What is it that fascinates us with volcanoes? Is it the danger, the lure of the unknown, the curiosity to witness some sort of volcanic activity with our own eyes? We all want to see that bubbling red lava, witness steaming magma encompass everything in its path as it flows into an ocean, or see Jeremy Clarkson drive a 4X4 up the side of a stratovolcano with the ground so hot the tyres simply melt – admit it – you couldn’t look away from the screen either!
When the movie Dante’s Peak was released, I was obsessed – not with Pierce Brosnan, but with the volcano. I desperately wanted to study volcanic activity and I wanted to know did skinny dippers really boil to death from swimming in thermal hot springs? Only one way to find out!
We know the fumes can be toxic, the sudden explosion of flying rocks unexpected and dangerous, not to mention those dreaded plume clouds potentially catastrophic to air travel. Even the disasters caused by volcanic activity intrigue us – take Pompeii for example. Volcanoes are the catalyst for some of the most spectacular regions in the world – look at the Galapagos Islands.
We wanted to share with you our top picks for volcano related activities – some extreme, others a little tamer. There is a volcano experience for everyone!
1. Climb a Volcano in Iceland
Scale Iceland’s most famous mountain, known as the ‘Gate to Hell.’ It is the second most active volcano on the island. Seismic testing needs to be checked prior to you beginning your climb as the volcano is still very active.
Offering stunning views from the summit as well as feeling the rumble of the mountains belly beneath your feet, this climb is sure to get the pulse pumping.
2. Heli Bungee into a Volcano, Pucon, Chile
If you thought the idea of bungee jumping out of a helicopter was for thrill seekers, now you can bungee from a helicopter into the mouth of a bubbling volcano. The helicopter will hover over the caldera whilst you bungee, coming within 22m of the molten lava.
3. Trek amongst Steam vents and Lava flows, Pacaya Volcano Antigua, Guatemala
This very active volcano in Guatemala sits only about an hour from the city of Antigua. It is not the walk itself that makes this an extreme trek. In fact, the hike up the slope is relatively easy compared to other volcanic treks. What makes this an unusual place to hike is the active steam vents and rivers of lava that run near the trail. Opt for a private guide to avoid the crowds and get further up the mountain than the casual day trippers are allowed to go.
4. Mountain bike down Cotopaxi, Ecuador
Cotopaxi National Park is high in altitude as well as being an abundant wildlife reserve surrounding the highest active volcano in the world, Cotopaxi.
This arid landscape offers one of Ecuador’s best mountain biking experiences. Dirt and gravel roads, challenging mountains and open vast flat plains. On your trusty two wheels, cross through a unique paramo ecosystem whilst being surrounded by impressive volcanic scenery. Read more here.
5. Climb Mount Yasur Volcano, Tanna Island, Vanuatu
Perfect for those who want a dramatic volcano experience without the extensive hike to reach the summit. Mt Yasur is a fairly consistently active volcano with only a short 360m climb to the summit. The best time to summit is in the evenings when the colour, energy and vigour of its eruptions are most visible.
6. Volcano Board on Cerro Negro, Nicaragua
Heard of Ash Boarding? Think snow boarding, except you are shredding down the black ash on the side of a volcano! With your guide, you will do some shorter runs to get a feel for the landscape before ascending to the summit and making your way down to the base on your board.
7. Botos Laguna, Poass Volcano, Costa Rica
Considered by many to be one of the most breathtaking sites in the entire country, if you ever find yourself in Costa Rica, make sure you head to the Poass Volcano. With a 15 minute, not too difficult hike, you can be at the summit of one of Costa Rica’s largest and most active volcanoes. A sunrise hike is best to avoid the crowds and make the most of beautiful views of Botos Laguna, the sapphire lake in the centre of the crater.
8. Volcanoes of Kamchatka, Russia
Kamchatka in Russia is for the true volcano lover. The region is known as one of the most outstanding volcanic regions in the world offering a high density of active volcanoes and a variety of types. A combination of active volcanoes and glaciers form a landscape of great beauty. Surprisingly, this area is also rich in wildlife – home to the world’s largest known variety of salmonoid fish and exceptional concentrations of sea otter, brown bear and Stellar’s Sea Eagle.
9. ATV at Mayon Volcano, Legazpi, Philippines
Mayon is a stratovolcano known for its symmetrical triangular shape, and is one of the worlds most active volcanoes, having erupted 47 times in the past 400 years. Driving an ATV over the lava flows of an active volcano can be quite exciting! For the more adventurous, an overnight hike with a camping stop near the summit is also a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
10. Bonus experience! Swing at the End of the World, Banos, Ecuador
If the above suggestions don’t float your boat, why not read our blog on the Swing at the End of the World that swings over an active volcano – or does it…..?
Looking for more fantastic volcano experiences? Why not check out the Crooked Compass Travel App for more unique experiences!
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This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.