Entering The Lava Caves Of Mt. Etna! We Hike This Active Smoldering Volcano On Sicily!

Welcome To Mt. Etna!

When Alex and I stayed in Taormina Sicily, we could look out at the great lady herself: Mt. Etna, an active volcano staring down at us from a distance – and those aren’t clouds, the crater is very much alive, active and smoldering – here’s proof!

OK, jumped ahead a bit – I will be sharing our hike to the top of Mt. Etna, but there is more to share, because before we hiked up Mt. Etna, we took a wild jeep tour of some of Etna’s lava flow down below!

Mt. Etna’s Active Lava Field!

As you are taken partway up the mountain, you are shown ample evidence of the volcano’s power….this is a lava field that tore through the forest below the peak!

Since 2000, Etna has had four flank eruptions – in 2001, 2002–2003, 2004–2005, and 2008–2009. Summit eruptions occurred in 2006, 2007–2008, January–April 2012, in July–October 2012, December 2018 and again in February of 2021…so the grand dame of Sicily is very much alive, and our guide took us in a four wheel drive to show us why! Our trip started out in beautiful forest:

Giacomo was an expert guide, with a ton of great insight – oh and he was also expert at navigating what became an increasingly dangerous drive across lava fields…

We parked on the edge of the lava field that tore through Etna’s lush forests, slowly making its way to this final resting spot…and some locals put a note up to welcome her…

“I HEART Etna!

There is no way to get closer to Etna’s lava flow, and the most recent is just 20 yeas ago, which took out a hotel and some tourist shops as well…so of course I had to get my obligatory “upside down” selfie:

From here, it was time to begin hiking up these lava beds for some wild surprises ahead;

Parts of the uneven terrain were fresh lava ash and dust, which caused us to sink up to our ankles…and all around was evidence that we were standing on the top of lava, not solid ground:

As we climbed up this hill, it turns out it was a hill of frozen lava that had formed caves underneath!

Many are too unsettled to be entered, but our expert guide Giacomo knew two that were stable enough to enter!

From inside you can look up and see the sky above:

And a few were simply too dangerous to go into, but you could peer into the murky darkness within:

These lava caves were fascinating to creep into, in some cases into completely darkness:

The lava caves are a fascinating way to see the impact of Etna’s ongoing eruptions.

This was, however, just the beginning of our day on the mountain – you see, we had an active volcano to scale!

We were part of a small group that was driven partway up a restricted road, and from there we hiked the rest of the way up!

That is the active, simmering volcano behind us – and I will be taking you on this trip in the next few days!

Aside from climbing to the top of Sicily, we also spent time on their gorgeous Ionian Sea on the coast as well:

Of course, the water was calm when we weren’t flying through the air!

Click here to see how you can rock dive from Sicily!

I also shared this fiery welcome to another Italian island, in this case Sardinia:

You can see where we were when this happened, which also was the location for a classic James Bond movie – click here for more videos!

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Let me know if you’ve ever been to Mt. Etna – and next post will be a trip to the crater!

Categories: Exotic Travel, Italy, Memoirs, nature, Pop Culture, Travel, Travel Adventures, Travel Memoir

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19 replies

  1. I am green with envy. I am keen to visit Mt Etna and this great caves.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating, John! I didn’t know there were lava caves. Everyone in the small group is wearing long sleeves. Was it cold at that height?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great tour, John. I think it’s fascinating to see the vegetation growing in the lava and ash. By the way, your guide, Giacomo, shares the same name as the 2005 winner of the Kentucky Derby, who went off at odds of more than 50-1.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well that’s some fascinating trivia! Thanks for sharing that and yes, the lava beds actually have small trees beginning to pop through – and the volcanic ash makes for some terrific wine as well – more on that to come!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. fascinating! I love the trip in the jeep as well walk on that weird landscape and as cave visits. it looks like nothing close to anything I’ve experienced. Etna is often an answer in my nyt Sunday crosswords, btw. )

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Looking forward to the rest, John. Well done for hiking up an active volcano!
    Best wishes, pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Very cool! Looking forward to hiking up the volcano with you!


  7. Very interesting! I’ve never been to an active volcano.


  8. These caves look amazing! We saw Mount Etna from a distance when we were in Messina. I look forward to seeing more of it close-up via your pictures.



  1. Have You Visited Sicily’s “Part-Time” Island? We Head To “Isola Bella” – An Island Twice A Day! – johnrieber
  2. Standing On Top Of Sicily’s Mt. Etna! Our Hike Up An Active Volcano! – johnrieber
  3. Lava Wine And Cassatedde! A Sicilian Ricotta Pastry Recipe! My “52 In 22” Cooking Challenge Has Sicilian Flavors! – johnrieber
  4. Lava Wine And Cassatedde! A Sicilian Ricotta Pastry Recipe! My “52 In 22” Cooking Challenge Has Sicilian Flavors!  – Bite! Eat! Repeat!

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