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9 best volcanic experiences

Inspired to get up close with a lava-spewing beauty? Here’s our hot picks...

Where in the world to see active volcanoes (Flickr: Image Editor)

1. Kilauea, Hawaii

See lava turn into land on The Big Island by exploring Volcanoes National Park. Follow Crater Rim Drive along the caldera – if recent eruptions allow – and get glimpses of the hot molten rock exploding as it hits the ocean. Walk through old lava tunnels within the native rainforest or take a trek into a crater. The best time to visit is April-June or September-December, when the weather’s great and the crowds smallest.

2. Mount Bromo, Indonesia

Situated on the island of Java, this still-active volcano is best seen smoking gently through the mists at dawn. Take a horse ride to get closer to the bubbling peak, or visit during the annual Yadnya Kasada Festival (August) to witness locals trek up en masse to appease the gods by throwing food and money into the caldera.

3. Mount Etna, Sicily

Europe’s tallest (3,329m) and most active volcano dominates eastern Sicily. Ride a cablecar up the snow-clad slopes from Rifugio Sapienza to the upper station, from where you can take a 4WD to the viewing area. Walks on the crater are also available, but always go with a guide.

4. Piton de la Fournaise, Réunion

The Indian Ocean isle’s ‘Peak of the Furnace’ is considered to be one of the world’s most active volcanoes. You can still explore it though: helicopter tours fly above and there are 20 designated hikes in the area. The three lush, volcanically created amphitheatres, or cirques – Mafate, Cilaos and Salazie – are particularly rich stomping grounds. Those seeking extra thrills can go canyoning among the waterfalls.

5. Caldeirão Corvo, Azores

The cluster of islands that make up the azores were born from volcanic eruptions. The collapsed caldera on Corvo, filled with lakes and small cones, is the most impressive remnant. Paraglide over it, or explore on foot.

6. Los Maribios, Nicaragua

This chain of 20-plus volcanoes sits north of León; five are active – but most are climbable. Hikes can take a full day but you’ll be rewarded by views stretching all the way to El Salvador. Camping is possible on many of the cones; don’t miss the black sands of explosive Cerro Negro.

7. Avachinsky, Russia

In Russia’s far east, plum on the Pacific Ring of Fire, sits Kamchatka, a 1,200km-long peninsula peppered with 300-odd volcanoes. It’s not easy to get there – Kamchatka is closer to Los Angeles than Moscow (a nine-hour-flight away) – and you’ll need a helicopter or serious wheels to get around. But if you do manage to make the journey to this wilderness, don’t miss a climb up ‘Avacha’ – not as high as many of the peninsula’s other volcanoes maybe, but one of its most feisty.

8. Mount Yasur, Vanuatu

Tanna Island boasts one of the world’s most approachable live volcanoes, which has been continuously erupting since before Captain Cook sailed past in 1774. You can stay at the base, walk right up to the crater and look in at the bubbling lava, then ash-board back down. At night, it’s a natural fireworks display, especially in March-April (end of the wet season) when it’s most active.

9. White Island, New Zealand

Get up close to roaring steam vents, bubbling pits of mud, hot volcanic streams and a lake of steaming acid on this erupting island in the bay of Plenty, off the east coast of the North Island. It can be accessed by air from rotorua and Whakatane, but the best way is by boat (80 minutes) from the latter, looking out for dolphins and whales on the way. 

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