Best Places to Climb an Active Volcano

27 Feb 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

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.

Active Volcano

2. Kīlauea | Hawaii, USA

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.

Puu Oo looking up

3. Mount St. Helens | Washington, USA

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.

St Helens plume from Harrys Ridge

4. Mount Yasur | Tanna Island, 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.

Mount Yasur Erupting Tanna Vanuatu

5. Mount Vesuvius | Italy

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.

Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius

6. Mount Rainier | Washington, USA

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.

Mount Rainier National Park Snow Lake Trail

7. Mayon Volcano | Luzon, Philippines

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”).

Mayon

8. Piton de la Fournaise | Reunion Island

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.

Piton de la Fournaise

9. Stromboli | Sicily, Italy

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.

Stromboli

10. Sakura-jima | Kyushu, Japan

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.

Sakurajima at Sunset

11. Mount Bromo | East Java, Indonesia

Mount Bromo is an active volcano and part of the Tengger massif, in East Java, Indonesia. At 2,329 metres (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.

Mount Bromo Java Indonesia

12. Masaya Volcano | Nicaragua

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.

Volcan Masaya

13. Mount Pinatubo | Luzon, Philippines

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.

Mount Pinatubo

14. Eyjafjallajökull | Iceland

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.

Eyjafjallajökull

15. Pacaya | Guatemala

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 metres (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.

Pacaya

16. Popocatépetl | Mexico

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.

Popocatepetl

17. Whakaari / White Island | Bay of Islands, New Zealand

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.

White Island

18. Mount Teide | Tenerife, Canary Islands

Mount Teide is a volcano on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Its 3,718-metre (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.

Mount Teide

19. Mount Nyiragongo | Democratic Republic of the Congo

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 kilometres 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 metres (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.

Lava Lake Nyiragongo

20. Mount 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.

Caldera Mt Tambora Sumbawa Indonesia

21. Galeras | Nariño, Colombia

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 metres (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 gases. It is currently the most active volcano in Colombia.

Volcán Galeras

22. Nevado del Ruiz | Colombia

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.

El Nevado del Ruíz

23. Krakatoa/Anak Krakatau | Sunda Strait, Indonesia

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.

Gunung Anak Krakatau

24. Mount Erebus | Anarctica

Mount Erebus is the second highest volcano in Antarctica (after Mount Sidley) and the southernmost active volcano on earth. It is the 6th highest ultra mountain on an island. With a summit elevation of 3,794 metres (12,448 ft), it is located on Ross Island, which is also home to three inactive volcanoes, Mount Terror, Mount Bird, and Mount Terra Nova.

The volcano has been observed to be continuously active since 1972 and is the site of the Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory run by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

Mount Erebus from the sea ice

25. Santa María Volcano | Guatemala

Santa María Volcano is a large active volcano in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, close to the city of Quetzaltenango. Prior to the Spanish Conquest it was called Gagxanul in the local K’iche’ language. Its eruption in 1902 was one of the four largest eruptions of the 20th century, after the 1912 Novarupta and 1991 Pinatubo eruptions. It is also one of the five biggest eruptions of the past 200 years.

Santa Maria Eruption

26. Mount Merapi | Central Java, Indonesia

Mount Merapi is an active stratovolcano located on the border between Central Java and Yogyakarta, Indonesia. It is the most active volcano in Indonesia and has erupted regularly since 1548. It is located approximately 28 kilometres (17 mi) north of the large Yogyakarta city, and thousands of people live on the flanks of the volcano, with villages as high as 1,700 metres (5,600 ft) above sea level.

Smoke can be seen emerging from the mountaintop at least 300 days a year, and several eruptions have caused fatalities.

Inside an active volcano Merapi

27. Mauna Loa | Hawaii, USA

Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that form the Island of Hawaii in the U.S. state of Hawaiʻi in the Pacific Ocean. Mauna Loa is the largest subaerial volcano in both mass and volume, and has historically been considered the largest volcano on Earth. It is an active shield volcano, with a volume estimated at approximately 18,000 cubic miles (75,000 km3), although its peak is about 120 feet (37 m) lower than that of its neighbor, Mauna Kea. The Hawaiian name “Mauna Loa” means “Long Mountain”. Lava eruptions from Mauna Loa are silica-poor, and very fluid; eruptions tend to be non-explosive and the volcano has relatively shallow slopes.

