With the sun setting over the Tyrrhenian Sea, we hiked to the summit of Stromboli, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. As we approached the summit, the smell of sulfur filled the air adding to our anticipation and excitement. We were looking forward to watching one of nature’s own fireworks displays as the night sky filled with spectacular eruptions from Stromboli’s central crater.
Calling volcano enthusiasts
Just the day before our captain announced, “We will soon be landing at Catania airport. If you’re sitting on the left side of the plane you should get a lovely view of Mount Etna and see her erupting for you.” It seemed our adventure was starting before we had even landed. As it was already dark and the flight was on time, the pilot decided to go around Mount Etna again so that passengers on both sides could have a good view of the eruption. At 3,330m, Mount Etna is the highest and most active volcano in Europe; like Stromboli it is also a stratovolcano made up of alternating layers of lava and ash. It was amazing to look down on the volcano and see the red lava and the smoke drifting up towards the plane as we flew past.
Stromboli – Lighthouse of the Mediterranean
We were on a short break to visit the island of Stromboli; the northeastern most of the eight Aeolian Islands. Stromboli rises from more than 1000m below sea level to a height of 924 metres. It is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and is known as the “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean” because its eruptions are visible from many miles away at night. Stromboli is a stratovolcano consisting of layers of baslatic and andesitic lavas and ash. Occurring every few minutes, its distinctive eruptions are described by geologists as Strombolian and are caused by gas bubbles bursting and causing lava and other explosive products to often reach heights of several hundred metres.
After flying into Catania on Sicily, and being greeted by the fresh eruption and lava flow on Mount Etna, we climbed into our hire car and made our way to the north of the island where we would catch the boat to Stromboli Island. As we were landing in the evening, and ferries to Stromboli were not too frequent, we had decided to base ourselves in a hotel in Milazzo on the north of the island. We planned to hike up Stromboli the next evening so we needed to find somewhere to sleep on Stromboli island when we arrived there.
- Day 1: Evening flight from
UKto Catania. Collect hirecar and drive to our hotel in Milazzo (1h 45 min).
- Day 2: Catch passenger boat from Milazzo to Stromboli, book into hotel and hike to the summit of Stromboli.
- Day 3: Lazy morning, return by boat from Stromboli and stay overnight in Milazzo.
- Day 4: Return to Catania and catch
returnflight to UK.
Ferry time Milazzo to Stromboli is approximately 3 hours. On the way to
Nightly excursions take place each day, hiking up to the crater edge to watch the
- Do I reserve in advance? You must be part of a group to hike up Stromboli and if you are visiting during peak time (June to September) it’s advisable to book in advance. There are a few guide/travel groups with offices in the village centre that you can book with directly and, during quieter times, you can sign up on the day join that evening’s hike. This is what we did.
- How fit do I need to be? Whilst we are not super-fit, you do need to be able to hike uphill for a couple of hours. Remember that the heat and humidity will not help. Your group leader will make stops along the way (every 30 minutes) but you will fall behind if you need to stop more often. Our hike started about 16:00.
- July and August are busy and also extremely hot and humid so a higher level of fitness will be required than at the quieter, cooler times of the year.
- What do I need? You’ll be part of a large group (about 20 people) and will need to have your own supplies. They will provide a climbing hat but insist you have good strong trainers/boots and a torch. It’s a good idea to have a scarf to protect your nose and mouth from fumes and dust, water, warm clothes and, of course, your camera. We found the descent happened very quickly down quite a steep scree and the group quickly split up. If needed, make sure you have a rest at the summit during the 45 minute stop there before descending.
- Do I have to do the hike? If you don’t want to hike, there are several other ways to see the volcano including evening boat trips around the island. As the sun sets you will get good views of the volcanic eruptions against the darkening sky.
Where to Stay
On Stromboli Island, we booked a room in Hotel Ossidiana, Via Marina, Isola di Stromboli, 98050, for €99 with a balcony looking out to the sea/beach and a short walk to the ferry jetty. Remember that there will be plenty of travellers arriving back late after their hike up the volcano.
In Milazzo, we stayed at the Eolian Milazzo, Via Salita Cappuccini 21/25, 98057 Milazzo, with a wonderful balcony and great views overlooking the bay. This was a very modern and stylish hotel and very
This is one of our favourite short trips. The Aoelian Islands are beautiful and we would like to have taken more time to visit the other islands along the route. Unfortunately, weather conditions were not ideal at the volcano summit so we did not get the best view of the eruptions but it was still a great adventure.