For as long as history has dictated, water bodies have been deemed the cradle of civilisation. Navigation, irrigation, sustenance, agriculture and, in modern times, electricity… But what about fire?
From Prometheus to Maui, legends and lore have written of audacious heroes; tricksters turn benefactors who let the warmth of flames fall into human hands. Fire is the saviour of humankind – as the only species on Earth who knows how to utilise its energy, we are thus rewarded with its benefits, from being able to cook to staying alive in harsh winters. Even beyond the narratives of mythology, humanity has long overlooked the blessing of fire and another cradle of wealth: volcanoes.
Since time immemorial, volcanoes have been a muse to religion and the arts. Beyond the beauty of their cones and features, the destruction of their eruptions illustrates the circle of life; with forests and crops blooming through their fertile ash. Gems from obsidian to tanzanite (a stone rarer than diamonds) have been known to form under immense heat and pressure, making volcanoes a mining paradise for many.
In recent years, people have tapped into volcanoes for geothermal energy, bringing about a new source of renewable energy. The development of hot springs has further enhanced visits to volcanoes with warm, mineral-rich waters to calm one’s tired, weary bones. Ready to embark on an adventure to see these wonders? Experience the magic of Earth’s blazing beauties with these 10 best volcano tours ahead!
The first on our list is Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, not only Africa’s highest mountain but the world’s tallest free-standing one. A unique volcano with three volcanic cones, this UNESCO World Heritage Site provides both an intrepid hike and all-rounded natural experience to those who visit it. Surrounding this volcano, you’ll find savannahs teeming with wildlife – animals in their natural state, frolicking among the exotic flora as happy as they should be. A coexistence of man and nature can also be observed in the interactions of local tribes – the Maasai and the Chagga people – with the environment they live in.
While you’re in the area, take some time to explore the best of Africa’s beauty. Besides your ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro, head over to the neighbouring Arusha region to explore Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest caldera. A protected wildlife area, Ngorongoro is also home to the famed volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai, which spews out black lava so cold, it freezes in mid-air. Neighbouring this area is the famous Serengeti National Park.
Of course, we must warn anyone looking to take on this mountain that it may prove an uphill challenge (no pun intended) – with a 122ºF (50ºC) difference between the base and peak, one might get dizzy from altitude sickness. In fact, not many amateur hikers make it to the peak because of this; but worry not – if you’re looking for an easier challenge, we’ve got some further down this list.
Address: Mount Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania
Price: Tours start at 2860 USD
Duration: 5 to 9 days
Contact: +255 27 250 3471
Next up is Arenal Volcano, one of Costa Rica’s most famous volcanoes. Relatively young for its kind, Arenal is an active volcano that last erupted in 2010. Due to safety reasons, Arenal cannot be climbed; but that doesn’t mean it’s completely not worth visiting!
For a retreat near Arenal, head over to the lush rainforests in the Alajuela province and book a stay with a resort there. From there, one is spoilt for choice with options: you can head over to viewing areas that let you hear the deep rumbles of Arenal ‘breathing’, or enjoy some windsurfing and water sports at the windy Arenal Lake, one of the world’s prime windsurfing destinations. For some R&R, take a dip in the water of La Fortuna Waterfall, or enjoy serene yet scenic scenes at the Butterfly Conservatory. If you’re looking to experience more man-and-nature interactions, Proyecto Asis is a zoo and wildlife refuge centre for confiscated or injured Costa Rican wildlife; while coffee plantations surrounding Arenal are renowned for producing the world’s best coffee.
Address: Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna – El Castillo, Provincia de Alajuela, San Carlos, Costa Rica
Price: Tours start at 39 USD
Opening Hours: 8am–2:30pm daily
Contact: +506 8445 0955
Meet the Mt. Olympus of South Korea: Hallasan. The tallest mountain in South Korea, this tranquil volcano is believed to be the home of the gods in South Korean lore. Verdant forests surround the dented peak of Hallasan, which has six trails winding around it: while the Seongpanak and Gwaneumsa trails lead you all the way to the summit, the Eorimok and Youngsil trails host panoramic vistas of Jeju’s countryside, the island’s oreum (parallel volcanoes), unique rock formations and blooming azaleas. At the summit, gaze upon a highlight of Hallasan – Baengnokdam, or White Deer Lake, a lush crater with a small lake.
