Best Places to Climb an Active Volcano

If you are up for an adventure why not hike an active volcano. This is your opportunity to take photos of glowing lava flow and live life on the edge – literally!

Over thousands of years they have reshaped the face of the planet, creating islands where there were none before and demolishing mighty mountains. While there are literally thousands of volcanoes dotted around the world, only about 500 are currently active.

Below we have compiled a list of the best places to climb an active volcano that you can to add to your bucket list. These places are generally accessible to tourists through a range of adventure tour companies.

1. Mount Etna

Sicily, Italy
Active Volcano
Long walk up

Etna is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and the largest in Europe. She soars into the sky often with a halo of mist and steam and offers views to the sea and of Calabria on the mainland. The typical tour includes a funicular (cable car) ride just over halfway up, then some driving, and finally a hike to the very top where you can peer down into the steamy crater. Not into the climbing? Ride the local train that passes around its base. Or just walk around a bit at the end point of the 4×4 drive where most hikes start from. The views are still stellar there.

2. Kīlauea

Hawaii, United States
Puu Oo looking up
Puu Oo looking up

Kīlauea is a shield volcano in the Hawaiian Islands, the most active of the five volcanoes that together form the island of Hawaiʻi. Located along the southern shore of the island, the volcano, at 300,000 to 600,000 years old, is the second youngest product of the Hawaiian hotspot and the current eruptive center of the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain. Because it lacks topographic prominence and its activities historically coincided with those of Mauna Loa, Kīlauea was once thought to be a satellite of its much larger neighbor.

3. Mount St. Helens

Washington, United States
St Helens plume from Harrys Ridge
St Helens plume from Harrys Ridge

Mount St. Helens is an active stratovolcano located in Skamania County, Washington, in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is 96 miles (154 km) south of Seattle, Washington. Mount St. Helens takes its English name from the British diplomat Lord St Helens, a friend of explorer George Vancouver who made a survey of the area in the late 18th century. The volcano is located in the Cascade Range and is part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc, a segment of the Pacific Ring of Fire that includes over 160 active volcanoes. This volcano is well known for its ash explosions and pyroclastic flows.

4. Mount Yasur

Tanna Island, Vanuatu
Mount Yasur Erupting Tanna Vanuatu
Mount Yasur Erupting Tanna Vanuatu

Mount Yasur is an active volcano on Tanna Island, Vanuatu with a height of 361 m (1,184 ft) above sea level, located on the coast near Sulphur Bay. It lies to the southeast of the taller Mount Tukosmera, which was active in the Pleistocene. It has a largely unvegetated pyroclastic cone with a nearly circular summit crater 400 m in diameter. It is a stratovolcano, caused by the eastward-moving Indo-Australian Plate being subducted under the westward-moving Pacific Plate. It has been erupting nearly continuously for over 800 years, although it can usually be approached safely.

5. Mount Vesuvius

Italy
Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius
Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius is a stratovolcano in the Gulf of Naples, Italy, about 9 km (5.6 mi) east of Naples and a short distance from the shore. It is one of several volcanoes which form the Campanian volcanic arc. Vesuvius consists of a large cone partially encircled by the steep rim of a summit caldera caused by the collapse of an earlier and originally much higher structure.

Mount Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the burying and destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

6. Mount Rainier

Washington, United States
Mount Rainier National Park Snow Lake Trail
Mount Rainier National Park Snow Lake Trail

Mount Rainier is a massive stratovolcano located 54 miles (87 km) southeast of Seattle in the state of Washington, United States. It is the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States and the Cascade Volcanic Arc, with a summit elevation of 14,411 ft (4,392 m). Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, and it is on the Decade Volcano list. Because of its large amount of glacial ice, Mt. Rainier could potentially produce massive lahars that would threaten the whole Puyallup River valley.

7. Mayon Volcano

Luzon, Philippines
Mayon
Mayon volcano zipline

Mayon Volcano, also known as Mount Mayon, is an active volcano in the province of Albay, on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Renowned as the “perfect cone” because of its almost symmetric conical shape, Mayon forms the northern boundary of Legazpi City, the most populous city in the Bicol Region. The mountain was declared a national park and a protected landscape on July 20, 1938, the first in the country. It was reclassified a Natural Park and renamed Mayon Volcano Natural Park in the year 2000.

Local Philippine folklore refers to the volcano as Bulkang Mayon (“Mayon volcano”), after the legendary heroine Daragang Magayon (“Beautiful Lady”).

