Mount Etna is probably one of the most famous attractions in Sicily. It’s just outside of Catania and you may even see the smoking top from some of the streets. Go high enough in a building and you’ll definitely be treated to a panorama of the mountain. But is Etna worth visiting? That’s a question many travelers ask.
Visiting Mount Etna will take a considerable amount of time. However, if you want the short answer, then yes, definitely visit the Volcano. It’s a unique experience and while it does take time to complete a visit you’ll make some amazing memories along the way.
Okay, now you got your answer but ready to learn more? Read on. We’ll cover why we think it’s worth visiting the Etna and why it should be on your radar. We’ll also give some nice tips for your visit.
Why is it worth visiting the Etna?
Simply put, the Etna is one of the most unique attractions in Europe. It’s the highest active volcano on the continent and for many people, it’s one of the easiest to access among the other volcanos on Earth.
It’s also a very active one, so whenever you visit there’s likely going to be smoke and maybe even some lava flow, though, the latter is hardly guaranteed.
The mountain is a very important natural and cultural site. The volcanic activity of Etna is actually the most documented volcano. From very early in history the people living in the area started observing and writing about the spectacle.
In 2013 Etna was also added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list marking the uniqueness and cultural importance of the area.
Up near the top of the volcano, you can see scenery that’s unlike anything else in Europe. It looks almost like a barren wasteland or another planet. You will be surprised how everything is different when in reality you only went up a few hundred meters.
Is it worth skipping some attractions to visit Etna?
Not going to line, a visit to the volcano is usually at least half a day. If you want to get really close and take on a guided tour then even more. This means you will be allocating a lot of time for just this one location.
So, you might wonder: is it worth skipping some amazing towns and places just to see the Etna? In our opinion yes. Let me tell you my own story.
When planning my first time in Sicily, I included the Etna as an optional attraction. In the end, our group decided that we’ll skip some towns since we’d done already a lot of those and see what’s up with this volcano. It was the best decision ever. I felt that I would be missing out if I didn’t see the Etna. Of course, I wouldn’t know if I didn’t go, but you get the idea.
So, in my mind, you should choose the Etna over sightseeing. Especially if you do a shorter tour, then you can easily fit Etna and Taormina into the same day.
Ways to visit Mount Etna
Convinced? Good. Now, let’s check some important info about your Etna visit. It’s a big place so it’s best to come prepared.
Self Guided Visit
If you want a self-guided visit it’s best to drive here. Most tours start from Etna Sud and we recommend this place as your starting point. Here’s a Google Maps link to the parking lot that you must go to.
The drive up to the parking spot involves quite an interesting mountain road but it’s rather wide. If you pay attention it’s not a difficult drive. Once you’ve parked you’ll need to pay. Go into any of the souvenir shops and they’ll sell you a day ticket. There is also a toilet here, paid, but clean.
Getting up the Etna there are a few choices. First of all, you must note, that without a tour guide, you can only go as far as Torre Del Philosopher. Beyond this point, you can only do guided tours as the hike becomes dangerous due to volcanic activity.
Cable Car, Bus, or Walking?
From the parking lot, you can either start walking straight away or take a shortcut via a cable car. The walking path starts next to the cable car. It’s around 1h 15-30 mins and it’s some of the steepest parts of the hike. It’s also a rather boring landscape so we recommend the cable car. It saves you time.
Both the initial climb on foot and the cable car will the Cable Car Bar at 2500 meters above sea level. It’s a nice opportunity to take a toilet break and grab a bite here.
Buses run between Torre del Philosopher and the bar. These are cool offroad buses but we don’t necessarily recommend them. This part is the interesting part. A walk to Torre Del Philosopher follows the same route as the bus and it is around 40 mins or 1 hour.
If you are at an okay fitness level then we recommend walking this part, at least one way. You’ll be treated to a desolate landscape that looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. If you walk you may also climb up to Cratere del Laghetto which is one of the old inactive craters of the volcano.
You may try to take the bus on the way back from Torre del Philosopher but it’s a nice walk and it’s unlike anything else in Europe.
Once again, we recommend the cable car to get back to the parking lot. It saves time especially if you want to do some sightseeing on the same day.
A self-guided visit with a cable car on the way up and down without taking the bus is around three hours from the parking lot.
A typical guided tour to Mount Etna is usually around 6 hours. However, this is the only way to get really close to the action. If you want to feel the heat, and the lava, and fully experience Etna then a guided tour is definitely recommended.
These guided tours are amazing but you must read through the description of each. They vary in what they offer. For example, most of them start at the mountain and offer no Catania pick-up. This means you will have to get to the parking lot (link above) on your own.
Some of them include the cable car price, others do not. This means you’ll need to pay for the cable car (around 50 EUR) additionally to the tour cost.
Some of the tours take you all the way to the top while others are easier and allow you to see less of the mountain. So, whenever you are booking a tour, make sure you read through the fine print to understand what is and what is not included.
If you want our recommendation for a guided tour we’ve got one below. Click the button to check availability. It’s a tour that will take you to the top, it has the cable car included so you don’t have to worry about that. It starts at Etna though so you’ll have to get there (though there is an optional transfer from Catania). Be aware that we’ll receive a small commission if you via our link.
What to bring for your Etna Visit?
Remember: the Etna is really high. Even during summer, it can be cold up there. And if not cold then most definitely windy. Outside of summer? You’ll need to dress up.
Make sure that you have at least a jacket with you to keep warm. A wind jacket would be the best as it does get windy up there. Just make sure you have some clothes you can put on if it’s cold. You’ll be thinking at the bottom of the cable car: this can’t be that much colder up top. It is.
You need proper shoes as well. The ground is very fine rocks which is absolutely terrible without a proper shoe. Something like a flip-flop or a sandal will fill up with small rocks in a second and you’ll wish to be anywhere but on Mount Etna.
We also recommend one more item: a thin scarf. Not necessarily for the cold but rather for the dust. The wind and the bus traffic create tons of dust on the top of the mountain. A scarf that you can put in front of your face will help with all this.
Is Etna Worth Visiting? – FAQ
A self-guided tour usually takes three maybe four hours. Meanwhile, a guided tour is 6-8 hours depending on which tour you choose. Driving to and from Etna is not included in these times.
Yes, it’s possible. You can go all the way up to Torre Del Philosopher. After this point, guided tours only.
Yes, a visit to the volcano is perfectly safe. It’s one of the most important attractions in the region and safety is very important. If the volcanic activity is too much then the place is closed for visitors.