Summit of Mauna Loa

28. Arenal Volcano | Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano is an active andesitic stratovolcano in north-western Costa Rica around 90 km northwest of San José, in the province of Alajuela, canton of San Carlos, and district of La Fortuna. The Arenal volcano measures at least 1,633 metres (5,358 ft). It is conically shaped with a crater spanning 140 metres (460 ft). Geologically, Arenal is considered a young volcano and the age is estimated to be less than 7,500 years.

The volcano was dormant for hundreds of years and exhibited a single crater at its summit, with minor fumaroles activity, covered by dense vegetation.

Arenal Volcano

29. Kelimutu | Flores Islands, Indonesia

Kelimutu is a volcano, close to the small town of Moni in central Flores island in Indonesia. The volcano is around 50km to the east of Ende, Indonesia, the capital of Ende regency in East Nusa Tenggara province.

The volcano contains three striking summit crater lakes of varying colors. Tiwu Ata Bupu (Lake of Old People) is usually blue and is the westernmost of the three lakes. The other two lakes, Tiwu Ko’o Fai Nuwa Muri (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) and Tiwu Ata Polo (Bewitched or Enchanted Lake) are separated by a shared crater wall and are typically green or red respectively.

Kelimutu Eastern Crater

30. Poás Volcano | Costa Rica

The Poás Volcano is an active stratovolcano in central Costa Rica. It has erupted 39 times since 1828.

There are two crater lake near the summit. The northern lake is known as the Laguna Caliente (“hot lagoon”) and is located at a height of 2,300 m in a crater approximately 1.7 km wide and 290–300 m deep. It is one of the world’s most acidic lakes. The acidity varies after rain and changes in volcanic activity, sometimes reaching a pH of almost 0; consequently, it supports little or no aquatic life.

Poás Volcano

31. Chaitén | Chile

Chaitén is a Chilean town, commune and former capital of the Palena Province in Los Lagos Region. The town is located north of the mouth of Yelcho River, on the east coast of the Gulf of Corcovado. The town is strategically located close to the northern end of the Carretera Austral where the highway goes inland.

The town was evacuated in May 2008 when the Chaitén volcano erupted for the first time in more than 9,000 years. The eruption, which commenced May 2, became more violent on May 5, throwing up a high plume of ash and sulfurous steam that rose to 19 miles (31 km), from which ashfall drifted across Patagonia, and over the Atlantic Ocean.

Chaitén Volcano

32. Cotopaxi | Ecuador

Cotopaxi is a stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains, located about 50 km (31 mi) south of Quito, Ecuador, South America. It is the second highest summit in the country, reaching a height of 5,897 m (19,347 ft) and is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world.

Since 1738, Cotopaxi has erupted more than 50 times, resulting in the creation of numerous valleys formed by lahars (mudflows) around the volcano.

Cotopaxi Volcano

33. Mount Redoubt | Alaska, USA

Mount Redoubt is an active stratovolcano in the largely volcanic Aleutian Range of the U.S. state of Alaska. Located at the head of the Chigmit Mountains subrange in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, the mountain is just west of Cook Inlet, in the Kenai Peninsula Borough about 180 km (110 mi) southwest of Anchorage. At 10,197 feet, in just over 5 miles (8 km) Mount Redoubt attains 9,150 feet (2,700 m) of prominence over its surrounding terrain. It is the highest summit in the Aleutian Range.

Active for millennia, Mount Redoubt has erupted five times since 1900: in 1902, 1922, 1966, 1989 and 2009. The eruption in 1989 spewed volcanic ash to a height of 45,000 ft (14,000 m) and caught KLM Flight 867, a Boeing 747 aircraft, in its plume; the flight landed safely at Anchorage.

