Hiking Mount Etna in Sicily | Italy

Hiking Mount Etna in Sicily | Italy

Mount Etna in Sicily is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the tallest active volcano in Europe. But one of the coolest parts of when I lived in Italy is that after hiking Mount Etna in Sicily, I can say that I’ve visited the home of a cyclops.

Mount Etna, Italy

There are many things that make Mount (Mt.) Etna a popular tourist site. From its role in Greek mythology to the ski resort that sits on top of it in the winter, Mt. Etna is more than your average mountain.

pictures of mt enta


climb mt etna

mt etna tourism


It has a volatile reputation and hiking Mt. Etna; the massive monster so often responsible for the city of Catania’s devastation, was something my friends and I knew that we had to do.


mt etna ski resort


As an active volcano, it’s blown its top many times in recent years – to the detriment of the nearby towns and cities. Ash emissions and the sight of flowing lava is not uncommon among those who live near the mountain’s base. It’s no wonder the Phoenicians called it Etna, meaning chimney or furnace.


mt etna summit


But what’s more interesting, is that as a result of the eruptions, which causes collapsing craters and shifting slopes, the topography is constantly shifting.


mt etna summt


The summits height changes with each eruption. Due to this, Mt. Etna has is strikingly unique in that it will not look the same way when you return.


mt etn volcano

Into the belly of the beast


Since Etna is a strato volcano so no one knows exactly where on the massive surface the next eruption will be.


Hiking Mount Etna in Sicily

Climbing Mt. Etna is almost bizarre. The landscape is very bleak. It’s kind of like you’ve landed on another planet and are looking for signs of life.


hiking mt etna


Much of the mountain is covered in lava, pumice, and newly added layers of ash from recent eruptions.


mt etna lav


It takes about two hours to climb up it. When you get to the top of Mt. Etna, either from hiking or taking the cable car, on a clear day you can see all of Sicily.


bus to mt etna


Hiking Mt. Etna without a guide is really easy and exactly what we did. There are probably Mt. Etna tour groups, but I don’t think you need a group or guide for this at all.


mt etna weather

The Valle delle Bove

This is a huge cleft about 11 miles around and 4,000 feet in depth on the southeast slope. It’s one of the most famous parts about Mt. Etna. The majority of all the recent lava flows end up pouring into it. There are extinct craters here as well for you to explore – if you dare.


mt etna travel review

good pic


Life on Mount Etna

One other thing that I thought was interesting is that Sicilians find Etna’s soils to be fertile in some parts. The lower slopes are supported by agriculture, orchards and wineries. The people working and living in these areas of the mountain have seen their share of portions of the town being swallowed up by the volcanic eruptions. Etna’s summit is perpetually emitting smoke.


how to get to mt etna

mt etna snow

Yes, that’s snow


But nature is resilient. There’s a lot of wildlife that live on the slopes of the mountain. From ladybug’s to herons to snakes.


nature on mt etna

Mount Etna & Greek Mythology

Lots of things happened at Mt. Etna for the Greeks. It housed the forges of the god Hephaestus (Vulcan), whose known for making Zeus’ thunderbolts. Zeus of course was the Greek sky and thunder god.


mt etna greek legend


Mt. Etna also served as a prison to some of Greek mythologies most vile monsters. Typhon, “the father of all monsters” was trapped under Mt. Etna by Zeus. Then there was also the titan, Enceladus, who was imprisoned at the mountain’s deep center. Perhaps both are still there today, still trying to break free.

mt. etna crater

mt. etna
ski lifts on mt etna


Mt. Etna Travel Tips

To buy tickets to climb Mt. Etna, go to the Rifugio Sapineza in Nicolosi. There are three stages to the top. A cable car can take you for under 30 euro. A jeep can take you for 51 euro, or you can walk it. To get to Nicolosi from Catania you can take a 2-hour bus ride.

There’s also a bare bones ski resort that operates from December to February. When we had found the ski lifts we had thought these were remnants of a ruined ski resort from before an eruption. Turns out it’s still in operation.


take me to the top of etna


Dress with layers. You’ll get hot-ish hiking up the mountain but it will be breezy and cool once you’re at the top. Also, here are some good tips for Mt. Etna hiking routes. And if you can’t get enough of Italy, check out how awesome my first Roman soccer game was!