Despite the dangers, tourists continue to flock to these volatile places for incredible views and to take a peek at Mother Nature’s temperamental hotspots.
The recent deaths in New Zealand have highlighted the dangers of visiting active volcanoes. Falling ash, running lava and hot gases can create unstable situations, but the views are often breathtaking and the excitement of a possible fire show lures in those seeking an adrenaline rush. Despite the dangers, tourists continue to flock to these volatile spots for the incredible views, and perhaps bragging rights. For those looking to explore these natural wonders, all around the world there are volcanoes you can get up close and personal with (at your own risk, of course).
This volcano lying beneath a glacier of the same name put Iceland on the travel map when it erupted in 2010. Since then the volcano, and Iceland in general have become a popular destination. Either rent a car or for those that are a little bit more outdoorsy, take the two-day Fimmvörouháls trail starting in Reykjavík.
Though less famous than its neighbor, scientists belief that Katla Volcano is due to erupt any day. The volcano usually erupts every 40 to 80 years, but hasn’t had a large eruption since 1918. Scientists believe the upcoming eruption may dwarf that seen from Eyjafjallajokull in 2010.
Eyjafjallajokull Elevation: 5,417 ft Katla Elevation: 4,888 ft
Mount Merapi, Indonesia
Merapi (the one that makes fire in Javanese) only erupts every five to 10 years, but when it does, it’s a sight. The volcano is near the densely populated city of Yogyakarta and is integral to daily life. The lava and ash have made the land fertile and the volcano has also been important to the history of sultans and kings. To learn that history, tourists can visit the Museum of Merapi or view the volcano from the Kaliurang Observation Tower.
Elevation: 9,547 ft
Erta Ale, Ethiopia
Though not very tall and imposing, Erta Ale is one of the only volcanoes in the world to have a nearly consistent lava lake. Located in the Danakil Depression, it is also considered one of the hottest places in the world. Near the border with Eritrea, the best way to see the volcano is through a guided tour, since the volcano is in a relatively secluded area. Many tours start from Addis Ababa, which is the easiest place to fly into. Also, check before you go because recently there has been low visibility due to smoke.
Elevation: 2,011 ft
Mount Stromboli, Italy
One of the most famous and active volcanoes in the world, Mount Stromboli makes up one of the Aeolian islands off the coast of Italy. The only way to visit is by boat—usually by booking a boat tour—and then hiking the island. Mount Stromboli gained some negative press this past July when the volcano erupted killing a hiker. Despite this, it’s been a famous volcano for its near continuous eruptions since 1932.
Elevation: 3,031 ft
The most active volcano in the world is in Hawaii, where volcanoes hold local cultural lore. Kilauea is bordered by Mauna Loa volcano, Kau Desert, Ainahou Ranch and a fern jungle. Nearby is also the Thurston Lava Tube which can be visited, as well as the surrounding lush jungle. The volcano is located on the Big Island, so visiting other attractions, such as Honolulu is an option.
Elevation: 4,009 ft
Those looking to avoid helicopter flights and long car rides can enjoy the views of Pacaya from their hotel room in Guatemala City. Or visitors can take a little over an hour car ride and hike Pacaya. The volcano lets off heat, which visitors have discovered is perfect for roasting marshmallows, so remember to bring your s’more ingredients. Pacaya is not the only active volcano in the region. Volcano Fuego (which erupted last year) and Santiaguito are all active, and Guatemala has another 34 volcanoes that are either dormant or extinct.
Elevation: 8,428 ft
Mount Etna, Italy
Not only is Mount Etna known for being in one of the most picturesque places (located on the island of Sicily), Etna is also the most active volcano in Europe and one of the longest erupting volcanoes, for the past 2,000 years. Hiking is not the only way to enjoy the view of the volcano. In the winter, one can ski down the slopes, and the ash creates fertile soil that yields excellent wine, which is perfect for sipping while watching plumes of smoke.
Elevation: 10,810 ft
Less than 5 miles away from the city of Kagoshima, Sakurajima erupts almost every day. Visiting the area is very easy, with ferries leaving the city every 15 mins. Once there, visitors can take a hike or visit the observatory, which is the closest spot to safely view the emissions. The lava has created interesting produce, including the world’s largest radish and the smallest peelable orange.
Elevation: 3,665 ft
Mount Yasur, Vanuatu
Vanuatu is an island that few know about, but the people there are considered some of the happiest in the world. Near Fiji, in the South Pacific, Mount Yasur became famous when it was observed by Captain Cook in 1774. Hiking, guides or taking a four-wheel drive are all options to visit the volcano, but heed warning signs as it can erupt with minimal warning.
Elevation: 1,184 ft
Volcan de Colima, Mexico
Volcan de Colima is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes to visit. It had quite a bit of activity in the 1990s but had a huge explosion in 1913 which blew off part of the crater. Ciudad Guzmán is the closest city to the volcano, but the quaint city of Colima is a pretty stop over on the way, especially if you plan on hiring a guide or a car.
Elevation: 12,631 ft
Arguably the most famous volcano in the world, Vesuvius is considered currently dormant, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t erupt at some point. Visiting Vesuvius is less about seeing active emissions and more about Mount Vesuvius’s past, particularly the destruction of Pompeii in A.D. 79. Though the volcano seems harmless, the destruction of Pompeii was during a dormant phase of Vesuvius as well. Tours are available or also trains for a more independent journey.
Elevation: 4,203 ft
White Island, New Zealand
Making headlines recently for an eruption that killed at least five people, White Island, which is uninhabited, is usually a popular tourist attraction. It is also central to New Zealander culture, playing an important role in Maori folklore. To access the island, one must take a boat tour, and then one can hike. Relatively close to Vanuatu, White Island was also named by Captain Cook.
Elevation: 1,053 ft
PREVNEXTTowering ash plume from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull crater during it’s eruption, spewing tephra and cloud of ashes that drift toward continental Europe on May 10 2010 near Reykjavik, Iceland.ETIENNE DE MALGLAIVE/GETTY