Are you a volcano voyeur? There are lots of volcano enthusiasts around the world, and if you’re one of them, these spectacular destinations are for you.
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Avenue of the Volcanoes, Ecuador (Hotel Prices & Photos)
One of the hottest spots on the planet, literally, the Andes are filled with magma spewing, monstrous mounds, and there is nowhere in this region that has more than Ecuador. The “Avenue of the Volcanoes,” which refers to a 200-mile ridge stretching south of Quito, hosts the nation’s highest and most active mountains. Chimbarazo is the tallest of them all at over 20,500 feet, although it hasn’t erupted over the past 1,500 years or so. It’s the second highest mountain, Cotopaxi, at 19,347 feet in height, that’s the angriest, having erupted some 50 times since the mid-18th century. One of the most active volcanoes in the world, it has a nearly perfect conical shape and attracts more visitors than any other volcano in Ecuador. Located in Cotopaxi National Park about 40 miles south of the capital city of Quito, you can view it from afar, or, if you’re especially fit and courageous, climbing is an option all year-round.
Japan (Hotel Prices & Photos)
From awe-inspiring Mount Fuji to an underwater volcano that formed a new island in 2015, Japan is home to 109 active volcanoes that account for about 10 percent of all of the world’s active volcanoes. While Japan’s best known volcano, Mount Fuji, has been showing signs of possible eruption in the near future, as of now, the country’s most active volcano is Mount Aso, located on the southern island of Kyushu in Aso Kuju National Park. It’s renowned for housing one of the largest calderas on the planet, and offers numerous viewpoints over the alien-like, pitted landscape. When Aso accessible, you can get a lot closer to the crater than some of the others, such as Sakurajima, which can only be viewed at its base. Your first glimpse for the upper edge of the caldera is absolutely breathtaking, with its massive green basin and steep slopes that lead down about 330 feet, forming a half-circle, while high rocky volcanic shapes rising out of the center. Just remember, visiting it doesn’t come without risk, as you may expose yourself to potentially unsafe levels of noxious toxic gas.
Costa Rica (Hotel Prices & Photos)
There are six active volcanoes and 61 dormant or extinct volcanoes in Costa Rica, a fairly high number for a nation so small. Arenal, in the north, is its most popular volcano, and one of the world’s most active. It stands at over 5,000 feet high, and while it was dormant for centuries, it awoke in 1968 following an earthquake and had frequent eruptions up until 2010. Before it began to spew its lava again, admirers traveled to its base in droves to catch a glimpse of the glowing rocks and molten lava that tumbled from its sides, but today, visitors take in the view from the Arenal Observatory Lodge along the volcano’s northern side. In addition to viewing the volcano, there are many outstanding hikes in the area as well as geothermal springs, a beautiful lake, and the popular La Fortuna waterfall.
Iceland (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Located along the boundary of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, Iceland is an island whose very creation is a result of multiple undersea volcanic eruptions. Today, it has about 130 active and inactive volcanoes, with its last big eruption occurring between August 2014 and March 2015 in Holuhraun in Bardarbunga, just north of Vatnajökull glacier in the interior of the country. Pay a visit to the stunning landscape of the highlands and you can expect to see geysers, awe-inspiring glaciers and lava deserts alongside an array of active volcanoes. A half-hour’s drive southeast of the capital city of Reykjavik, and you can delve right into a dormant volcano. The empty chamber of Thrihnukagigur, also known as Three Peaks Crater, was once filled with magma, but it’s been inactive for at least 14,000 years, which means you can safely go in by joining a guided tour offers between May and September. You’ll descend nearly 400 feet to the bottom via an open cable lift, while taking in incredible views of the multi-colored volcanic rocks.