8. Piton de la Fournaise

Reunion Island
Piton de la Fournaise
Piton de la Fournaise

Piton de la Fournaise (“Peak of the Furnace”) is a shield volcano on the eastern side of Réunion island in the Indian Ocean. It is currently one of the most active volcanoes in the world, along with Kīlauea in the Hawaiian Islands, Stromboli, Etna and Mount Erebus in Antarctica. A previous eruption began in August 2006 and ended in January 2007. The volcano erupted again in February 2007, and on 21 September 2008. Most recently, an eruption occurred on 9 December 2010 and lasted for two days. The volcano is located within Réunion National Park, a World Heritage site.

Piton de la Fournaise is often known locally as le Volcan (The Volcano); it is a major tourist attraction on Réunion island.

9. Stromboli

Italy
Stromboli
Stromboli

Stromboli is a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily, containing one of the three active volcanoes in Italy. It is one of the eight Aeolian Islands, a volcanic arc north of Sicily. This name is derived from the Ancient Greek name Strongulē which was given to it because of its round swelling form. The island’s population is between 400 and 850. The volcano has erupted many times, and is constantly active with minor eruptions, often visible from many points on the island and from the surrounding sea, giving rise to the island’s nickname “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean”.

The last major eruption was on April 13, 2009. Stromboli stands 926 m (3,034 ft) above sea level but actually rises over 2,700 m (8,860 ft) on average above the sea floor. There are three active craters at the peak. A significant geological feature of the volcano is the Sciara del Fuoco (“Stream of fire”), a big horseshoe-shaped depression generated in the last 13,000 years by several collapses on the northwestern side of the cone.

10. Sakura-jima

Kyushu, Japan
Sakurajima at Sunset
Sakurajima at Sunset

Sakura-jima is an active composite volcano (stratovolcano) and a former island in Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu, Japan. The lava flows of the 1914 eruption caused the former island to be connected with the Osumi Peninsula.

The volcanic activity still continues, dropping large amounts of volcanic ash on the surroundings. Earlier eruptions built the white sands highlands in the region. As of March 2014, the volcano is under a Level 3 (orange) alert by the Japan Meteorological Agency, signifying the volcano is active and should not be approached. It is currently the only volcano with this status.

11. Mount Bromo

East Java, Indonesia
Mount Bromo Java Indonesia
Mount Bromo Java Indonesia

Mount Bromo is an active volcano and part of the Tengger massif, in East Java, Indonesia. At 2,329 meters (7,641 ft) it is not the highest peak of the massif but is the most well known. The massif area is one of the most visited tourist attractions in East Java, Indonesia. The volcano belongs to the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. The name of Bromo derived from Javanese pronunciation of Brahma, the Hindu creator god.

12. Masaya Volcano

Nicaragua
Volcan Masaya
Volcan Masaya

Masaya is a caldera located 20 km south of Managua, Nicaragua. It is Nicaragua’s first and largest National Park, and one of 78 protected areas of Nicaragua. The complex volcano is composed of a nested set of calderas and craters, the largest of which is Las Sierras shield volcano and caldera. Within this caldera lies a sub-vent, which is Masaya Volcano sensu stricto.

13. Mount Pinatubo

Luzon, Philippines
Mount Pinatubo
Mount Pinatubo

Mount Pinatubo is an active stratovolcano located on the island of Luzon, near the tripoint of the Philippine provinces of Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga. It is located in the Cabusilan Mountains separating the west coast of Luzon from the central plains. Before the volcanic activities of 1991, its eruptive history was unknown to most people. It was heavily eroded, inconspicuous and obscured from view. It was covered with dense forest which supported a population of several thousand indigenous people, the Aetas, who fled to the mountains during the Spanish conquest of the Philippines.

The volcano’s eruption on June 15, 1991 produced the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century after the 1912 eruption of Novarupta in the Alaska Peninsula.

14. Eyjafjallajökull

Iceland
Eyjafjallajökull
Eyjafjallajökull

Eyjafjallajökull (Icelandic for “Island mountain glacier”) is one of the smaller ice caps of Iceland, situated to the north of Skógar and to the west of Mýrdalsjökull. The ice cap covers the caldera of a volcano with a summit elevation of 1,651 metres (5,417 ft). The volcano has erupted relatively frequently since the last glacial period, most recently in 2010.

15. Pacaya

Guatemala
Pacaya
Pacaya

Pacaya is an active complex volcano in Guatemala, which first erupted approximately 23,000 years ago and has erupted at least 23 times since the Spanish invasion of Guatemala. Pacaya rises to an elevation of 2,552 meters (8,373 ft). After being dormant for a century, it erupted violently in 1965 and has been erupting continuously since then. Much of its activity is Strombolian, but occasional Plinian eruptions also occur, sometimes showering the area of the nearby Departments with ash.

Pacaya is a popular tourist attraction. Pacaya lies 30 kilometers (19 miles) southwest of Guatemala City and close to Antigua.