Mt Redoubt

34. Mount Batur | Bali, Indonesia

Mount Batur (Gunung Batur) is an active volcano located at the center of two concentric calderas north west of Mount Agung, Bali, Indonesia. The south east side of the larger 10×13 km caldera contains a caldera lake. The inner 7.5-kilometer-wide caldera, which was formed during emplacement of the Bali ignimbrite, has been dated at about 23,670 and 28,500 years ago.

The southeast wall of the inner caldera lies beneath Lake Batur; Batur cone has been constructed within the inner caldera to a height above the outer caldera rim.

Mount Batur

35. Villarrica | Chile

Villarrica is one of Chile’s most active volcanoes, rising above the lake and town of the same name. The volcano is also known as Rucapillán, a Mapuche word meaning “House of the Pillán”. It is the westernmost of three large stratovolcanoes that trend perpendicular to the Andean chain along the Gastre Fault. Villarrica, along with Quetrupillán and the Chilean portion of Lanín, are protected within Villarrica National Park. Ascents of the volcano are popular with several guided ascents reaching the top during summer.

Villarrica

36. Mount Rinjani | Lombok, Indonesia

Mount Rinjani or Gunung Rinjani is an active volcano in Indonesia on the island of Lombok. It rises to 3,726 metres (12,224 ft), making it the second highest volcano in Indonesia.

On the top of the volcano is a 6-by-8.5-kilometre (3.7 by 5.3 mi) caldera, which is filled partially by the crater lake known as Segara Anak or Anak Laut (Child of the Sea) due to blue color of water lake as Laut (Sea). This lake is approximately 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) above sea level and estimated to be about 200 metres (660 ft) deep; the caldera also contains hot springs. Sasak tribe and Hindu people assume the lake and the mount are sacred and some religion activities are occasionally done in the two areas.

Rinjani 1994

37. Soufrière Hills | Montserrat

The Soufrière Hills volcano (soufrière is a French word meaning “sulphur outlet”) is an active, complex stratovolcano (with many lava domes forming its summit) on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. After a long period of dormancy, the Soufrière Hills volcano became active in 1995, and has continued to erupt ever since. Its eruptions have rendered more than half of Montserrat uninhabitable, destroying the capital city, Plymouth, and causing widespread evacuations: about two thirds of the population have left the island.

Soufriere Hills Volcano

38. Ometepe Island | Nicaragua

Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes rising from Lake Nicaragua in the Republic of Nicaragua. Its name derives from the Nahuatl words ome (two) and tepetl (mountain), meaning two mountains. It is the largest island in Lake Nicaragua.

The two volcanoes of Concepción and Maderas are joined by a low isthmus to form one island in the shape of an hourglass. Ometepe has an area of 276 km². It is 31 km long and 5 to 10 km wide. The island has an economy based on livestock, agriculture, and tourism. Plantains are the major crop.

ometepe

39. Misti | Peru

Misti, also known as goat mountain or Wawa Putina (Guagua Putina) is a stratovolcano located in southern Peru near the city of Arequipa. With its seasonally snow-capped, symmetrical cone, Misti stands at 5,822 metres (19,101 ft) above sea level and lies between the mountain Chachani (6,075 m or 19,931 ft) and the volcano Pikchu Pikchu (5,669 m or 18,599 ft). Its last eruption was in 1985.

Volcan Misti

Please remember that climbing a volcano can be an extremely dangerous activity at times and we advise you to check with the local authorities before planning a visit. Be sure to take the necessary precautions to avoid potential harm.

Have we missed anything? If you think there is a volcano that is worth adding to this list please let us know in the comment section below.

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Michael Glass

Michael is the founder of Backpacker Travel. He also runs walking tours in San Francisco and is a freelance travel writer. Michael is extremely passionate about travel and loves to explore festivals around the world.

1Comment
  • Rob Bartelds
    Posted at 09:14h, 10 January Reply

    Nice List, however never go to MOUNT BATUR – BALI, INDONESIA. There are people who call themselves guides, but they are mobsters / mafia. They want you to pay a lot of money to hire them as a guide. When you say no, or try to negotiate about the price they will attack you. Also when you try to hike up the mountain on your own; they will attack you.

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