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What is it about volcanoes that loom large in our collective imaginations? Is it that they serve as a constant reminder that planet earth is still shaping and evolving right before our eyes or is it the very real threat they pose to us humans should we cross their path on a day when one is feeling restless? Luckily for us, geologists can accurately predict when eruptions will occur so visiting any one of earth’s many active volcanoes poses no imminent danger. They do however offer thrill-seeking tourists an adventure of a lifetime. Read on to see which five active volcanoes to visit now.

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Mount Vesuvius, Italy
Feared and admired for its 79AD outbreak which buried the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing an estimated 16,000 people in the process, Vesuvius is still an active volcano (its last belch occurred in 1944) and is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes on earth thanks to the 3 million inhabitants who live within the her extensive reach. Visitors can hike right up to the lip of the crater and take in the surrounding region including Naples. Most tourists, however, hit up the excavated ruins of Pompeii and view the eerie, plaster-encased molds of inhabitants who were caught in the path of Vesuvius when she spit ash 12 miles into the sky.


Kilauea, Hawaii
If you’re a volcano nerd, a visit to the Big Island is a must. Kilauea, the earth’s youngest and most active volcano has all the growing pains of an angst-ridden teen. She has been churning, gurgling and spitting out lava since June 2014. Cruise to the outskirts of Pahoa, a Wild West town with laid-back hippie vibe, and witness for yourself just how dangerously close her flow has come to threatening the town. Afterward, drive to Volcanoes National Park where you can bask in a steam vent, stare into the mouth of the volcano from the crater rim or take a scenic drive and visit Kilauea’s big sister Mauna Loa who has given shape to most of the island. Try not to anger Pele, okay?


Piton de la Fournaise, La Réunion Island
The name is French for “peak of the furnace” and we have to admit Piton is one bad ass-looking shield volcano which, from a distance at least, very much conforms to the stereotype we’ve all seen in pictures and in the movies. She’s smack in the middle of the Indian Ocean (nearly 600 miles west of Madagascar) so reaching her is no easy feat, but her last eruption began this February which makes her a sight to behold. Piton de la Fournaise offers abundant hiking opportunites although the crater area is currently (and understandably) off limits. Another way to take in her spectacle is to hire a private chopper offered by one of several tour operators located on the island.


Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland
While it may be the most unpronounceable on the list, thanks to its spring 2010 eruprtion when she exploded and wreaked subsequent havoc on air travel from North America to Europe, Eyjafjallajökull is also one of the most familiar. She’s actually a volcano completely covered by an ice cap (this is Iceland after all) and also a popular tourist attraction due to her convenient location a mere 78.9 miles from the capital city of Reykjavik (a dynamite destination in its own right). Airplane tours aboard a puddle jumper take a mere 90 minutes but thriller seekers can also check out Eyjafjallajokull via 4×4 jeep tours which also includes a fair bit of hiking with glacier equipment.


Mount Unzen, Japan
A series of overlapping stratovolcanoes, Unzen has wreaked havoc on humans multiple times including in the late 18th century when a collapse of one of its lava domes set off a tsunami that wiped out 15,000 people and again during its most recent eruption from 1990 to 1995 when a pyroclastic flow killed 43 people and several buildings in its path. Located on the Shimabara Peninsula on Japan’s south island, the volcano is part of Unzen Amakusa National Park and visitors can drive as far as Nita-toge Pass which has access to several shops and restaurants and also two observation decks. A popular hiking route affords views of smoking Heisei Shinzan, Mount Unzen’s highest and newest peak.


Related: 9 reasons why we’re in love with Japan right now.

Tagged: Europe, Hawaii, Uncategorized

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Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is a Lead Content Specialist for Expedia Group, and manages content initiatives across numerous Expedia-owned brands. His work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Time Out, the Huffington Post, Chicago Magazine, Passport and many others.

One thought on “Molten hot: 5 active volcanoes to visit now”

  1. I am disappointed that Pacaya in Guatemala isn’t on this list. Also easily accessible, guides take you up the side where you stand on hardened magma as red flowing lava slithers around and under you. The picture you have posted of a women poking a stick into lava is all too common on Pacaya. People spend the night on the mountain and bask in the glow of the lava at night. As my daughter told me when we went there, “where else on earth are you even allowed to do this?

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