Sakurajima emitting smoke over Kagoshima skyline — Getty Images

Volcano tourism: the 5 best destinations for thrill-seekers

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Dangerous, exciting, beautiful, and great for social media — this explains the recent trend for volcano tourism. If it sounds like something you’d like to do, here are the top destinations for volcano tourism around the world

“Lava, lava me do” sang the Beatles in 1963 (probably), and recently, there’s been a travel trend involving adventure-seekers getting up close to some of the largest volcanoes in the world. When not disrupting air travel, they’re becoming destinations in themselves — some active, some dormant, all spectacular. Let’s find out where, why and how you can do this for yourself.

Fagradalsfjall, Iceland

@kiwi.compov: your camera roll after that Iceland trip♬ original sound – Kiwi.com

Iceland is probably Europe’s main geotourism destination, being one of the most geologically active places on the planet. Iceland not only calls itself The Land of Fire and Ice, but is also home to some 130 volcanoes. The Fagradalsfjall volcano on the Reykjanes peninsula is one of the star attractions, not only because it’s just 40 kilometers from Reykjavík, making it easy to get to, but also because it’s very active.

Every year or two, the volcano awakes from its slumber, with eruptions officially lasting sometimes as long as six months. There are guides that can take you around the eruption site — do not go alone, obviously — with hikes of around 18 kilometers over very rough ground getting you as close as possible. Even then, new cracks and fissures can open up at any time, so as far as extreme volcano tourism goes, this is towards the top end of the list. Just ask our very own Adrián — he jumped at the chance to catch the most recent eruption in the Fagradalsfjall system…

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Cumbre Vieja, Spain

View of volcanoes and pine trees on Canary Islands — Getty ImagesThe volcanoes of the Canary Islands make for some spectacular scenery — Getty Images

The Canary Islands contain over 320 volcanoes, some dormant, some very active indeed. In 2021, the longest eruption in the history of the island of La Palma wreaked havoc in the Cumbre Vieja area. However, it’s still one of the main draws of the island, particularly as part of the Route of the Volcanoes, a 23-kilometer-long hiking route that, especially during the summer, is quite a breathtaking experience. The burning reds and yellows in the heart of the volcano contrast wonderfully with the green of the Canary Island pine, both enhanced by the dark volcanic rock that makes up the landscape.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano eruption drastically reshaped the Aridane Valley below, the 68-kilometer-long lava flow burying 1,345 houses, 370 hectares of cultivated land and 74 kilometers of roads. After rebuilding, enterprising locals opened a new, five-kilometer trail to the foot of the volcano. This is an officially restricted area that’s accessible only by booking a tour, as even though the volcano is now classed as inactive, it still emits gasses, and the landscape underfoot can break and move.

Etna, Italy

Young people jumping near Mount Etna — Getty ImagesMount Etna is now a Unesco World Heritage Site — Getty Images

The legacy of volcanoes in Italy goes back thousands of years, the most famous eruption being that of Vesuvius in 79 CE, which buried the city of Pompeii. For its part, Etna, located on the east coast of Sicily with a summit at 3,357 meters above sea level, is the largest active volcano in Europe. With almost 2.7 million years of burbling activity, in 2013 it was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. In fact, this region is where the word ‘volcano’ comes from, derived as it is from Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.

One of the most accessible volcanoes on this list, the nearby city of Catania does a roaring trade in volcano tourism. Tour companies generally take you from the city in an off-roader to get some way up the mountain, before you commence your hike. It’s a curious place as well, with the rich, volcanic soil meaning you see plants and trees not normally native to the Mediterranean; and Catania and Etna have an oddly symbiotic relationship, with many of the streets of the city being made out of the black, volcanic rock.

Sakurajima, Japan

Man at hot spring foot bath with Sakurajima volcano in background — Getty ImagesVolcano + hot springs = the best geotourism experience — Getty Images

Sakurajima is a 1,117-meter-high volcano, located four kilometers from the city of Kagoshima. It’s part of the Kirishima Kinkowan National Park and is one of the most active volcanoes in Japan. Unsurprisingly, it receives a lot of visitors — about 1.8 million people annually — who are attracted by this wonder of nature. It also means unexpected benefits, namely the abundance of hot springs in the area, meaning you can relax in one of the traditional Japanese baths as part of your trip.

The volcano gives out a permanent plume of smoke and there are multiple minor eruptions every day. This means that getting to within two kilometers of any of the volcano’s three peaks is prohibited, but there are a number of lookout points around three kilometers from the mountain. There’s also the Nagisa Lava Trail — a three-kilometer footpath that cuts through a lava zone created by the giant eruption of 1914, an event so powerful that it created a land bridge to the Osumi peninsula to the east.

Popocatépetl, Mexico

Woman pointing at Popocatépetl volcano — Getty ImagesThis is one of the most active volcanoes in the world — Getty Images

Popocatépetl, also known as El Popo or Don Goyo, is considered one of the largest volcanoes in the world and is one of the 12 most active volcanoes on the planet. Legend has it that a Tlaxcaltec warrior named Popocatépetl fell in love with the princess Iztaccíhuatl. He was promised her hand in marriage if he returned victorious from battle, but a rival lied to the princess about the fate of her beloved and she died of sadness. Upon his return and finding his betrothed dead, Popocatépetl shaped ten hills to form a great mountain and, lighting a torch, lay down beside her until his own death. Since then, they have remained together, and every time Popo remembers Itza, the ground trembles and his torch is lit to rekindle their love.

If that story of a geophysical Romeo and Juliet stirred something inside you, tours through the National Park range from nine hours to seven days in length, depending on how hardy you’re feeling and what you’d like to experience. It’s only 70 kilometers from Mexico City, so it’s not exactly a trek into the middle of nowhere, but it’s tough enough, particularly if you combine Popocatépetl with the Iztaccíhuatl peak. The two are linked by the 3,400-meter-high Paso de Cortés, and both give spectacular views of the valley below and all the way to the Mexican capital beyond.

Volcano tourism with Kiwi.com

If you feel like giving one of these a go — properly guided and with the right equipment, of course — Kiwi.com can get you to your initial destination for less, with great value travel available now. Search Kiwi.com and book your trip today!

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David Szmidt

David is a lead writer for Kiwi.com, as well as a football-watcher, music-listener and beer-appreciater. @UtterBlether