Visiting Etna volcano was a part of our trip to southern Italy and Sicily.
Location and basic facts
Mount Etna is an active volcano located in the eastern part of the largest Italian island Sicily, near Catania city. As many other active volcanos, it is located in the area between two large geological plates, Eurasian Plate and African plate in this case. Etna is active almost all the time.
Height of Mount Etna is 3350 metres (10,900 ft) above the sea level, it covers area around 1190 square kilometres and is the biggest active volcano in Italy. Etna is a stratovolcano, which means it is typical conical volcano with caldera built up by many layers of hardened lava. Another Italian volcano, Vesuvius, is also stratovolcano, although it is not as active as Etna and has only a half of the size of Etna.
Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanos in the world, it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2013. The last most serious eruption of Etna followed by serious earthquake was in December 2018.
If you visit Sicily, visiting Mount Etna should be on your list. After seeing quite a few beautiful places in eastern part of Sicily, we spent a night in Acireale, had a morning coffee and started our way to the Mount Etna.
You can recognise lava field already on a way to Etna, driving on serpentine roads before reaching parking where the main adventure begins. There is a huge parking place at Rifugio Sapienza for cars and busses where you would leave your car before going up. There are many souvenir shops around, however we kept visiting them for later. There is also a bar with a panoramic terrace (Bar Funivia dell’Etna) higher up on the mount after you exit a cable car.
If you arrive to Sicily by ferry in Messina, it will be around 100 kilometres to reach Rifugio Sapienza from there; the place is located some 35 kilometres from Catania and almost 250 kilometres (more than three hours drive) from Palermo.
After arrival to the parking, you will see where the majority of people gather. To get to the top (the place allowed for visitors), you will have to board a cable car from the Cableway Station, located at altitude of 1900 metres above the sea level, and afterwards change to 4WD coach, which brings you from 2500 metres to 2920 metres above the sea level.
In fact, you may choose only the cable car, which was for EUR 27 per person at the time we visited Etna. Full return package (cable car and coach) was EUR 51 per person and you would spend about three hours for whole return trip.
Both the view to the top of the Mount Etna and feeling about walking within lava and volcanic ash fields were incredible, definitely worth money we paid and time spent. Steam and smoke coming from the crater, hot ground below your feet and smaller craters all around you makes you both to feel a bit stressed and proud that you did come here and saw all this fantastic impressive creation of nature.