Climb on top of Etna Volcano, the highest active volcano in Europe!

Easy guide to learn how  to safely climb up the highest active Volcano in Europe. A perfect day trip from Taormina or Catania.

Why you shouldn’t miss Etna Volcano

You have surely seen mount Etna as the landscape of Taormina Greek theater. It’s an iconic view that can be seen in all postcards in Sicily and that makes Etna one of Sicily most popular destinations. That could already be a good reason to see the stuff with your own eyes!

The Greek theater and mount Etna

That said, there are many other reasons that make Etna Volcano is an experience not to be missed when visiting Sicily.

At approximately 3,350 meters, Etna is Europe’s highest and most active volcano. Its landscape constantly changes as lava hardens, craters collapse and, in some cases, are created.

What you may not know is that you can easily climb on top of the highest volcano in Europe. It’s an easy day trip from Catania or Taormina.

In no more than a couple of hours you will ascent from sea level up to to nearly 3.000 meters. Around you, an amazing lunar landscape, black lava, volcanic cones, steam clouds from fumarole, and the blue Mediterranean sea in the background. Simply amazing!

And f you are visiting Sicily in Winter time, you can actually sky on the volcano! The slopes are actually pretty good and are usually operated from December to February. Do you know many other places where you could sky on an active volcano?

Yes, you heard it right, Etna is an active volcano. This means that it wakes up fairly regularly, recently at least once per year. So if you are lucky enough you will be able to admire the eruption at night, at security distance, of course. Admiring powerful lava fountains, flows and ash emissions are an experience you will hardly forget!

If you like trekking or are volcano fanatics (or both), local guides can organize many trails to explore all the beauties of the place, including lava galleries and secluded volcano cones. Local guides teams, and, organize daily excursions from mid April to October.

Mount Etna is open daily, all year (when not erupting in a life-threatening way), 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (last cable car); in winter to 3:30 p.m.

Where to sleep to climb on top of Etna Volcano?

Most travelers prefer to visit mount Etna from Taormina, which is conveniently connected to Mount Etna by public and private transports.

I have two favorite hotels in Taormina:

  • The simple Taormina garden hotel. No frills for this lovely hotel, conveniently located a few steps from the beach and very close to the cable car that leads to Taormina old town. Rooms are nice and clean and overlook a small garden. Hotel guests can use the hotel private parking, definitely a plus if you are on a self drive tour. Rates are amazingly low, even in high season. Amazing value for money!

  • If you prefer to stay in Taormina old town, the Grand Hotel Miramare is also a very good choice, with excellent value for money. It’s located close to the Greek Theatre, and offers breathtaking terraces and views.

Taormina in one day - Hotel Miramare

  • Alternatively, you can either sleep in the Etna Mountain retreat Rifugio Sapienza, which is the starting point for the Etna cable car.

Mount Etna is open daily, all year (when not erupting in a life-threatening way), 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (last cable car); in winter to 3:30 p.m.

Climbinig up on top of Etna Volcano

The ascent to Mount Etna can be carried out starting from the south, from Nicolosi or Zafferana Etnea, through the Sapienza refuge, or from the north, coming from Taormina, through Linguaglossa.

Etna Map_ credits Sicily holiday
Etna Map_ credits to

The first route will take you to nearly 3000 m in height, passing near the grandiose Bove valley, furrowed by steaming chasms and surrounded by 1000 m high lava walls.

To the north, the road arrives at Piano Provenzana (1800 m). From the surroundings of the new observatory you will enjoy a magnificent view, then ending the ascent in an extraordinary landscape of lava and fumaroles.

Actually most visitors opt for the Rifugio Nicolosi option, where Funivie dell’Etna, the cable car company, organize the excursions on top of the Volcano.

Etna parking and base camp_Youtube
Etna rifugio sapienza and cablecar station – credits to Youtube

The excursion starts at 1,923 meters from Rifugio Sapienza, which is also the cable car lower station. In a few minutes the cable car reaches the altitude of about 2,500 meters.

funivia-etna_ credits to Sicily holiday
Etna Cable car – credits to

From there, 4×4 bus take visitors to the 2,800-meter mark.

Etna Volcano
My son, aged 9, ready to get on top of Etna Volcano

A guide meets each vehicle and leads a walk around the area, so you can visit craters and fumaroles without any risk.

TIP: even in full summer, it’s cold up there, and usually rather windy! And no paved road, but ashes and volcanic gravel paths Do come prepared, with solid shoes, long trousers, pullovers and windbreakers. Sorry, swimming costumes and flic flac are not an option…

What’s the cost of climbing up on Etna Volcano?

Cable car only costs 30 € / person, and you have to add an additional 30 €for the 4X4 buses. That’s the basic excursion, with visit to the “crater of the philosophe”. The tour lasts a couple of hours.

A very valid alternative is to purchase the guided tour from the Alpine guide (look for the small refuge close to the cable way station).

For 75 € you will get a 5 hours to visit the craters (not only the philosophe one), with detailed explanations from a volcano expert. The cost includes mountain shoes, backpack, wind breaker and helmet. Good value for money!

Enjoy your day trip to Etna volcano!

You may also like to read my post “Enchanting Taormina: what to do and see and where to stay


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