-track line, and often slow, but you can get some spectacular views of the mountain as it goes through the various lava fields. The round-trip journey takes approximately four hours. They run a few times a day, every day, except for Sundays.
A definite stop in Sicily
If you are going to visit Italy, and you make it to Sicily, you should definitely take time to visit Mount Etna, as it is truly a natural wonder that will leave you awe-inspired.