While you’re on Jeju Island, be sure to explore other surrounding sights as well. After all, Jeju Island’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its volcanic features! Besides Hallasan, other gorgeous features include Geomun Oreum, one of the more famous oreums, as well as Manjanggul Cave, home to some of the world’s finest lava tunnels.
Hallasan may be open all year-round, but winter and spring make the best times to visit it. While winter brings inspiring, snow-filled landscapes that remind one of the reverence held for this mountain, spring is when stunning pink azaleas burst into full bloom, bringing an eruption of colour to Hallasan and its surroundings. Take note not to ascend Hallasan during cloudy or rainy weather, though – cloud cover will obscure your view of Baengnokdam.
Address: Hallasan National Park, 2070-61 1100(Cheonbaek)-ro, Ara-dong, Cheju, Jeju-do, South Korea
Price: Tours start at 75 USD
Duration: 2 to 5 hours
Contact: +82 64-713-9950
4. Gunung Kelimutu, Flores, Indonesia
As humans, the sheer magnitude and wonder of all nature has to offer leaves us incredulous at times. One testament to this lies in yet another mountain teeming with legend, Gunung Kelimutu in Flores, Indonesia.
Located in the volcanic locale of Indonesia, Kelimutu’s status as a volcano is largely outshone by its counterparts Mt. Bromo, Krakatoa and Mt. Merapi. However, what truly sets it apart are its three crater lakes, all of different colours! In fact, these lakes are so iconic, they once appeared on Indonesia’s 5000 rupiah note. While the westernmost lake, Tiwu Ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People) is primarily blue, the centre lake, Tiwu Nuwa Muri Ko'ofai (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) is usually green and shares a crater wall with the last lake, Tiwu Ata Polo (Enchanted Lake), whose waters are blood red. In local lore, it is believed that the spirits of good people go to the former two lakes after death, while those who were bad went to the Enchanted Lake. It is also believed that colour changes in the lake are a symbol of restlessness and neglect among these spirits, though science has attributed them to chemical changes.
In 2016, the lakes of Kelimutu changed colour up to six times! But honestly, who can blame them – with all the chaos in the world we live in, there’s no wonder even the departed feel our anguish.
Address: Woloara, Ende Regency, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia
Price: 11 USD (Mon to Sat); 17 USD (Sun)
Opening Hours: 5am–5pm daily
Duration: A few hours, depending on mode of transport.
You’ve heard of black lava, now get ready for blue lava! For a daredevil’s adventure, ascend Gunung Ijen, another Indonesian volcano, by night to witness this surreal natural phenomenon. Thanks to Ijen’s generous sulfur deposits, the lava that oozes out of the volcano nightly reacts to form breathtaking blue flames and lava. Though this spectacle disappears by 5am, the sunrise brings yet another mesmerising sight: Kawah Ijen, a turquoise crater lake, which is also the largest acidic lake in the world.
Your journey on Gunung Ijen may also prove a humbling one – on your descent, you may run into sulfur miners, locals who make their living off Ijen’s sulfur deposits. On a daily basis, most of them brave the fumes of their workplace and bear the weight of these deposits to make a living for their families. And most of them do this without a proper gas mask!
With Ijen’s copious amounts of sulfur and the darkness of night in mind, it is noteworthy that one should only embark on an expedition here if they are free of any cardiovascular conditions, are in good shape, and prepared to brave the unpredictable nature of nature.
2-Day Private Bali Tour: Kawah Ijen Adventure from Denpasar
Duration: 2 days
6. Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, Hawaii, USA (10 USD per individual, admission is valid for 7 days; tours start at 99 USD.)
The Hawaiian islands are a magical place. Not only are they a prime holiday destination thanks to their sugary beaches, lush rainforests and year-round tropical weather, they were also formed in a way few other places on Earth can claim – because of its many volcanoes. Explore two of the most active of these volcanoes in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, located on Hawaii’s largest island.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park is home to Kīlauea, the legendary home of Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele, and Mauna Loa, the world’s largest shield volcano. As soon as you begin your adventure here, you’re greeted with almost otherworldly features: how is it possible for a luxuriant, thriving rainforest and the arid, barren Kaʻū desert to exist in the same vicinity? Besides this range of climates, bird watchers and animal lovers will also be delighted to see the wildlife of this park, from rare birds to endangered species.
