Hiking Mt Etna: a guide for hiking the highest active volcano in Europe

Hiking Mt Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe, in the province of Catania. The volcano’s land is rich and fertile, home to vineyards, orchards and cultivated fields, creating a stunning landscape which has for centuries attracted travellers, artists and poets. Today, thousands of tourists take part in organised tours to ascend the volcano and enjoy the splendour of Mount Etna from above.

hiking mt etna

Mount Etna offers numerous activities: a long trek, winetasting, quad or jeep tours that let you explore the volcano from all sides, to explore all the volcanic craters and much more besides.

If you have a free week, we suggest you go on a hiking Etna tour, giving you the chance to discover the many landscapes of Etna.

If you want to go hiking Mount Etna without a guide, here are some handy tips for you:

Drive to Rifugio Sapienza (southern slope of the volcano), from where you will be able to take the cable car Mount Etna up to an altitude of 2,500m asl. From there, with a 4×4, you can climb to 2,900m, to the Philosopher’s Tower, from which it’s not a long trek, just 20 minutes with a specialist volcanology tour guide.

You can leave your car at the Rifugio Sapienza car park with no problems.

Once back down from hiking Mt Etna to Rifugio Sapienza, you could opt for lunch at the refuge’s restaurant, where they have ‘tavola calda’ warm snack food or first and second course dishes.

If you don’t have the necessary equipment for hiking Mt Etna, such as hiking boots or a waterproof, you can hire all you need from one of the small shops at Rifugio Sapienza.

If you want to visit the northern slopes of Etna, however, you should head towards Piano Provenzano or Rifugio Citelli, from which hiking Mt Etna includes the dramatic Sartorius craters, created during the explosion of 1865.

If you’re lucky, during February and March you might also be able to slip on your skis – you’ll find the ski station at Piano Provanzana. It’s an unforgettable experience, being able to look over the sea as you ski!

So you’re wondering if you can go hiking Mt Etna without a guide?

Well it depends. If you want to stay at a low altitude, yes you can, but if you want to go beyond 3,000m asl you need a volcanology tour guide with you.

We highly recommend hiking Mt Etna with a guide, who can instruct you on the route but also tell you about the history and stories of this manificent volcano. Whether it’s a short ot long trek, it’s more interesting that way!

What equipment?

Above all else, your shoes are important, whether you’re hiking Mt Etna with a guide or alone. You need comfortable walking boots because the volcanic ash is slippery. If you only brought your flipflops on holiday with you, don’t worry, you can hire boots on the day.

Clothing needs to be comfortable sportswear. Long trousers, a sweater and a windbreaker. During the summer months a cotton sweater will do. You need to be prepared for unpredictable weather and temperatures. At high altitudes the winds can be very strong, the mist can stop you in your path, and low temperatures can bring you down with a cold. All of this can be avoided by checking the weather forecast the day before you set off, so you know what to expect while hiking Mt Etna.

It’s really important you take with you food and lots of water, which you will need to keep you hydrated after the push of climbing, and to prevent the effects of low pressure and running low on sugars.

Another destination definitely worth visiting within the Etna National Park is the Bove Valley (‘Valle del Bove’), an enormous basin of approximately 37km sq, on the eastern slopes of the volcano, close to Zafferana Etnea. This striking basin was created 64,000 years ago when two of the main craters collapsed in on themselves.

This incredible catastrophe of the natural world had far-reaching consequences: one of the two collapsing craters generated a tsunami that wiped out the civilizations living on the north African coast at the time, and probably gave rise to the myth of Atlantis and its disappearance.

The Valle del Bove, veiled in mystery, seems almost like a desert, covered with more recent lava flows, with odd isolated areas of vegetation, surrounded by lava.

After our advice about hiking Mt Etna, what to do, where to go and how to get there, we’ll leave you to decide just how you want to make your day in this place of untouched, wild nature and breathtaking landscapes, all yours.

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