16. Popocatépetl

Mexico
Popocatepetl
Popocatepetl

Popocatépetl is an active volcano, located in the states of Puebla, State of Mexico, and Morelos, in Central Mexico, and lies in the eastern half of the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt. At 5,426 m (17,802 ft) it is the second highest peak in Mexico, after the Pico de Orizaba.

Popocatepetl is 70 km (43 mi) southeast of Mexico City, from where it can be seen regularly, depending on atmospheric conditions. Until recently, the volcano was one of three tall peaks in Mexico to contain glaciers, the others being Iztaccihuatl and Pico de Orizaba.

17. Whakaari/White Island

Bay of Islands, New Zealand
White Island
White Island

Whakaari/White Island is an active andesite stratovolcano, situated 48 km (30 mi) from the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, in the Bay of Plenty. It is New Zealand’s most active cone volcano and has been built up by continuous volcanic activity over the past 150,000 years. The nearest mainland towns are Whakatane and Tauranga.

The island is roughly circular and rises to a height of 321 m (1,053 ft) above sea level. However, this is only the peak of a much larger submarine mountain, which rises up to 1,600 m (5,249 ft) above the nearby seafloor, making this volcanic structure the largest in New Zealand.

18. Mount Teide

Tenerife, Canary Islands
Mount Teide
Mount Teide

Mount Teide is a volcano on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Its 3,718-meter (12,198 ft) summit is the highest point in Spain and the highest point above sea level in the islands of the Atlantic. At 7,500 m (24,600 ft) from its base on the ocean floor, it is the third highest volcano on a volcanic ocean island, in the world, after Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Its elevation makes Tenerife the tenth highest island in the world.

19. Mount Nyiragongo

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Lava Lake Nyiragongo
Lava Lake Nyiragongo

Mount Nyiragongo is an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3470m (11382 ft) in the Virunga Mountains associated with the Albertine Rift. It is located inside Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, about 20 km (12 mi) north of the town of Goma and Lake Kivu and just west of the border with Rwanda. The main crater is about two kilometers wide and usually contains a lava lake. The crater presently has two distinct cooled lava benches within the crater walls – one at about 3,175 meters (10,417 ft) and a lower one at about 2,975 m (9,760 ft). Nyiragongo’s lava lake has at times been the most voluminous known lava lake in recent history. The depth of the lava lake varies considerably.

20. Mount Tambora

Sumbawa, Indonesia
Caldera Mt Tambora Sumbawa Indonesia
Caldera Mt Tambora Sumbawa Indonesia

Mount Tambora is an active stratovolcano on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia. Sumbawa is flanked both to the north and south by oceanic crust, and Tambora was formed by the active subduction zone beneath it. This raised Mount Tambora as high as 4,300 m (14,100 ft), making it, in the 18th century, one of the tallest peaks in the Indonesian archipelago. After a large magma chamber inside the mountain filled over the course of several decades, volcanic activity reached a historic climax in the eruption of 10 April 1815.

21. Galeras

Nariño, Colombia
Volcán Galeras
Volcán Galeras

Galeras (Urcunina among the 16th-century indigenous people) is an Andean stratovolcano in the Colombian department of Nariño, near the departmental capital Pasto. Its summit rises 4,276 meters (14,029 ft) above sea level. It has erupted frequently since the Spanish conquest, with its first historical eruption being recorded on December 7, 1580. A 1993 eruption killed nine people, including six scientists who had descended into the volcano’s crater to sample gasses. It is currently the most active volcano in Colombia.

22. Nevado del Ruiz

Colombia
El Nevado del Ruíz
El Nevado del Ruíz

The Nevado del Ruiz, also known as La Mesa de Herveo, or Kumanday in the language of the local pre-Columbian indigenous people, is a volcano located on the border of the departments of Caldas and Tolima in Colombia, about 129 kilometers (80 mi) west of the capital city Bogotá. It is a stratovolcano, composed of many layers of lava alternating with hardened volcanic ash and other pyroclastic rocks. Nevado del Ruiz has been active for about two million years, since the early Pleistocene or late Pliocene epoch, with three major eruptive periods.

23. Krakatoa/Anak Krakatau

Sunda Strait, Indonesia
Gunung Anak Krakatau
Gunung Anak Krakatau

Krakatoa is a volcanic island situated in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. The name is also used for the surrounding island group comprising the remnants of a much larger island of three volcanic peaks which was obliterated in a cataclysmic 1883 eruption, unleashing huge tsunamis (killing more than 36,000 people) and destroying over two-thirds of the island. The explosion is considered to be the loudest sound ever heard in modern history, with reports of it being heard up to 3,000 miles (4,800 km) from its point of origin. The shock waves from the explosion were recorded on barographs around the globe.

In 1927 a new island, Anak Krakatau, or “Child of Krakatoa”, emerged from the caldera formed in 1883 and is the current location of eruptive activity.