Have you ever wanted to enjoy the unforgettable experience of visiting the largest volcano in Europe? Mount Etna, located in Italy, has an elevation of over 10,000 feet and last erupted in 2008. It’s a wonderful place to visit, especially if you take advantage of one of the many Mount Etna excursions available. Here’s some basic information about this interesting destination.

Trekking Mount Etna

Mount Etna offers a wide range of trekking options for travelers. You can choose to hike along isolated paths in the coniferous forests or climb the mountain itself to see fantastic craters, sandy beach-like areas and hot springs. There are plenty of different options, but here are a few of the most popular.

Etna and Aeolian Islands Trek

This longer trip starts at the old Roman spa located at Vulcano, then goes to Stromboli island, with its impressive 924 meter summit. Over the course of six days you’ll visit the nature reserves and islands around Sicily, finishing at Etna for the seventh day. The trip up Aetna winds all the way to the summit at 3,350 meters and requires good shoes and physical condition.

Once you reach the top, however, you’ll be able to see incredible views and amazing volcanic formations. Since Etna is continuously active, the trail can change significantly. It’s important to go with caution and avoid any areas that look dangerous. Your guide may change your route to avoid any new obstacles. (Read more about this tour here: “Mt. Etna and the Aeolian Islands Volcano Trekking“)

Case Pietra Cannon – Piano Provenzana

This excursion passes through a beautiful landscape shrouded in pine forest. You’ll have the chance to see a wide range of local plants and trees, including birch, broom and conifers. You’ll also get to see the Valle del Bove from nearby Cirasa, as well as Sartorius and Ladroni grotto, made by the eruption in 1865.

This tour occurs at a moderate altitude and takes four to five hours. It requires some hiking experience and equipment, including a windbreaker for cold days, a flashlight and sturdy hiking boots. The average eight-person group trip costs about 26 Euros per person, with rates decreasing for larger groups. (We suggest you contact Progaia from Volcano Trek)

Montagnola – Valle del Bove (Valley of the Oxen)

This trip starts at the Sapienza refuge, located at 1910 meters of elevation. From there, you’ll visit the warm Hornito grotto and take a hike along the southern flank. Along the way, you’ll see mounds from the eruption of 1763, as well as beautiful lava flow grottos. The excursion finishes at the top of Montagnola with an elevation of 2640 meters.

From there you can see the whole coast, from Messina to Syracuse, as well as the Eolie archipelago, Catania City and the Valley of the Oxen. The excursion then heads downhill along the Valley, returning to the starting point through Pitagora grotto and Schiena dell’asino. This excursion requires good physical condition and takes about six hours. In addition to a windbreaker and boots, you’ll also need a rope for descent. (We suggest you contact the Alpine guide Marco Tomasello from Aitnemed)

Mount Etna Basics

This mountain is the largest volcano on the European continent and one of the most active in the world. It erupts almost constantly along its flanks and at the summit, but causes relatively little damage. In fact, the city of Catania, with around 900,000 inhabitants, is built in the mountain’s shadow.

Mount Etna is larger than most other Italian mountains, with a surface covered in basalt lava flows from previous eruptions. It contains a number of small calderas, or crater-shaped depressions caused by the subsidence of land after an eruption. The most famous one is the Valley of the Oxen, or Valle del Bove.

This horseshoe-shaped caldera is about 8 kilometers (5 miles) long and 5 kilometers (3 miles) wide. This caldera is home to some of the mountain’s most spectacular and common eruptions. It is visible from the southeastern part of Catania. Several excursions to visit the caldera are also available. (Latest news about Mt. Etna eruptions)

Why Visit Mount Etna?

Visiting this volcano gives you the opportunity to see landscapes unique in the world. Taking an excursion allows you to enjoy a bright, unusually-colored landscape, as well as the local plants and animals. Local attractions include the pristine Etna Regional Park (Official website), Ragabo Pine Forest and the Grottos. The mountain itself has an almost lunar landscape, with pockmarked surfaces created by past lava flows and impressive craters.

Eruptions from the volcano periodically change the shape of the land surrounding it. People living in the immediate area are always ready for the possibility of a large eruption. In the past few years, lava flows have even reached some of the closer local villages. Even if you’ve been to Mount Etna before, there’s a good chance that it’s not the same mountain you saw on your last visit.

Excursions to the largest crater can seem like science fiction landings. The summit features no vegetation and an enormous smoking bowl full of lava. This amazing site is hard to describe in words. You may even see the ruins of past tourist facilities that have been destroyed by lava. In 1971, an eruption buried the late 19th century Etna Observatory. It also destroyed the existing cable car facilities and threatened several villages.

Getting There

Mount Etna formed millions of years ago along Sicily’s ancient coast line, between the Nebrodi mountains in Messina and the Hyblaean Mountains on the southeastern side of Sicily. The geography of this area can make travel somewhat difficult. The best way to reach Mount Etna is via airplane or train to Catania. From there, you can travel to the high-altitude villages that many tour companies use as their bases.

Excursions usually start from Nicolosi, a village on the southern flank of Mount Etna, or Linguaglossa, on the northern flank. Nicolosi is the best choice for excursions going to the Sapienza Refuge, located at 1980 meters of elevation, while Linguaglossa works well for tours to Piano Provenzana, at 1800 meters. To get to Nicolosi, you’ll need to take the ring road, following signs for Paesi Etnei. This road is filled with hairpin turns, so drive carefully. Linguaglossa is a relatively easy trip, starting on the Catiana-Messina highway via the Fiumefreddo toll gate. Take the smooth, straight Mareneve road for 10 kilometers.

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