Visiting a volcano is one of the most thrilling and rewarding travel experiences out there. It’s been a popular form of geotourism for centuries, and isn’t nearly as risky as you might think.
You can gaze into the smoking depths of an active volcano or swim in serene crater lakes. You can hike, climb and camp in jungles or dense forests with extraordinary views. Take a specialised tour, ideally with a geologist or volcanologist, for intriguing insight into how these powerful, natural phenomena work.
Booking.com used its internal data to locate the world’s prime spots for visiting volcanoes, according to endorsements from real global travellers.*
Quilatoa crater lake
Latacunga is a plateau town in Ecuador and a launch pad for visiting the nearby Cotopaxi volcano and the Quilotoa Loop. Cotopaxi is an active volcano whose perfect conical shape and snowcapped peak dominate the horizon, while Quilatoa is a dacite volcano containing a deep green crater lake. A Quilotoa Loop trek takes you through tiny rural communities with colourful indigenous markets to reach the mesmerising lake. Sheltered by steep, craggy cliffs, you can hear bubbles forming on its glassy surface, already dappled with dramatic cloud shadows and reflections. Treks that start with Quilotoa also help you adjust to the high altitude before you attempt the summit of Cotopaxi. And since these volcanic attractions are not as well-known as Ecuador’s Galapagos islands, you’ll have them practically to yourself.
Tanna Island, Vanuatu
Tanna Island is home to what is known as the world’s most accessible volcano. In ten minutes, you can get from where your car dropped you off to the fiery crater rim. Violent bursts of orange lava and red sparks are a consistent attraction here, presenting no real danger but plenty of thrills. Best enjoyed at dusk or with a starlit sky backdrop, this rare display will have you mesmerized.
Local folklore on the island of Luzon in the Philippines states that Mount Mayon, an active stratovolcano, is named after the legendary princess-heroine Daragang Magayon. Its shape is flawlessly symmetrical and the land it looks out on was declared a national park in 1938. A trek to the top is challenging but adventurous, taking you past natural springs and exhilarating scenery.
Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, having been erupting consistently on the Stromboli island off the north coast of Sicily since 1932. It’s also one of the world’s most visited volcanoes, with tourists keen to glimpse its smoking inferno spurting jets of lava. Since its eruptions are visible from far away at night, it has earned the moniker ‘Lighthouse of the Mediterranean’. And its impressive and distinctive eruptions have led to geologists using the term ‘Strombolian’ to describe similar volcanic activity elsewhere.
Just 30 miles southwest of Hilo lies the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In the middle of the tranquil rainforest, it comes as a surprise to find this extremely active volcano, spewing forth hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of lava per day. One of the main highlights of visiting this natural wonder is seeing the blistering lava flow meet the sea. You can go on hikes or drives that take you around some of the steaming craters, as well as the other volcanoes in the park.
Moyogalpa is the largest village on the Ometepe Island of Nicaragua, where you can find two volcanoes, Concepción and Maderas. The fertile soil around these two majestic mountains has created a thick, green forest stretching all over their slopes. Though Concepción is still technically an active stratovolcano, it last spewed ash in 1999 and has not had lava flow since 1957 – so it’s now a nature reserve for deer and monkeys. As the second highest volcano in Nicaragua, the views from the top (if you can handle the seven hour climb) are sublime. In contrast, the truncated cone of Maderas is clouded in thick mist and tropical forest, which shelters a rich biodiversity. You might spot varieties of salamander not yet seen anywhere else or monkeys, butterflies, birds and orchids. Maderas also has a waterfall and a cold crater lake for those wanting a refreshing dip at the top.
*Booking.com’s data experts analysed endorsements for volcanoes to find out which destinations were most highly recommended for this type of travel.