Mt Etna is one of Southern Italy’s most important and historical landmarks. It was formed 35,000 years ago, with its first eruption around 1500 BCE. In Ancient Greek myths the volcano is home to not only the one-eyed Cyclops, but also the fire-god Vulcan and the 100-headed monster Typhon. In more practical terms, in the past its plethora of lava-formed caves have acted as burial grounds and storage cellars. Today, Etna enjoys an international importance as a center for scientific research, culture, and education.
Here you will find almost otherworldly landscapes, with black sands, volcanic rock and oozing streams of lava. Though still an active volcano, Mt Etna is perhaps safer than a dormant equivalent. Its eruptions are frequent, but consist of relatively docile streams of lava, rather than dramatic explosions. Furthermore, around 120 centers observe the seismic conditions of the mountain.
The mountain’s striking, stark beauty makes for a breathtaking and unforgettable visit. Even from afar, you can experience Mt Etna’s magic by watching the gentle lava flow down the side of the mountain at night, or by enjoying some of the excellent wine that is grown on the extremely fertile volcanic ash.
For adventurers, the 590sqkm of national park in which the volcano finds itself offers numerous hike trails with absolutely stunning views. Here you can wonder at the lava fields and volcanic craters, as well as relish in the woods and vineyards. In winter, the park also offers some excellent ski opportunities. In fact, the park covers two tourist zones, with hotels, restaurants and other facilities.
Many of the guided excursions and trials start at the ‘Rifugio Sapienza’. You can access this point from Catania either by bus or car. We highly recommend checking the bus timetable before setting off on your journey. By taking the car, you will also pass several hiking trails such as the Monti Rossi, Monte Nero degli Zappini, Monte Gallo, Pista Altomontana, and Schiena dell’Asino trails. From the ‘Rifugio Sapienza’, you can take a cable car, minibus, or walk to the crater. A walk round the crater from here will take you roughly four hours.
No matter which season you visit Mt Etna, remember to check weather and volcano forecasts. Moreover, even in the summer heat, you may find the conditions on the mountain to be much colder, so remember to take weather-protective gear!