Mount Etna is an active volcano on the east coast of Sicily, close to Messina and Catania. It is the largest active volcano in Europe, currently standing about 3,326 m (10,910 ft.) high, though it should be noted that this varies with summit eruptions. It is the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps. Etna covers an area of 1190 km² (460 square miles) with a base circumference of 140 km. This makes it by far the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy, being nearly three times the height of the next largest, Mount Vesuvius. Although Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, thousands of people live on its slopes and in the surrounding areas. The fertile volcanic soils support extensive agriculture, with vineyards and orchards spread across the lower slopes of the mountain and the broad Plain of Catania to the south. The area around the peak has been designated a national park. A trip to the smoking craters of Mount Etna is the highlight of a trip to Sicily. A road leads from Catania to the Rifugio Sapienza on the south side of the mountain. From there the journey continues by cable car and jeep to the top.
Eternal ice in thick lava
This cave in the northern lava fields of Mount Etna is a small miracle of nature, because it contains fossile ice that has formed bluish stalactites over the course of thousands of years. The surrounding landscape has been shaped by volcanic activity with layers of devouring lava. Hot springs often flow under the cold surface. The trail to the most magnificent cave on Etna will take you through a surreal desert and is considered one of the best hikes in Sicily. (6:30 hrs, 15.7 km, elevation change: 810 m)
In addition to sturdy footwear and a headlamp, this hike requires good physical condition, steadiness on your feet, and alpine experience.
Great views from a side crater of Mount Etna
A whole network of hiking trails leads around and to the Monti Sartorius. The ash cone was formed 150 years ago when lava erupted from a flank of Mount Etna. The view down to the sea and towards Taormina is spectacular. The paths are mostly easy to walk and are also suitable for a relaxing stroll. But because of the sharp lava stones one should walk with solid shoes. Some sections also lead around crater edges. At the Refugio Citelli you can take a break. (there and back: 8.2 kilometers, 2:45 hours, up and down 160 meters; with Rifugio Citelli: 11.7 kilometers, 3:30 hours, up and down: 240 meters)
In the summit area of the volcano
The ascent of the volcano is the highlight of every Sicily trip in more than one way. It begins at the Rifugio Sapienza with a cable car ride. The entire hike can also be booked there. Trying to conquer the volcano on your own is not recommended. The greatest danger is to get lost in fast moving bad weather. Since most of the ascent takes place by cable car and jeep, the hike is not strenuous. Normal fitness, sturdy shoes and raingear are required.
At the Montagnola mountain station (2,504 m) you get into a jeep, which takes you over adventurous tracks up to an altitude of 2,900 m and into the area of the central summit. From here a hike through the lava landscape begins. Afterwards we return to the Rifugio by jeep and cable car.