Mount Etna trip experience from Catania - eNidhi India Travel Blog

Mount Etna trip experience from Catania

Mount Etna is Catalina’s top tourist attraction. Mount Etna is Europe’s most active volcano. Everyone who visits Catania (Catania is in Sicily, South of Italy) makes a plan to visit Mount Etna. Mount Etna is an active volcano and it is possible to see a small amount of fume coming out of the tip of the volcano- it is a mix of water vapor and pit of sulfur and other materials/gasses from the base.

What is special about Mount Etna?

# 1 Eruptions:

  • Eruptions from Mount Etna keep happening at regular intervals-as recent as Feb & May 2022 but most eruptions are of small quantity and ashes do not reach nearby towns like Catania, thus no impact on life.
  • Eruptions in 2017, 2018 etc have caused some injury to people nearby and caused airport closure due to ashes in the air.
  • Most severe eruptions have happened back in 1923-1928 period where lava reached all the way till city of Catania burning everything on its path.
Lava is very slow to move, so residents of Catania will get enough lead time to move to safety in of major eruptions. But Lava destroys everything in its path and towns will have to be rebuilt later when it is safe. I got to learn how volcano affected Benedictine Monastery in Catania- more about that in a separate post.

Wikipedia page has even more history dating back to BC if you're keen to read.

Tourists visiting Mount Etna can go pretty close to main crater, view the ash or rings spewing out and see various smaller craters around the mountain.

#2 Quick day trip destination

  • Mount Etna has skiing options in right season
  • There are caves, craters and other interesting spots around
  • Good hiking spot
  • Get good view of Catania city and mountains around

Visiting Mount Etna- Day tour from Catania

When I visited Catania in off season, many travel shops were simply closed. So it was not very easy to walk into a shop and book a tour. However I eventually found one and after checking various options, booked one tour.

Option 1: Tour by Bus from city center, 35 Euro + 54+24 Euro optional

The cheapest option for tourists is to book a bus tour for about 35 Euros from any travel shops in Catania downtown area. Bus starts at 11 AM from Fountain of the elephant (or any other spot as confirmed by your travel shop) and will drop you back by about 5 PM

Once you reach Mount Etna parking area you've to either hike over 1000 meters upwards or spend money on cable car (54 Euro) and 4x4 bus (24 Euros). Unless you're good at hiking mountains in cold weather and have hours to spare, Mount Etna trip will cost 100 Euros + minimum per person.

There will be some variations of the tour plan and pricing depending on travel shop and operator.

Option 2: Tour by minivan 59 Euro + 54+24 Euro optional

A more convenient option is to spend 25 Euros more and book a minivan tour. This will start early- like 8.30-9 AM, will pick you up from your hotel/hostel in Catania city, will be quicker and more convenient as it will be a smaller group. I took this option- had to pay 15 Euro to travel shop and 44 to the driver after he picked me up.

In this option as well we'll have to spend extra on cable car + 4x4 bus unless everyone prefers to hike.

Had to pay 15 Euro at the travel office and I was asked to pay the rest to the tour operator, who would come to my hostel to pick me up next day morning. My tour included 3 more stops- one crater, one cave and a souvenir shop.

Option 3: Rent a car and drive:

If you're a group of 3-4 people, it is more economical and convenient to rent a car and drive yourself till Mount Etna parking lot- you can do as per your timing, spend as much time as you wish.

Car rentals in Catania may cost as low as 10 Euros a day. But cheapest rate advertised doesn't include insurance and few other things. These would jack the price up to 5x, say 50 Euros. Fuel, parking, toll etc will make it 120-150 Euros per day easily- still worth it if you are a group, might be too much for one person. With a car you can plan your own itinerary around Mount Etna and other towns in the island.

There is no public transport bus to Mount Etna parking spot from Catania as far as I know.

After reaching Mount Etna parking lot

  • Vehicles will only take you till the base of mount Etna. Base or parking area is at an elevation of about 1910 meters. From there you’ve to spend even more to reach the top or hike.
  • Cable car takes you to some 2200 meters height- costs about 54 Euros per person
  • 4x4 buses can take you even higher- from end of cable car 2200 meters to about 2920 meters, costing another 24 Euro per person- total 78 Euro for Cable car + 4x4 bus ride.
  • 4x4 driver also doubles up as guide and will give you some brief at the top, showing you mountain, telling its history, showing some craters, hot lava etc
  • You've an option to spend only on cable car and the last bit - 400 odd meters in elevation, 2-3 kms in length in a snowy track- cover on foot.
  • If you are physically strong to hike 2-3 kms, 1000 meters elevation in cold weather, you can save 78 Euros and hike up at your own pace. If you've gone in tour bus or van, discuss this option with your tour manager or driver, as it easily takes an hour or two to reach the top and then to come back- rest of the tour group, who prefer cable car and 4x4 bus should be willing to wait for you to return. Advise not to try this if solo and not experienced- too risky if you slip and fall and there is no one to notice or help.

You can also plan a day trip to Etna from other cities like Palermo- check with local operators.

Skiing customers have different pricing and options when the season is on. I haven't checked much on this.

Apparently there is also a railway track- but I didn’t see it. There are some ski resorts near Etna as well

How it is on the top?

It is very cold on the top- was a sunny day when we visited but at the peak it was probably 1 degree. You can rent jackets and gloves for about 5 Euros if you don’t have one. I was able to manage with my conventional jacket but took very few pics not wanting to expose my hands to cold too much.

How my trip to Mount Etna went

I was picked up from hostel at 8.40, 10 min late, there were 2 more pickups and we headed towards mountain Etna. Had paid 15 Euro to travel shop, had to pay 112 Euro to the van driver+ guide (44 for the tour + 78 for cable car and 4x4 bus)- he bought tickets for us and we boarded cable car. Everyone else in the van opted for cable car + 4x4 bus so I couldn't explore hiking option as it would mean they will have to wait for hours and will impact schedule. Operators would give a fixed time to report back at the van and it may not be enough to hike 1000 meters elevation, 4-5 kms in length.

Cable car ride lasted a few minutes and we reached the top. Had an option to rent jackets for 5 euro, skipped it.

As we came out of cable car top station a 4x4 bus was ready and waiting. Had to scan the ticket and get in. Bus took about 10 minutes to reach 2920 meters. From there we got off the bus and hiked about 100-200 meters I guess. The bus driver served as a guide and explained the mountain, craters, history etc.

-Mount Etna

-A recent crater

-Hot Lava

-View of Catania from top

It was about 1 degree centigrade or so on top, so couldn't remove gloves for long- didn't take too many photos or videos. We probably spent about 30-40 minutes on the top and then headed down.

We stopped at a cave, another crater etc, will write about them in a separate post

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