While in Syracuse we hired cars and headed for Mt Etna, the largest and most active volcano in Europe. Mt Etna is a 1.5 hour drive from Syracuse and being a big tourist draw card, it gets busy, so we headed off early one morning to avoid the crowds. Navigation was easy, we just headed for the smoke.
There are different ways to visit Etna and you could spend a week cycling and walking in the national park, but we only had a day trip in mind, so, as Heather put it, we aimed to get as high as we could in a day….and she knows all about getting high 🙂
We drove up the switchback road built over old lava flows to 2000m and then took a cable car up to 2500m. From here you can do a 4WD tour to around 3000m or you can walk…much to the kids dismay we opted to walk the last 500m of ascent.
It was a great walk over an eerie terrain similar to a moonscape, punctuated by craters and sulphurous outcrops. You could certainly feel the thin air as you worked your way higher, but it didn’t seem to bother the kids, particularly the boys who seemed to run up and down most of the climb. We stuck to the main trail, but there are lots of side walks you could do to different vent stacks and small craters, and it took us about 2 hours to reach the highest point you can visit without a volcano guide. Due to recent eruptions, you can’t currently currently visit the primary active crater, but you can get to the top of the craters that erupted in 2007 and these are pretty cool. You can walk right around the rim of the crater, and it’s a pretty exposed walk with incredible views of the volcano and the plains of Sicily below. Ben, Hannibal and Oliver dug for minerals and found sulpher and obsidian, and uncoverd hot rocks almost everywhere.
On our way back down we came across a German scientific team who have developed autonomus robots to map and sample parts of the moon and they were testing them on Etna. We got to see them in action and speak to the team. It was a top day and another great experience for the kids!