In my book, volcanos are Mother Nature’s most awe-inspiring and deadly spectacle, when a rupture in the earth’s crust allows molten magma, gases and ash to blast out into the atmosphere, often several miles high before cascading to ground, causing untold devastation.
Now clearly I wouldn’t recommend going anywhere near one of the things if there was even the slightest chance of an eruption, but there are many dormant or only mildly active volcanos around which are easily accessed. Climbing to the summit and peering into the crater is an incredible experience, as though you’re looking into the earth’s core.
And it’s not just for the thrills either. Holidaying among volcanos offers other benefits, for example to your health. It’s often said that the mud around the Volcano Solfatara in Pozzuoli, Italy, contains minerals and salts that can help with all kinds of skin and breathing conditions. It stinks around there, true, because of all the sulphur, but a lot of people visit anyway every year, holding their noses as they bathe in warm natural mud baths.
History-buffs also can get a lot out of it. No visit to the devastated town of Pompeii is complete without a walk up the side of Vesuvius, the volcano that destroyed it in 79AD, to understand the fear and confusion it must have caused the poor local people.
If you like the sound of getting close to a volcano on your holidays, here are some suggestions for where you’ll find the most interesting ones.
Vesuvius, Italy – The eruption that wiped out the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum was one of the most immense and destructive of all time. Vesuvius is still active, although not doing too much recently. You can easily climb to the summit within a few hours, using the Bay of Naples as your base. Once you’re down, visit Pompeii to get a clear understanding of the devastation and panic the volcano wrought, and also unique insights into ancient Roman life.
Krakatoa, Indonesia – When Krakatoa erupted in 1883, wiping out over 30,000 people and causing gigantic tsunamis, it is also thought to have produced the loudest sound ever hear, audible over 3000 miles away! Scientists reckon it could blow again soon, so for now you can only visit by boat, keeping a distance of at least three miles. It’s between Java and Sumatra islands though, so easily reached.
Mt Etna, Italy – Despite being one of Europe’s most active volcanos, as well as one of the largest, tourists can still climb to the crater for a look around. It has erupted many times over the last century, never having caused any major damage apart from destroying one small village (with plenty of warning).
Mt St Helens, USA – Just south of Seattle in Washington State, Mount St Helens’ last major eruption was in 1980. Since then the mountain has frequently been closed off to visitors for fear of volcanic activity, but currently it is possible to climb marked trails.
Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland – My belief is the name derives from the sound you would make were the ground to start shaking while you were right at the summit. This is the volcano which erupted in 2010, sending a huge ash cloud up into the air, which disrupted flight activity for weeks afterwards as airlines were forced to ground planes.
Many companies now organise adventure holidays for singles and groups wanting to visit volcanos around the world. I highly recommend it for a fascinating look at nature in action. Remember to wear running shoes though!
Biog: Rob is a big lover of the volcanoes of Italy and can’t wait for his next trip to Mount Etna on the island of Sicily.