For some excitement on your next trip, check out these astounding (and literal) hot spots of nature. But don’t worry: they’re actually safe to visit as long as you don’t provoke their… explosive tempers.
1. Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy
We’re going to hit one of the most popular volcano destinations right away with this famed in Italian peak. Mount Vesuvius was last active in 1944, but its most destructive explosion was the one that levelled the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD, preserving them beneath layers of ash and rock.
Vesuvius has erupted dozens of times over the millennia, but none were as destructive as the explosion in 79 AD. Today, the volcano is one of the top tourist destinations in all of Europe. You can also tour the remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum. On the one hand, you’ll get a sense of the personality of your average ancient Roman town; on the other, you’ll be haunted by the knowledge that thousands of people died here, their outlines preserved in volcanic stone.
Due to its popularity, several companies offer organized tours; shops, accommodations, and restaurants fill the surrounding villages at the mountain’s base.
2. Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy
As long as you are enjoying the charms of Naples, you may as well hop on over to the Island of Sicily to explore another of Italy’s famous volcanoes. Mount Etna is by far the largest of the bunch (the others being Vesuvius and Stromboli) and it is also the most active. In fact, it’s one of the most volatile volcanoes in the world, maintaining a near-constant state of low-level activity.
Even though it is quite active, it is a popular tourist site because getting to and from the summit is easy. A museum observatory halfway up the mountain acts as a central convenience center for anyone visiting, providing information and services. Transportation to and around the volcano is available through a bus route that zips up to a smoking crater throughout the day, and train service that circumnavigates the base.
3. Nisyros, Dodecanese, Greece
A less-active but equally stunning volcano, Nisyros in the Greek Dodecanese Islands greets her admirers with steamy hot springs and a series of serene, wide-mouthed craters caused by her previous eruptions. Her last significant activity was in 1888, so it’s a safe bet that you won’t have to dodge much lava here. When you are in this part of the world, the sunny Aegean Sea provides many potential activities apart from volcano exploration. After checking out the hot springs, hop over to the more densely populated islands of Rhodes and Kos, where exquisite Greek cuisine and spa resorts are plentiful.
4. Thrihnukagigur Volcano, Iceland
This volcano, in the north Atlantic nation of Iceland, lies in the Blafjoll mountains, just 30 minutes’ drive from the capital city, Reykjavik. While Iceland is well-known for its seismic activity, including the presence of rejuvenating hot springs, vacationers can safely drop into the belly of this volcano.
Since Thrihnukagigur is considered a dormant volcano, elevators have been installed to permit casual observers to descend into its magma chamber. Outside, there’s a geological base camp where you can enjoy traditional Icelandic food while waiting your turn. And no advanced hiking knowledge or skill is necessary, as the entire experience involves only a few miles of guided walking.
While in Iceland, you can explore other natural sites; since glacial ice covers 11 percent of the island nation, you can tour the impressive glaciers, for example.
5. Arenal, Costa Rica
Some of the best volcano sites are in Central America. In Costa Rica, for example, you can trek about the stunning Arenal volcano, located just a three-hour drive from the capital of San Jose. The surrounding lush rainforest is visible from the mountain’s peak, which is accessible via various tour guide services. Set in the Arenal National Park, this volcano last spewed forth in 1968. That previous activity deeply scarred the land and fed the region’s numerous hot springs. Several tours focus on how the volcano shaped the landscape. While there, plan to stay at the Observatory Lodge and Spa which is just a few miles from the mountain and offers daily guided treks.
After enjoying the volcanic spectacle, make sure you sample some of the various fair trade coffees and chocolates available throughout Costa Rica. Costa Rica also is a small country surrounded by ocean, so you can enjoy some well-deserved pampering at an ocean resort after your visit to Arenal, too.
6. Poas Volcano, Costa Rica
A short drive south of Arenal, Paos Volcano is another one of Costa Rica’s major tourist attractions. Unfortunately, close access to the volcano has been curtailed by recent activity, but it is still observable by a designated park.
The Costa Rican government had closed the National Volcanic Park in 2017 due to unstable conditions and a massive eruption. There are hopes that the park will reopen soon, since the mountain has mostly been quiet of late. Once the area is re-opened, tourists will be able to admire Poas’ large crater, the largest active volcanic crater on the planet. The hole shoots an 820-foot steam geyser out of its center, but onlookers can safely watch from a distance.
Nearby geological research facilities provide education about the volcano’s role in forming Central America’s geography. The site features a full-service visitors center with a cafe. A nearby crater filled with water (Lake Botas) offers plentiful hiking trails that connect to the mountain as well.
To read more about Costa Rica, check out 15 Things Everyone Should Do In Costa Rica.
7. Mount Pelée, Martinique
The French Island of Martinique in the Caribbean is home to a sleepy volcano called Mount Pelée. Its last big eruption was in 1902; that was a devastating deluge that destroyed the nearby town of Saint-Pierre.
For the past century, the only evidence of activity comes from Pelée’s warm springs; otherwise, it’s a calm and relaxing Caribbean vacation spot. Marked trails lead off from parking lots at the base of the mountain area, which you can follow to the summit. There, you can witness witness the dramatic drop to the Caribbean sea below.
If you are looking for a guided tour or some additional information about the volcano or its history, you can visit the Franck Perret museum, the regional volcano center in Morne-Rouge, or the Geosciences Discovery and Research Center.
Another traveler’s tip for Martinique is to schedule a side trip to one of its many caves, including those near Mount Pelée. These caves are often reachable from the surrounding sea, and snorkelers can swim right in under a canopy of bats above the shimmering water.
8. Mount Batur, Bali
This Indonesian excursion requires a moderate level of physical activity, as it’s a two-and-a-half hour hike to reach the mountaintop. Summiting, however, is well worth the effort. The entire area is volcanic, and Mount Batur is noted for the pronounced caldera (or collapsed top) at its peak, and secondary caldera that contains several villages. Tourism is a prominent industry around here, due to the beautifully lush jungle and relative ease of access to the volcano. Since the area is prone to jungle humidity, several tours leave as early as 3 a.m., which allows optimal viewing of the surrounding area before the dense afternoon fog settles in.
9. Krakatoa, Indonesia
An easy day trip from neighboring Jakarta, Krakatoa is known for a devastating 19th-century eruption. In 1883, more than 36,000 people living on Java, Sumatra, and other surrounding islands died from the force of the explosion and the tsunamis that resulted.
Today, the volcano is docile and is the center of a thriving eco-tourism industry in Indonesia. Day trips and longer excursions are offered, and many include side trips with swimming and snorkeling around Rakata Island, the volcano’s home. To reach the top of Krakatoa, your guide will take your through the dense jungle at its base, which slowly thins as you make your way up its slope. Note that multi-day excursions require overnight camping on the volcano, which is also arranged by the tour providers.
10. Mount Kilauea, Hawaii
The most popular of any accessible volcano, Mount Kilauea receives over three million visitors each year – and for a good reason. It’s not a huge volcano by any means, but for over 30 years Kilauea has been emitting slow-moving lava flows that are famously mesmerizing.
Located on the island of Hawaii, Kilauea is in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and is only 15 miles from sister volcano Mauna Loa. Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world, but it is also the easiest to approach, and its slow gurgling makes it fairly safe as long as you take precautions. Visitors can walk across the caldera, peeking at the churning lava 300 feet below, or watch the slow oozing magma as it rolls toward the sea.
And Hawaii is, of course, a land that has so much to offer visitors: from pristine beaches to the diversity of its eight main islands. The volcanic soil is one of the building blocks of the famous Kona coffee, and visitors can enjoy a lively luau after their hike!