Mt Etna in Sicily – Experiencing an Eruption
Dominating the landscape of southern Sicily is the majestic and powerful Mount Etna, the largest volcano in all of Europe. Towering 3000 meters high, Mt Etna is visible from most of the east coast of Sicily. Now, to get to see this amazing volcano from a distance is a treat, but to see it up close is awe-inspiring. To see it erupt while you are on the top of the mountain is surreal (and a bit scary I must say).
As you climb the mountain you drive through lava flows from the many prior eruptions that cascade like streams down the mountainside. The last eruption that created a lava flow occurred in 2001. Check out the photo below. This was from the 2001 eruption and shows the house buried in the middle of the lava flow.
On a sunny and clear Tuesday afternoon in May, I was very fortunate to be 2000 meters up the mountain while the volcano was spitting ash and plumes of smoke from its crater. The adventure did not stop there. Next, was the ride up the cable car about 1000m up to get even closer to this powerful force of nature. There I could not only see the ash and fiery plume of smoke up close, but also hear it. Approximately every five minutes it would let out another explosion with a splash of ash popping out of its crater. The cool thing is that you can hear the explosion if you listen for it and then watch plume grow.
After the cable car ride, you think well, I am about as close as anyone needs to get to an active volcano, but the Italians don’t stop there. You then have the option to get into large Jeep buses that take you about as close to the crater as you would ever want to be. I was fortunate enough to be one of the last to be admitted onto the Jeeps that day because of the volcanic activity. I guess I should say I was lucky that volcano contained itself to ash and plumes while I was there.
Mt Etna Erupting
Insider Travel Tips:
While I can’t guarantee the same experience that I had given it was quite rare to see up close, I highly recommend scaling to the top of Mt Etna to see and feel the awesome power of nature. You will also get some of the most amazing views of Sicily that you will find anywhere on the island.
- I recommend taking the old train part way up the mountain. It takes about an hour and is a lovely trip with excellent viewing of the volcano.
- Now you will have to figure out how to get from the railway station to base camp.
- Once at base camp, make certain you visit the two smaller craters. Quite fascinating to be able to walk around what I hope are dormant craters.
- Take the cable car trip the 1000 meters up to the top. It is 30 euros but well worth the experience. There you might be able to take large Jeeps up to the crater’s edge (well close to it).
- Oh yes, it is freezing and very windy up there so bring a jacket. Of course, they do sell them while you are up there. I have a very attractive Mt Etna sweat shirt that I wear proudly now.
Ciao from Mt Etna