Visit & climb the Etna volcano: all info + tips (and tours)
The volcano Etna is one of the greatest highlights of Sicily, therefore a stay on the island is not complete without a visit. Etna, officially called Mount Etna, is a very active volcano. Its lava flows and craters of eruption can still be seen on the slopes of the volcano today.
The volcano is located in a beautiful natural park, read our tips for your visit + how to visit Mount Etna!
Organized tour Mount Etna
Would you like to climb Mount Etna? Then it is advisable to go with an organized tour or guide. This allows you to fully experience the climb while learning more about the volcano. You can drive from Catania (1.5 hours drive) or from Palermo (3.5 hours drive) to get to the volcano. If you are on a round trip through Sicily then Mount Etna is of course an unmissable stop.
Tours and day trips can easily be booked online via the GetYourGuide website, with a money back guarantee. If you cancel up to 24 hours before departure you will get your money back as well. There are different tours available in different price ranges starting from € 25, check out the offer below (or check the site for even more offers).
1.1. The volcano: general
- The Etna volcano in Sicily is one of those volcanoes you undoubtedly learned about in primary school. It is the most active volcano in Europe and one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
- The volcano is about 3,300 meters high, but the exact height differs due to eruptions and can therefore be higher one year or another.
- In total, the volcano has a surface of 1,190 square kilometers and a perimeter of 140 kilometers.
- Together with Stromboli and the Vulcano on the Aeolian Islands, Etna is the most famous volcanic attraction in southern Italy.
So far the volcano erupted about 150 times. However, in the first 1,500 years A.D. there are no documents describing eruptions, therefore it's hardly impossible to know the actual number. The first described eruption took place in the year 396 BC, which caused the Carthaginians to call off their attack on Syracuse.
1.3. Consequences due to eruptions
The greatest eruption of Mount Etna was in 1669, in which numerous villages in the vicinity of the volcano were buried under the lava flows. Nowadays there are mainly smaller eruptions, nonetheless they do still occur once in awhile. Take as an example 2001, when the visitor centre and the cable car of Mount Etna were destroyed. Or March 16, 2017 (the most recent eruption) when 10 men were injured after the magma exploded when it came into contact with snow.
Mount Etna has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013.
1.4. The nature park
The volcano is surrounded by Parco dell'Etna Natural Park which covers an area of about 59,000 hectares. The land around the volcano is very fertile, therefore in the natural park there is a lot of vegetation such as: large forests of oaks, almond trees, olive trees, vineyards and citrus groves. From an altitude of about 2,000 meters, however, the vegetation changes into beech and birch trees. And for the highest part of the volcano, it depicts a largely black-colored lunar landscape.
An interesting fact is that there are many ladybirds on the volcano. The little creatures come here to hibernate, and to lay low for birds and other animals. The volcano serves as their save spot.
1.5. The craters
There are dozens of craters on Mount Etna. On top of the volcano you will find the central craters Voragine and Bocca Nuova, the northeast crater that arose in 1911 and the 2 southeast craters that arose in 1971.
The Montagnola crater on the south side, at an altitude of 2,500 meters, is a special crater to visit as well as the Monti Silvestri craters from 1892 located on the road between Nicolosi and the Rifugio Sapienza. This crater consists of red volcanic rock and it is possible to walk into the crater itself.
1.6. Visitor centre & museum
Nicolosi, or better known as the Porta dell'Etna, is a visitor center located in the former Monstaro dei Benedettini. Since 2005 it has been home to the organization that manages the National Park of Mount Etna. In the building, in the old wine cellar, there is a small museum about Mount Etna, where you can see statues of former eruptions.
Climbing Mount Etna
2.1. A short walk to the Monti Silvestri craters
On the south side it is possible to drive to the Rifugio Sapienza at an altitude of 1,900 meters. Here you are able to park your car and take a short walk up to the Monti Silvestri craters.
2.2. Advanced walk to the summit
From the parking lot you have the possibility to walk up or take the cable car to an altitude of 2.500 meters. The path that leads up is steep and covered with loose stones. So keep into account that this is not an easy climb.
