Have you ever wandered what its’ like to climb a volcano?
The earths geography has been shaped over millions of years by volcanic activity happening below the surface. We are taught about massive eruptions in school like Mt Vesuvius in ancient Rome and more recently Krakatoa in 1883 whose eruption killed more than 36000 people. Its not all doom and gloom however, as dormant and active volcanoes offer unique hiking and climbing experiences. As our understanding of and safety measures around volcanoes improves, so do numbers of people wanting to summit them. These numbers are boosted significantly by the increase in global tourism annually. In this article I will highlight 5 climbable volcanoes you’ve probably never heard of.
#1 Mount Kerinci, Indonesia
Located within the World heritage listed Kerinci Seblat National Park , Mount Kerinci (3805m) is the tallest volcano in Indonesia and the highest peak in Sumatra. The 8 hour drive from nearby Padang and lack of accommodation in the park mean visitors must bring camping equipment. It is recommended to allow 3 days to reach the summit and back as this will allow ample time to spot wildlife such as the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger and Sumatran Rhinoceros which inhabit the area.
If you decide against hiking the summit the ‘Lake of the Seven Peaks’ or Danau Gunung Tujuh is South-East Asia’s highest crater lake at 1950m above sea level and can be reached in about 3 hours. This volcano is highly active with annual seismic events reported so it is essential you check local conditions before making the long journey.
#2 Mt Teide, Tenerife
Whilst you may have heard of the Canary Islands chances are you haven’t heard of Europe's highest volcano Mount Teide, which sits 3718m above sea level on the island of Tenerife. If the thought of lava terrifies you then Teide may be your best option as it’s the only dormant volcano on our list. Hikers can expect a 5-7 hour trek to the summit or an 8 minute cable car if your plans change. This climb has become increasingly popular so remember to get a Free Permit long before you travel to Tenerife to avoid missing out as only a limited number of climbers is permitted daily.
Another option is to stay overnight at the Altavista mountain refuge which includes a permit in the accommodation pricing. We recommend booking minimum of 1-2 months in advance as the popularity of the climb means the lodge books out quickly, especially during the peak season.
#3 Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland
Despite being a nightmare to pronounce, Eyjafjallajökull at 1666m is fast becoming one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions. Made famous in May 2010 when it’s eruption covered European skies with ash and halted flights for almost a week, the volcano and surrounding national park offer breathtaking views.
Although it’s a relatively short 6.5km hike to the summit, this peak can be dangerous so its recommended to travel with an experienced guide. If you opt out of the climb there is plenty to see in the surrounding area such as Skógafoss and the spectacular Fimmvörðuháls trail which winds for 25km between Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers.
#4 Cotopaxi, Equador
This giant is the 3rd most active volcano in the world as well as being the second largest mountain in Ecuador at an intimidating 19,300 feet (5882m). Located 50km from the capital Quito, Cotopaxi has erupted more than 50 times since 1738, most recently in January of 2016. Despite being re-opened to climbers in October 2017, it is strongly recommended you acquire an accredited mountain guide if you attempt the summit but if you are confident in your abilities it can be scaled without one. If you decide against the climb there is plenty to enjoy in Cotopaxi National Park such as the path around Laguna Limpiopungo which offers a more tranquil hike.
#5 Whakaari, New Zealand
Located in the Bay of Plenty, Whakaari or White Island as its commonly known is New Zealand’s only active marine volcano. This Volcano is a great option for those less interested in a demanding hike because only 10% of the volcano is visible above sea level so the crater is easily visible from the base.
Reaching the island is easy, you simply need to sign up for one of many guided tours, which ferry you to the island to explore the vast inner crater complex under the supervision of highly trained guides and crew before returning to the mainland.
The increase in availability/decrease in the price of airfares in recent years means hikers and climbers can now reach some of the most remote and spectacular volcanoes in the world. Climbing an active or inactive volcano still carries with it a degree of risk so be sure to book a guide where possible and track recent seismic activity in the area before attempting any summits. Happy hiking!