Excursions on Etna. How to organize and when to visit Etna, the highest volcano in Europe.
With this blog we will try to help anyone who would like to organize his visit to Etna either independently or accompanied by a guide, this is of course the solution that we recommend, thanks to the experience of a professional, of his knowledge and safety, in fact you will live a unique and unforgettable experience.
Organizing an excursion on Etna is certainly a 'must' for holidays in Sicily, an obligatory stop for travelers of all ages! An incredible experience in nature in all of Sicily, which cannot be missed. The highest active volcano in Europe, with its 3329 meters of height, dominates the whole of Sicily and is a constant presence and always visible from all of central-eastern Sicily that accompanies tourists during their Sicilian holidays. For Sicilians and above all for us in Catania it is a daily life companion, sometimes a mother, a noblewoman but always a feminine presence: our beloved 'Muntagna'.
Etna excursions are organized all year round, including the winter period, when the 'Muntagna', as Etna is called in dialect, fills with snow, skiing and snowshoeing on the slopes of the volcano watching the sea is something single!
How to visit Etna.
Let's go in order and let's get some ideas on what we would like to see and above all on how. Etna is very often in activity but unlike many other volcanoes such as Stromboli, in the Aeolian islands, the 'red and hot' lava is visible only at certain times, during an eruption and only rarely is it possible approach the active lava flows. It is usually possible to observe eruptions from the piedmont countries or from some beautiful panoramic points. However, it is always possible to visit some of the extinct craters, on the sides of the volcano there are in fact more than 200 lateral craters now extinct.
On Etna there are two ski-tourist resorts, on the south side the 'Rifugio Sapienza' and on the north side 'Piano Provenzana', both are easily reachable by car from the villages of Nicolosi, Zafferana and Linguaglossa but we always recommend checking the weather conditions and from November 15 to April 15 thermal tires or chains on board are mandatory. At Rifugio Sapienza you can also arrive by bus from Catania and once at your destination you can take a pleasant walk around the famous Silvestri Craters (eruption of 1892), visit the lava flows of 2001 and 2002 that struck and destroyed this area or take the Etna cableway and reach Torre del Filoso at 2900m asl, the base of the Summit Craters (ticket price for the year 2019: € 65 adult and € 47 children under 10 years). At the Piano Provenzana station, much less touristy, the landscape is totally lunar and goes in contrast with the green pine forest and you can make a pleasant trek along the 2002 lava flow.
Access to the Summit Craters and the Central Crater, 3300m above sea level, or the summit of Etna is regulated by the Civil Protection with the help of the INGV (Institute Geophysical and Volcanological Nation), it is possible to access only during periods of total absence of eruptions but in any case always presents difficulties. It is mandatory to always be accompanied by the Etna Alpine and Volcanological Guides (therefore it is not possible to go alone), the excursion is suitable for those who have a good experience of trekking in the high mountains. The difficulty of the trek is EE level (Expert Hikers), lasts about 5/6 hours, it is necessary to have equipment suitable for hiking in the high mountains (trekking shoes, wind jacket, hat) even in summer suffers from cardiac and respiratory problems (asthma), at high altitude there is often a very intense wind over 60/70 km / h, it is forbidden to use contact lenses because of the volcanic sand raised by wind, we recommend the use of wraparound sunglasses, due to the difficulties listed above, children under the age of 12 are forbidden (however, some discretion remains on the part of the guides).
Many agencies and associations also offer mixed excursions in off-road vehicles, cars or vans. We advise you to do a good research on the internet based also on the reviews and to rely only on real professionals, present in the area and who have been doing this work for many years, especially if they have certified hiking guides. In recent years, in fact, many have improvised 'guides', offering very low prices but having no preparation or background. Departures usually take place from a meeting point in one of the towns on the slopes of Etna, from Catania or from Taormina. If you opt for a 4X4 jeep excursion you can try off-road small routes during the tour various stops are made by exploring a lava flow cave, the Valle del Bove and covering some stretches on foot around the side craters. A spectacular and very interesting option is also to visit Mount Etna at sunset. Among the many organizers, we recommend Etna Moving, https://www.etnamoving.com/en/ , for over ten years we have been organizing excursions, trekking and jeep tours on Etna and Eastern Sicily, all our guides are FES certified (Sicily Hiking Federation), GRE (Ecological Research Group), geologists and National Tourist Guides.
Trekking and nature excursions
Lovers of naturalistic excursions and trekking will find ample possibilities of choice on Etna. Among the most beautiful and loved itineraries we remember the Schiena dell'Asino route that allows you to admire the Valle del Bove, the Monte Zoccolaro path (medium difficulty) and the Monti Sartorius path (easy difficulty), some beautiful side craters not more active on the north side. Of course it is possible to visit and follow these paths on your own but in this case we remind you never to underestimate Mount Etna because even here as in all the mountains the weather conditions change quickly even in summer, it becomes easy to lose orientation or not to have 'adequate technical clothing and a beautiful day in the nature can quickly be transformed into a very ugly experience (mountain clothing, gps and place card, water and snacks, emergency number are fundamental and mandatory requirements). Even in this case, however, our final advice is to turn to professional guides like us at EtnaMoving, https://www.etnamoving.com/en/ , to experience a beautiful day discovering Etna in total safety.
Good Sicilia holidays!