Set on the eastern coast of Sicily, Mount Etna is among Europe’s tallest (and the world’s most active) volcanoes. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013, the volcano has shaped Sicilian history and continues to impact life on the island today. Visitors can explore the mountain’s smoldering volcanic craters and lava fields.
You can hike, ride, or take a cable car up Mount Etna, with full- and half-day tours from the nearby cities of Catania, Taormina, and Messina. The Funivia dell’Etna runs a cable car from the Rifugio Sapienza up the mountain to about 8,200 feet (2,500 meters). From there, you can join a guided hike of the volcanic area known as the Valle del Bove, or a less strenuous 4x4 jeep ride. Combine a visit to Mount Etna with a stop at the nearby Alcantara Gorge, carved out by an ancient lava flow. Mount Etna sunset tours are especially spectacular, and wine enthusiasts can choose a tour that combines a visit to Mount Etna with wine tastings at some of the wineries located along the slopes.
Things to Know Before You Go
- If you’re exploring Mount Etna on foot, be sure to wear appropriate shoes, a hat, and sunblock, and carry ample water.
- You’ll want to capture the breathtaking sunset views; don’t forget your camera.
- For kids, a visit to the volcano can be a welcome break from sightseeing, so consider a family-friendly hike or fun 4x4 tour.
- The cable car is accessible to wheelchair users, as is one mountain trail.
- There is only one public bus daily from Catania to Mount Etna, so it’s best to visit on a private tour that includes transportation to the mountain.
How to Get There
The closest major city to Mount Etna is Catania, and buses run daily to the Rifugio Sapienza, the starting point for many hikes and jeep tours. Otherwise, take the Catania-Messina highway and exit at Gravina di Catania to visit the south side of Etna, or at Giarre to visit the north-east side.
When to Get There
Eruptions occur on Mount Etna with such regularity that there’s always the possibility of witnessing one. Eruptions that come from the summit of the mountain (rather than out from the side) can be the most visually stunning, especially at night, when brilliant orange lava spits into the dark night sky.Sunset is also a beautiful time to visit.
Wine and Food at Mount Etna
Despite the fact that eruptions have been responsible for serious damage to the cities and towns near Etna for millennia, people still continue to inhabit the mountain. The rich volcanic soil is particularly fertile for raising fruit, vegetables, and vineyards—many prestigious wines come from these mountain slopes, and it’s easy to sample these labels by joining a tour that includes wine tastings.