Mt Etna Sicily -Travelling in Italy
Mt Etna Sicily
Destination Mt Etna Sicily
Duration 5 hours
Onwards and upwards were the words best used to describe our last day as we got up excited and ready for our trip up to the top of volcano Mt Etna Sicily something we had eagerly anticipated..
As you may expect by now the main roads in Sicily aren’t too bad, the roads through the little towns along the way may be a little more challenging but then you start the windy roads up the side of the mountain to get to the base of Mt Etna.
Our Hire car wasn’t particularly keen to keep up a reasonable pace so it took a little while to get there but the views along the way are well worth the drive and as you get closer you can see the remnants of eruptions past that charcoal coloured rock that looks like well volcanic stone…
So as you approach you can see the cable cars, the little shops & café selling trinkets of volcano related items, a few large car parks with the odd guy giving out cheap tickets to “keep an eye on your car” while you visit (which is a theme in Sicily) a tourist info and some tour companies.
Choosing a tour
So we made it to the volcano but didn’t have anything pre booked. We wasn’t too sure which tour to take as there are a number of companies offering “Mt Etna Sicily tours” with lots of different options, options which can change literally with the weather.
It seems our luck was in and we were chuffed to learn that there was a tour leaving in the next 15 mins and we were on it!
We had opted for the 3-4 hour tour (see pic )as we knew this tour meant we got to see a lot more of the mountain. There was also the other point of a long journey back to the airport afterwards but hey we had to see that volcano!
After a bit of messing about and kitting up we grabbed some food and drinks to take up with us and after the “15 mins” (more like 40) we set off to the cable car.
The weather wasn’t great, it was cloudy and there was lots of smoke from the crater meaning we couldn’t access the top.
We also found out from our guide that the evening tour was only really any good when the volcano had some obvious activity going on which isnt all the time.
(You see pics advertising sunset tours, lava flowing in the background just remember this as the pictures will have been taken in ideal conditions. There is no day to day lava flow and hadn’t been over a month)
Heading to the hike
We headed up on the cable car looking down at what you may expect a mountain to look like after a snow season in the winter, grey, steep and not too much going on and it may surprise you to know that you can actually ski this volcano in the winter as it becomes a ski resort.
As you get up to mid-station you get that ski field feeling and this is the top of the mountain, its cold and with the cloud and smoke quite daunting,
This is not a massive ski field but then you can see why, once the lava flows the cable mounts and lifts don’t last too long and so they decided not to build too much higher as it was a waste of time given most activity happens higher up the top.
Time to catch our transfer further up the mountain for the wander around and more importantly decent back down…who want to hang about on an active volcano? We do! Awesome!
We hop on a weird looking bus and head off up into the cloud and smoke round some pretty mad corners and craters and you get this crazy feeling like you have taken a ride on a moon buggy bus on the surface of the moon itself… crazy!
And so the hike begins…
Once we arrive at our destination the guide takes the lead and off a wandering we go, the ground seems like a sandy rocky kind of surface and is relatively easy going for the most part.
We walk around and into a bowl which is a historical crater and you can actually put your hands to the ground and feel the warmth coming up from the ground the look across and there is a lump of snow that is still there from the winter season, warm ground, on a volcano and snow…mental! That really isn’t something you can do very often!
As we continue on we discover different coloured stones and dirt on the floor from the variety of different minerals contained in the natural make-up of the ground, super-heated and adopting a new form when the volcano has been active. You can literally see the direction of the lava flow as it found its way down the mountain and the unstable ground it left behind that you are now walking on months and even years later.
It was time for lunch and we head up an unforgiving climb to get to the top of a much larger crater, this is one big hole to be climbing into and it obviously a common stop off as several tours have already made their way there and settled for a bit.
After lunch we head back out of the crater that was warm enough to fry an egg in places I am sure and head off towards a naturally formed lava flow tunnel. This is pretty cool as you are able to climb down into it and walk through the tunnel.
The guide is careful to tell you not to bang the sides or pull it about at parts of it are likely to collapse. I am not sure how true that is, I bet there is some truth to it but it adds to the experience as people help each other through the corridor to the exit.
Next we walk a bit further round and find the geology has changed some more, the pieced of rock on the floor have a blue and sparky gold tint to them, again a different mineral that has been transformed and something else for the pocket to take home.
This is the really fun bit sliding down Mt Etna Sicily
The next part of the trip was the most fun and exciting yet. We are going to decent 500m in 7 mins on foot through thick sandy like rubble, the dust and bits left from the erupting volcano.
This was so fun, you could walk down it, run in it, jump down it or stomp down it, it was literally how you would imagine walking on the moon would feel like.
If you get into a decent rhythm it is easy to slide your feet out like you are on roller-skates and travel 2-3 meters with each step in a bouncing like fashion. It is almost worth crawling back up to have another go but I don’t think you would get far heading upwards!
At the bottom of the 500m we take a break for a few minutes to admire our reward; the stunning panoramic as the cloud and smoke finally start to clear.
What a truly fantastic spot, the guide continues to keep you informed and you learn that the sporadic and sparse vegetation will have taken many hundreds and in some cases thousands of years to re-establish itself on the mountain due to the devastation of the lava flows the rock faces once witnessed.
A few photos later and the last part of the journey down begins, you can feel yourself getting close to the start point and begin to take in just what you have just achieved and truly rewarding the experience you have just had is
The 3-4 hour tour has now taken over 5 hours and put us behind on the rest of the journey but you know what it really was the highlight of our trip and something we will never forget and an experience that can be truly recommended.
Get on up there guys you won’t be disappointed. Mt Etna Sicily
- You can just wing it and organise a tour when you get there…YAY!
Or just take a lift and wander around like a lot of people do.
(You will see more with a guide but it is more expensive)
- The volcano, how often do you get to stomp about on an active volcano? Exactly!
2 lessons learned
- If you really want to get a view from the top and want a clear day you may be disappointed, luckily we thoroughly enjoyed our tour so it wasn’t an issue for us.
- Make sure you are there early to avoid disappointment particularly in peak times and check out the weather before you go as if you want to hit the top and the conditions aren’t right, you won’t be going up there, not with a guide anyway and do you really fancy walking about on your own when a guide didn’t want to go?
- Booking before you go could save you a lot of € as you can combing tour and travel into the package, it is likely the supplier will have a group tour discount with pick up and drop off points so worth looking into before you go it alone.
- We had to get there do the tour and travel on afterwards so we thought we would see what we could do when we got there, we weren’t leaving without a trip up this hill but this could have been a risky option in peak times!
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