Holidays in the Shadow of the World’s Most Active Volcanoes

Mount Etna Italy
Mount Enta // Photo by stevenmayatt/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

by Greg Dickinson, The Telegraph, May 4, 2018

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has erupted, prompting a local state of emergency and the evacuation of thousands of residents in the surrounding area.

The eruption follows over 100 small earthquakes on Big Island in recent days and began at 4.45pm local time (2.45am GMT).

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While it’s not the biggest volcano in Hawaii, Kilauea is the archipelago's most active – it has been consistently spewing out lava since 1983.

Volcanoes National Park is one of the major attractions for the nine million tourists who visit Hawaii each year. Suspended in a near-perpetual state of eruption, Kilauea can be viewed from the 11-mile Crater Rim Drive which circles the caldera, while the 19-mile Chain of Craters Road leads to the point where lava dramatically enters the ocean.

However, today’s eruption reminds of the dangers associated with volcano tourism.

Following the eruption authorities warned of subsequent "lava inundation" fire, smoke and the possibility of additional earthquakes.

Hawaii’s emergency management agency warned of "potentially lethal concentrations of sulphur dioxide gas" in the area surrounding Kilauea as well as methane blasts that could propel large rocks and debris in nearby areas.

Governor David Ige activated Hawaii's National Guard troops, and instructed residents to respond to warnings. "Please be alert and prepare now to keep your family safe," Ige wrote on Twitter.

Hawaii is not the only destination that lures holidaymakers into the shadow, or in some instances – to the top of – an active volcano

Mount Vesuvius, Naples

Lurking menacingly over Naples, Vesuvius is situated in the most densely populated volcanic region in the world. The last major eruption was in 1944, but another one is due. Nevertheless, visitors can still climb to the summit of this dangerous volcano, which can be reached via mountain roads and hiking trails.

A reminder of the force of Vesuvius can be seen in nearby Pompeii, an ancient Roman settlement that was buried during an eruption here in AD 79. Most residents perished, but the city, which remained lost until 1599, was preserved beneath thick layers of ash.

Mount Fuji, Tokyo

Located less than ninety miles from Tokyo, Mount Fuji is one of the most recognisable landmarks in any Asian country.

Like Vesuvius and Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii, the volcano is a major tourist attraction – visitors can hike the 12,388-foot mountain in around six hours.

The volcano last erupted in 1707 and has not shown signs of activity in recent years. However, a recent report released by a government disaster planning study has warned that an eruption would paralyse Tokyo, cloaking the city in more than 10cm of ash.

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Residents of Quito, Ecuador live in constant fear of "the big one", referring to a major eruption at nearby Cotopaxi, which could wipe some of the Ecuadorian capital off the map.

This stratovolcano spewed ash in 2015, prompting a state of emergency, but a major eruption hasn’t happened here since 1903. When it does, the main fear is not the ash or magma but the giant glacier that sits atop Cotopaxi, which will melt and cause huge mud slides in the event of an eruption.

Despite the threat, hikers continue to climb the 5,807m volcano – if they can stand the altitude.

Mount Etna, Italy

Another brooding Italian volcano, Mount Etna looms large over Sicily and offers regular pyrotechnic shows. Despite frequently spewing out ash and lava, visitors can get relatively close to the action by hiking its rugged flanks.

At a more reassuring distance from the caldera, the Circumetnea Railway offers scenic three-hour trips around the base of the volcano.

Mount Merapi, Indonesia

Volcanoes abound in Indonesia, but Mount Merapi is the country’s most active. Straddling the border between the provinces of Central Java and Yogyakarta, the last major eruption at this 2,914m volcano was in 2010, which resulted in the evacuation of everyone living within 20km of the crater. Scores of people were killed.

Nevertheless, visitors continue to flirt with danger on a hike to Mount Merapi’s summit, departing from the village of Selo on the north face of the volcano.

The British volcanoes you didn't know about 

Teide, Tenerife

The wine that William Shakespeare loved was loaded onto vessels in the coastal town of Garachico in Tenerife and shipped to Canary Wharf in London, which, incidentally, takes its name from the Canary Islands. Unfortunately, Garachico’s reputation as an international port disappeared overnight in 1706 when an eruption at Teide destroyed the town.

It’s a reminder of the power of this volcano, which, despite being active, can be explored via a cable car and various hiking trails.

Mount Arenal, Costa Rica

One of the world’s most active volcanoes until just a few years ago, Arenal in Costa Rica is also one of its prettiest. Rising dramatically from the surrounding jungle, its vertiginous flanks are blanketed by hardened lava fields and exotic flora.

Don’t be fooled by its beauty, though: an eruption here in 1968 destroyed the nearby town of Tabacon, which is one reason why climbing Arenal is not permitted. It is, however, possible to explore the volcano’s foothills, where endemic wildlife abounds. Eruptions, much to the disappointment of tourists and local hoteliers, ceased in 2010 – but the beautiful cone (when it isn’t covered in cloud) and local wildlife more than make up for the lack of lava. 


This article was written by Greg Dickinson from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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