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Top 10 Active Volcanoes You Can Visit

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nicholas Roffey
It’s nature’s mightiest spectacle. And in a few places around the world, you can behold these fiery colossi up close and personal. Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 active volcanoes you can visit. For this list, we're looking at the best places for travelers to witness volcanic activity.
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Top 10 Active Volcanoes You Can Visit

It’s nature’s mightiest spectacle. And in a few places around the world, you can behold these fiery colossi up close and personal. Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 active volcanoes you can visit.

For this list, we're looking at the best places for travelers to witness volcanic activity.


#10: Pacaya

Antigua, Guatemala

It’s the classic stratovolcanic black cone, dominating the skyline. Glowing rocks tumble downhill and lava spills from side-vents. Cantankerous Pacaya has been grumbling away more or less continuously for over half a century, but most eruptions are the moderate, strombolian sort, which has made it a popular destination for volcano enthusiasts. It’s an easy day trip from Guatemala City or Antigua - a town menaced by another active volcano, Volcán de Fuego, whose eruptions can sometimes be seen from town on clear nights.

#9: Nisyros

Dodecanese, Greece

Now you’ve seen a volcano from afar . . . how about climbing in? On the Greek island Nisyros, you can actually walk in the caldera of the stirring giant below, past bubbling mud and steaming fumaroles. It’s a strange and humbling experience, knowing you’re standing on top of the explosive powerhouse that created the island in the first place. In fact, the magma chamber is only a few kilometres beneath your feet. Just a short ferry ride from its more popular cousin Kos, Nisyros is well worth the trip just for that awe-inspiring feeling alone.

#8: Stromboli

Sicily, Italy

Slow and steady wins the race. Iconic Mount Stromboli has been erupting for two thousand years. And it’s not even tired - having erupting violently as recently as 2003. In fact, the volcano’s formidable stamina is why we call moderate, continuous volcanic eruptions “strombolian”. You can access the island via ferry or hydrofoil, and you’ll need a guide to take you up the mountain. The summit boasts spectacular sea views, but of course the real stars of the show are Stromboli’s simmering craters - and the glorious pyrotechnics when the volcano loses its cool.

#7: Kelimutu

Flores Island, Indonesia

Kelimutu might not belch ash, or spit fire. But its ongoing activity is evident in another way: tri-colored crater lakes that change hue with the volcano’s whims. Locals attribute the colors to resident ancestor spirits, who, in the Lake of Old People, turn the water blue; the Lake of Young Men and Maidens, meanwhile, cycles through shades of green; and the Enchanted Lake beside it ranges from olive to red. The miraculous process is due to variations in volcanic gas and rainfall, which together create a volcanic landscape that has to be seen to be believed.


#6: Mount Vesuvius

Gulf of Naples, Italy

Mount Vesuvius’s eruption in 79 CE is the most famous in history. Eyewitness Pliny the Younger left us with scenes of incredible devastating, describing “broad sheets of flame” and darkness “thicker than any night”. Some scholars think the destruction might even have inspired apocalyptic passages in the Book of Revelations! Today, steam still rises from vents in the crater, but the mountain is a popular hike with magnificent views over the Bay of Naples. It’s a great place to pause and ponder after wandering through the famed ruined Roman city of Pompeii, buried by pyroclastic surges over two thousand years ago.

#5: White Island

Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

When we said “up close and personal”, we weren’t exaggerating. Also known as “Whakaari”, White Island is New Zealand’s most active volcano. Its rim rises from the sea like the head of some monster peeking over the edge of the bed. The unbelievable thing is that you can actually walk right into the lion’s den, so to speak - past bubbling mud, sulfur chimneys, and steaming vents, to the boiling acid lake in the crater’s heart. For those who want to get as close as possible to an active volcano, this is one of the best places to do it and live to tell the tale.

#4: Mount Nyiragongo

Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble. With its monstrous red eye, the ancient caldera of Nyiragongo in this very politically-troubled nation casts a baleful gaze heavenward. Intrepid travelers can return this devilish stare from the volcano’s rim, accessible via an admittedly arduous hike up a steep, high-altitude, rocky incline. The fiery well is the deepest and runniest lava lake in the world. There are no rails, and sadly, you wouldn’t be the first to tumble down into the crater; so keep a firm foothold. Camp is close to the edge, so for habitual sleepwalkers . . . weeell, maybe this one isn’t for you.

#3: Kawah Ijen

East Java, Indonesia

Kawah Ijen is the ultimate volcano superhero . . . or villain, depending on your take. By day, the crater is a turquoise lake, swamped in sulfurous clouds. Striking, but not otherworldly. By night, however, it becomes something much more extraordinary . . . Blue fire runs wild around the caldera, as sulfuric gas emerges and ignites. Start the short hike a few hours shy of sundown to catch the spectacle, and be respectful toward the miners, who often work here through the night, in dangerous conditions, and for little pay. The electric blue flames are an eerie sight, and of all our volcanoes here, Kawah Ijen just might be the most unique.


#2: Kīlauea

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, USA

Lava tubes, lava fountains, and lava rivers . . . Kīlauea is the volcano with it all. Located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Big Island, the volcano has been spewing lava with barely a break since 1983. According to local lore, it’s the home of the fire goddess Pele, a capricious deity whose primal power is evident in the effusive and explosive eruptions from Halemaʻumaʻu crater. From May through July 2018, volcanic activity wreaked destruction across the island, and some of the park had to be closed - so check conditions carefully before you go.

Before we reveal the identity of our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:

Mount Etna

Sicily, Italy

Piton de la Fournaise

Réunion Island, France

Sakurajima

Kyushu, Japan

#1: Mount Yasur

Tanna, Vanuatu

Mount Yasur is one of a kind. It's been continually erupting for hundreds of years, yet it’s also the planet’s most accessible active volcano. The cone might not be tall . . . but it roars. You can feel the mountain rumble as you clamber up its ashy flank. From the top, it’s a long, steep slide down into the fiery crater, as lava bombs soar overhead. The volcano is sacred to a local cargo cult, who believe an American World War II serviceman, John Frum, resides inside. His prophesied return has yet to come . . . but expect reliable fireworks, as you stand right on the rim of an exploding volcano!

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