2.3. Steep walk to the top of the crater
From the station (at an altitude of 2.500 meters) you have the choice to take jeeps from the park to the top of the crater or to walk the last stretch. This part of the path is paved and there are no loose stones. Therefore the hike is a lot easier than the first part of the path, but it's still a steep uphill path. How high you can go depends on the weather and the possible threats of eruptions. The guides and park managers can take you to the edge of the crater at good times, but in other cases they won't let you much further than the viewpoint.
Our tip: Are you on a round trip in Sicily? Be sure to download our free travel guide Sicily and discover the most beautiful spots of the island.
Opening hours Mount Etna?
- Mount Etna is open all year round, but in the winter months from December to March the mountain is mainly open as a ski resort.
- The ski resorts, located near the Rifugio Sapienza, are open from December to March between 09:00 and 15:45.
- From April to November the volcano is open for a visit to the craters. This can be done daily between 09:00 and 16:15.
- It is also possible to join a sunset excursion. This can be done by booking your tour online.
- In strong winds the cable car can be closed.
- A part of the volcano can also be closed when there have been eruptions or when an eruption is imminent.
How + which tickets to book for Etna?
- Walking to the top of Mount Etna is free of charge.
- However, you can also take the cable car, in this case you pay €35 for a ticket.
- If you want to take the jeeps from the cable car station to the crater, you have to pay another €30.
- For a combination ticket of both the cable car and the jeeps you pay €65.
It is also possible to take an excursion from the various surrounding villages to Mount Etna. Tickets are available online, check the offer here.
We ourselves did an organized trip where they came to pick us up at our hotel. Tours also depart from Catania, Taormina and Palermo. If you wish, you can opt for extras such as a wine tasting or maybe you prefer a spectacular buggy ride around Mount Etna? View all tours online and book
Tips to avoid long waiting lines
- During the summer months of July and August, Mount Etna is crowded, and the queues for the cable car and jeeps can only be avoided by going up by foot.
- If you want to climb the volcano in less crowded months, it is advisable to visit Mount Etna in April, May, October or November.
- In high season we recommend to book your tour online, this way you are sure of your visit to Mount Etna and you are able to skip the queues. View all tours online from € 35
With a quad on Mount Etna
Another option to explore Mount Etna in a more adventurous way is to book a quad excursion. There are several providers of quad tours, whereby most of which take you through the Ragabo forest, the first lava fields, and several craters that are located at a maximum altitude of 1850 meters. You will be accompanied by a guide.
Furthermore you will pass by the cave of Coruccio and the wine region of Castiglione di Sicilia. A quad excursion for two costs € 199. Book your quad tour on Mount Etna here.
Directions to Mount Etna
7.1. By car
- From Catania you can reach Mount Etna in 1 hour.
- From Paterno it's a 45 minute drive.
- From Palermo i takes about 3 to 4 hours.
- From Messina it's a 1:30 hour drive.
- You can reach the volcano from the south side. Here a road leads to the parking lot which is at an altitude of 1.900 meters. Address: SP92, 19, 95125 Catania CT (See location parking on the map)
- You can always book organized tours where they take you to Catania, Palermo, ... pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation. (Very easy and relax :-)))
7.2. By public transport
- From the bus stop at Catania Central Station a single AST bus departs daily at 08:15 to Mount Etna.
- The ride takes 2 hours including a break of about half an hour.
- From the parking lot on Mount Etna the bus leaves again at 16:30.
- Tickets for this bus can be bought at the AST shop near the pick-up point, Via Luigi Sturzo 232, Catania (see location on map).
Where is Mount Etna located?
Mount Etna is located in the eastern part of the Island Sicily (Catania Province).
- Wear sturdy shoes when climbing Mount Etna. When you climb the whole path, there might be some parts with a lot of loose stones.
- Bring warm clothing and / or dress in layers. The higher you get, the colder it gets.
- Tip: you can also rent warm coats for 4 EUR at the station of the cable car. This way you don't have to pack a big jackets in your suitcase that you might not need for the rest of your trip.
- There are several restaurants and souvenir shops on Mount Etna, both at the car park and at the cable car station.
- The weather around Mount Etna is very unstable, so keep in mind that on a sunny day it can suddenly become cloudy, and vice versa.
- Do you want to visit Mount Etna? Book your tickets or tours online. Did you know that some tours pick you up at your hotel and bring you back?
Video: What to expect from Mount Etna?
To prepare for your visit, take a look at this video. It will give you an idea of the climb and the views on Mount Etna.
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