Being a relatively active volcano, Kīlauea has its deal of spectacles for visitors, from lava flows (as of the time this article was written, one is ongoing) and lava lakes. In 1790, natives in Kīlauea’s vicinity were killed by a violent eruption. Some left footprints in the lava which can still be seen today, adding to the variety of marvels this fiery feature has to offer.
Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
Address: 1 Crater Rim Drive, Hawaii National Park, Hawaii Island, HI 96718, USA
Price: 10 USD per individual, admission is valid for 7 days; tours start at 99 USD.
Opening Hours: 24 hours daily
Contact: +1 808-985-6000
Ever wonder why Iceland is so isolated from the rest of the Earth’s landmasses? Similar to Hawaii, it’s actually a volcanic island formed by volcanoes on the seafloor. When it comes to visiting Iceland, adventurers are spoilt for choice when it comes to mountains or volcanoes to explore. So much to do with so little time – where do the best of them lie?
Well, no matter where you choose to go, there’s definitely one volcano you should visit here – Thríhnúkagígur. A dormant volcano, Thríhnúkagígur hasn’t erupted since the 2nd century BC. Unlike other volcanoes around the world, its magma chamber hasn’t been sealed shut; making it the only volcano in the world that can be entered.
Prepare your hiking gear as you ascend this mountain, and later board a lift to descend into the heart of a volcano, a stunning natural space lined with walls resembling dark fire opals. If Thríhnúkagígur isn’t enough of an adventure for you, other volcanic locations of interest include: - Eyjafjallajökull: An active volcano made famous by its 2010 eruption which birthed two new mountains, Magni and Móði (whose namesakes are the sons of the Nordic god of thunder, Thor). Almost seven years later, its summit remains warm from the eruption. Located relatively nearby is Katla, Iceland’s most dangerous volcano. - Snæfellsjökull: Literary buffs might recognise Snæfellsjökull from Jules Verne’s novel Journey To The Center Of The Earth, in which the entrance to the centre of the Earth is mentioned to be this volcano. However, it may lose its picturesque appearance soon – due to global warming, its glacier was ice-free for the first time in recorded history back in 2012. - Mælifell: Tucked away in southern Iceland, Mælifell is a short, moss-covered peak with a surreal surrounding of black volcanic sand. - Surtsey: Volcanoes off the coast are so active, they even birth islands! Iceland’s youngest island, Surtsey, was ‘birthed’ by an undersea volcano in 1963.
Thrihnukagigur Inside the Volcano Tour and Hike from Reykjavik
Duration: 5 to 6 hours
A must-visit on any trip to Japan is the iconic Mt. Fuji. The tallest mountain in all of Japan, Mt. Fuji’s base is flanked by Shinto shrines; complementing its status as one of the country’s sacred peaks.
Your ascent to the top can be done in a few ways. Mount Fuji has 10 stations on its slopes, of which the first is at the base and the last is at the summit. One may choose to hike all the way, or take a bus from the base to one of the mountain’s 5th stations, where the paved roads end. From there, respite is offered in the form of mountain huts, which provide accommodation, amenities and warmth for weary hikers. Mt. Fuji is a popular destination, so be sure to book a stay in advance.
If you mention climbing Mt. Fuji to a Japanese person, you will be greeted with the proverb: “A wise person climbs Mt. Fuji once, only a fool would climb it twice.” Do note that amateur hikers may face altitude sickness while climbing Mt. Fuji due to its sheer height, and take note to plan your trip carefully – unknown to many, Mt. Fuji can only be accessed from early July to mid September, and is closed to the public for the rest of the year.