Italy (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Italy is home to mainland Europe’s only active volcanoes: Vesuvius, Stromboli and Etna. Mount Etna is the highest active volcano in Europe, measuring over 10,000 feet tall. It contains more than 400 craters and is in a constant state of activity, which means you’re likely to see it spew ash and lava. You can visit by taking a cable car up, joining a guided climb or jeep tour. Vesuvius is the country’s most famous volcano, although it hasn’t erupted since 1944. It’s not the place to go to avoid the crowds, though you can take the short but steep hike to the edge of the main crater and watch the steam rise – views of the landscape below are spectacular. Stromboli bursts with nearly constant explosive activity – you can take a guided trip to the summit crater and watch the mild explosions that look like a fireworks display at dusk. Organized hikes depart daily and are timed to reach the summit at sunset.
Hawaii (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Similar to Iceland, this U.S. island state was created by fire, forming following massive undersea volcanic activity. At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you can watch the landscape change before your very eyes, witnessing ecological dominance firsthand. Located 30 miles south of Hilo, the park is home to Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. The chance to watch the primal process of creation and destruction as well as to learn more about how the Hawaiian Islands were formed, make it one of the most popular visitor attractions throughout Hawaii. It encompasses some 330,000 acres, from the summit of Maunaloa to the sea, with 150 miles of hiking trails that wind through rainforests, desert terrain and volcanic craters. It also boasts a walk-in lava tube, a museum and petroglyphs.
Indonesia (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Indonesia is home to nearly 150 volcanoes, 76 of which are active. Of course, they’re also incredibly dangerous. Krakatau, one of its best-known volcanoes, had a massive eruption in 1883 that killed more than 30,000 people. That eruption is believed to have been the loudest noise in recorded history. It continues to be highly active, with the cone growing and regularly erupting. At times when it is not too active it can be visited or even climbed, with numerous tours available from Jakarta. Mount Bromo in East Java, can also be visited. Every year during the Kasada festival you can watch the locals throw offerings into its crater to appease the mountain gods. To get to the base, tourists need to walk, horseback ride, or drive across an ash desert. When activity is low, there are stairs that can be climbed, leading to the rim of the crater.
Guatemala (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Guatemala has the highest amount of volcanoes in the region, with 37 seven spread throughout its territory, thanks to its location along the ring of fire, an almost perfect circle that spans across the globe. The country is also home to the top two tallest peaks of Central America which happen to be volcanoes: Tacaná and Tajumulco. The country’s active volcanoes include Fuego, Santiaguito and Pacaya, the latter of which has been in a constant state of eruption since 1065. While visitors are banned from going to the main crater, there is a trail that can be taken up to a plateau near the summit that can be walked, or enjoyed on horseback with a tour guide. At a number of points along the walk, you can even roast marshmallows on the hot volcanic stones. Tours are also offered on Acatenango, Tacana, Tajumulco and Santiaguito.
Montserrat (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Montserrat is known as the Caribbean’s Emerald Isle due to its Irish heritage and lush rainforests. The island is also a modern-day Pompeii, with its former capital of Plymouth devastated and abandoned by volcanic eruptions. One side of the island remains lush and green, offering everything you could ever want in a Caribbean vacation, while the other is dismal, gray, and eerily fascinating. One of the main reasons that tourists visit the island is to see the Soufrière Hills volcano that reawakened two decades ago and left two-thirds of the island uninhabitable. There are also three other volcanoes here, the Silver Hill, the Centre Hills and the South Soufrière Hills, though all are extinct. Visitors are allowed to view Soufrière Hills from a safe distance, with the Hazard Level System in Montserrat controlling activity around it to advise people of the level of risk and the amount of access allowed.
Washington State (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Washington State is home to five active volcanoes: Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, Glacier Peak, and Mount Baker. Of the 20 total active volcanoes in the lower 48 states, a quarter of them can be found right here. The volcano experts in this region would predict that Mount Saint Helens is the most likely to erupt next, as eruptions can go on for decades or even years of quiet in between. That means it’s quite possible that Helens is not finished with what began with a massive eruption in 1980, the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the country. Today, the mountain hosts a number of visitor centers where you can learn more about it, although the best way to see it may be to take a helicopter flight from the Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center to get a bird’s-eye view of the landscape.