Ever since I had walked on a glacier in Alaska I wanted to walk on an active volcano. This for me was a bucket list quest. Since I was going to Italy I decided I would do one of the 3 active volcanos that Italy has. Etna you have to take a tram up part of it and then you can hike the rest. Which didn’t seem like much of a challenge. If I was only going to do it once I figured it should be an adventure so I decided to do Stromboli.
Stromboli is a small island which is 1of the 8 Aeolian Islands and is located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the northern coast of Sicily. It has narrow cobblestone streets lined with mostly white buildings. A tiny golf cart is the biggest vehicle that can fit down the streets with a tiny space for people and in some spots no space for anything but the tiny golf cart. The island is only accessible by water. Hotels are within walking distance from the dock.
The last 2,000 years Mount Stromboli has been in continuous eruption and is 1 of 3 active volcanoes in Italy. It stands 926 m (3,038 ft) above sea level. The last major eruption was on April 13, 2009. From the time we arrived until it got dark you could see smoke coming out of the top of the volcano.
Getting to Stromboli
To get to Stromboli you have to take a hydrofoil or a ferry. There are multiple different ways to get there. We went from Melizo and it took 2 hours and 45 mins. It costs 20.35 euros each for the ferry and you are allowed 1 bag so if you have additional bags you will need to pay a baggage pass which is 2 euros. You can take big bags on just note that they can reject you if they think it’s to big. We took a big bag and didn’t have any problems. Once on the hydrofoil you will need to put your bags up front and then take a seat anywhere. There was 3 stops before Stromboli and they announced what they were so you knew not to get off on the wrong stop. One of which was on the other side of the island.
Planning for the hike
A certified guide is required to go with you if you want to hike Stromboli due to how dangerous it is. I went with Etna EST which you can book thru TripAdvisor or Get Your Guide. This company included hiking shoes, mounted light, trekking poles, and helmet. Once I booked and downloaded the getyourguide app they provided mobile vouchers. The guide we had was great. She kept a good pace, kept everyone together, and gave helpful tips.
You can book a hotel on the island which is what we did or take a ferry in but the ferry’s don’t run that often. I would suggest getting a hotel on the island.
• Hiking boots are a must. You can rent them and some trekking companies provide them.
• Layers as it will be very cold at the top.
• A hat for keeping the sun out of your eyes as you climb.
• Sunglasses to help keep the volcanic dust out of your eyes.
• Contacts are forbidden to wear due to the volcanic dust so keep this in mind.
• Flashlight that you can mount to your head as you will be coming down in the dark. Depending on what company you book with they are provided or you can rent them.
• Trekking poles are optional depending on your endurance level.
• Water and a snack.
• Camera of course.
• Carry a scarf or mask with you for up at the top you will be breathing in the volcanic ash.
• Don’t overpack. It’s 3 hours up to the top and then around 1 hour back down to the bottom so think about how much weight you want carry for that long.
• Take a rest day the next day and let your body recover.
Where To Stay
We stayed at Hotel La Sciara. Which was about a mile walk from the dock. The room was nice but the shower was a bit small. Breakfast was included and it was self serve style. The have a big pool, bar, and restaurant.
The hike was both strenuous but also an amazing challenge for me. At 4 pm you go to the meeting point for your group and get your gear which was trekking shoes, helmet, light, and trekking poles for me. Then you go to another waiting area and around 5pm you start off. Your ascent starts at the top of the town which is pretty much the bottom of the volcano. It’s around eight miles with a 3,000 foot incline and then a 3,000 foot decline.
It starts out not to bad for the first 400ft you go thru mostly vegetation and it’s not too steep a climb. Once you reach this first part whoever wants to turn around at this point can which is really the only point you can turn around where it’s safe to.
The second part up is less vegetation and more of a rocky dirt surface. You go up at almost a straight climb zig zagging back in forth along a long pathway.
The third part is where the first challenging part comes as it’s a very rocky dirt surface that can be tricky for your footing and the zig zagging path shortens between the switch backs. You rest again once you reach the next 500ft for 10 minutes. This will be your last rest until you reach the top.
The fourth part is the next challenge as the switchbacks are smaller, you will start climbing out in very rocky surface, and then as you get closer to the top it’s just volcanic ash. One person in the group referred to it as quicksand. At times you can take 1 step forward and slide back 4 steps if your footing is off. Most of the groups hiking catch up with each other at this point. I could see around 5 groups ahead of us and 4 behind us.
Right before the top you stop put on a warm jacket or clothes. You are now required to wear your helmet and put on your light that fits around your helmet. At this point the air has enough volcanic dust in it that you need a scarf or mask as at times it will make you cough.
As we start off for the final ascent you can hear the volcano exploding a little and even though I was getting volcanic ash in my eyes and nose I excitedly hurried to the top. Once you reach the top you have 45 minutes to sit with your group.
As soon as I got to the top and saw the lava it was just a thrilling sight. It was a bit mesmerizing just watching it. There are 3 craters at the top that are active.
I was so exciting to wait and watch for another little explosion that I didn’t notice how cold it was for a couple of minutes and then I needed to put a warmer jacket on. It was so cold at the top and I was so glad to sit as my legs felt like jelly.
Now the decent.. it’s total darkness at this point. We switch on our lights and head down. For 30 minutes it’s just pure volcanic ash you go thru and I was so happy to have my trekking poles. It’s like skiing but on volcanic ash. Your shoes get filled with it. After 30 minutes we stop to empty our shoes and then head down the rest of the way. You still get volcanic ash in your shoes but it’s not as bad. The rest of the way is not as strenuous as going up. I did slip once and fall towards the end as I was totally exhausted and my legs were pretty shaky at this point.
You finish were you start. Restaurants were closed at this time so we had to wait until morning for food which I didn’t mind as I just wanted a shower and to sleep. My clothes were covered in volcanic ash especially my socks.
This was an unbelievably amazing experience to have done. At one point I really didn’t know if I could make it to the top but it was so worth all the sweat and pain when I finally went over the top and saw Mother Nature’s handiwork in action.