If you’re visiting outside of the climbing season, worry not – you can still marvel at Mt. Fuji! After all, surrounding this volcano are multiple hot spring resorts to soothe your bones from the cold. Besides that, you can admire the volcano’s symmetrical cone from a variety of vantage points, from the Shinkansen bullet train to beyond the Chureito Pagoda in the city of Fujiyoshida. To add a sense of suspense to your travels, enter Japan’s infamous ‘Suicide Forest’, Aokigahara, northwest of Mt. Fuji. A stark reminder of the country’s high suicide rates, Aokigahara is an eerie labyrinth of overgrowth and trees littered with the belongings and remains of the deceased.
Address: Kitayama, Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture 418-0112, Japan
Price: Tours start at 82 USD
Opening Hours: Climbing season spans early July to mid September. Official dates are usually announced on July 1st.
Duration: around 10 hours
The world’s most dangerous volcano is also one of its most famous. In 79 AD, the ancient city of Pompeii was destroyed in what became one of history’s most renowned tragedies: the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Since then, Mt. Vesuvius has erupted multiple times, and is the only volcano in mainland Europe to have erupted in the last century.
Despite its volatile nature, Mt. Vesuvius has been relatively peaceful as of late and makes a fantastic hike for beginner climbers – all one needs is an hour to conquer it, with no altitude sickness at all! From its summit, one can look over a scenic panorama of the city of Naples, as well as the gulf beyond it.
Of course, no visit to Mt. Vesuvius is quite complete without witnessing the remnants of one of history’s biggest catastrophes. Just a 12- and 18-minute drive from the mountain are the archaeological areas of Herculaneum and Pompeii respectively, both ancient Roman cities preserved by volcanic ash and years of restoration. In this collective UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can gain an insight to what ancient Roman life and civilisation may have been like among its intricate architecture and murals. This may not be for the faint-hearted, though – human remains can still be found here!
Address: 80056 Ercolano, Naples, Italy
Price: Tours start at 46 USD
Opening Hours: 8am–12am (Sat to Wed); closed on Thursdays & Fridays.
Duration: around 1 hour
Contact: +39 081 865 3911
Tucked away in the easternmost edges of Siberia, Kamchatka is a scenic peninsula bordering the Sea of Okhotsk. Aside from being a state of over 300,000 people, it is also home to one of the world’s most outstanding volcanic regions, a lesser known UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Within Kamchatka’s elysian reaches, rolling forests cover peaks and valleys that give way to the occasional glacier, forming a breathtaking landscape of untouched, unparalleled beauty. Rivalling the symmetrical, iconic vista of Mt. Fuji is one of this region’s most famous volcanoes, Kronotskaya Sopkaear, also considered one of the world’s most beautiful volcanoes. Meanwhile, the highest summit of Kamchatka lies in Klyuchevskaya Sopka, the largest active volcano in the northern hemisphere.
In a region of up to 160 volcanoes, there is bound to be an abundance of volcanic features; and Kamchatka never fails to impress. 180km northeast of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Kamchatka’s administrative centre, lies the valley of the Geysernaya River, within which one can see the world’s second-largest concentration of geysers in action. Just over 10km northwest of this is the Uzon Caldera, a hollow formed by the self-destruction of a volcano. About 10km in diameter, the Uzon caldera does for Kamchatka what Ngorongoro does for Tanzania: Everything Kamchatka is renowned for, such as mud cauldrons, lakes full of life, birch forests, bogs and throngs of local flora and fauna, can be found right here in Uzon. And in this arcadia comparable to Switzerland, you can expect to find an incredible diversity only matched by few other places on Earth.
Volcanoes of Kamchatka
Address: Kamchatka Krai, Russia
Contact: +8 4152 307 330
Visiting a volcano? Some tips & tricks:
Volcanoes may have proved volatile throughout history, but with modern technology, they’re kept in check 24/7, leaving no need to worry for your safety. Before embarking on your trip, be sure to check weather conditions for your best experience and official websites for any important notices. Last but not least, go prepared – check with your tour agency or experienced individuals for all the equipment and attire you’ll need, but make sure not to overpack. Amateur hikers should also note that altitude sickness commonly occurs 2,500m (or 8,000 ft) above sea level and that hypothermia is a common risk on higher hikes.
With that, pack your bags, book your volcano tour and we wish you the best on exploring the planet’s most beautiful beasts!
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