Visiting Etna and walking on this enchanting moonscape will be one of the unforgettable experiences of your life! Discover how to visit Etna in Sicily
If you have not yet had the chance to visit Etna, this article will give you an imaginative insight into this fascinating and inaccessible place. It will also help you to prepare in the best possible way for your Mount Etna day trip!
Visiting Etna, the giant of Europe
Did you know that Mount Etna is the largest volcano in Europe and also one of the most active? It stands majestically before our eyes at 3320 metres high.
It is a volcano with predominantly effusive activity: it emits lava flows but explosive eruptive episodes are not excluded. Its eruptions occur mainly at the summit, where there are four craters:
- Voragine and Bocca Nuova, which make up the central crater;
- North-East Crater, the highest peak;
- Southeast Crater, the most active in recent years;
- Lateral craters were only active during the eruption that formed them.
No one remains indifferent to the majesty of this volcano. Even UNESCO was fascinated by the amazing Mount Etna volcano and made it a World Heritage Site in 2013.
Visit Etna & Discover Parco dell’Etna National Park
Mount Etna is part of one of the most beautiful natural parks in Italy, the Parco dell’Etna National Park. A treasure chest of natural beauty that surrounds and protects the volcano, which we find right in the centre of the park.
In the Mount Etna National Park, paths, woods, views and towns represent the colours of this magnificent natural setting. In order to safeguard the charm of this area, it has been divided into zones with different levels of protection:
- Zone A is the integral reserve zone where the priority is environmental protection. In fact, in this part of the park, human activity is reduced to a minimum.
- Zone B is the general reserve area, where respect for the territory meets local economic development thanks to the presence of small agricultural plots.
- The last two zones, C and D, are in the controlled development area, which is considerably anthropised although with great attention to nature.
Excursions to Mount Etna
Let’s discover the different adventures to enjoy when hiking Mount Etna.
In fact, there are many activities that can be carried out in the park. Several trekking routes allow you to go into the heart of the park and climb Mount Etna itself.
An excursion is a must during your Mount Etna trip! Crossing the dense network of paths that embellish the park, you will appreciate the natural elements and understand the importance of their conservation.
How to visit Etna? Here are the main paths in the park.
- 701 Etna High Mountain Track – Sentiero Italia: this is an excursion that takes three days to complete. The level of difficulty is medium-high, so it is perfect for those who love trekking and are already experienced. In addition to the classic ascent to the summit areas, it includes the entire tour of Etna on foot, a unique experience!
- Monte Nero Degli Zampini Nature Trail: this is one of the most popular routes when you decide to visit Etna. It lasts about two hours and thirty minutes and is not particularly difficult. It is therefore suitable for anyone who wants to enjoy the beauty of the park and the volcano Etna. The route ends at the Giardino Botanico Nuova Gussonea, which is an important place for research and study.
- Monti Sartorius Nature Trail: this trail is particularly beautiful and suitable for everyone! It takes about two hours and is an easy walk. Those who decide to undertake this journey will be able to admire the imposing lava flow of 1865 Mount Etna eruption that gave rise to the Sartorius Mountains.
- 736 Piano Dei Grilli: this route is not extremely demanding in physical terms, but it is certainly demanding in terms of time. In fact it takes about seven hours. Its name is due to the strong presence of crickets and insects. The cricket’s song will accompany you along the path to Mount Etna in Sicily!
- 717 – Case Pirao – Monte Spagnolo: an easy five-hour excursion on Etna. Visiting Etna will also offer you a surprise. At the end of the path, you will be enraptured by the sight of Etna’s centuries-old beech forest!
- 724 – Pietracannone – Cubania – Sentiero Italia: Along this easy and short route (about two hours and thirty minutes), you will encounter the “Niviera”, a pit where snow was pressed and stored. During the summer, the snow was then transported to the towns of Etna. Visiting Etna also means discovering these traditional “gems”!
- Donkey’s back – Sentiero Italia: If you decide to take this path, you will cross the park observing the flora and fauna in all their beauty. The estimated walking time is about four hours and the difficulty is medium. If you want to put yourself to the test, this is the path for you. Your Mount Etna visit will also become a personal challenge!
Mount Etna Tourism – trekking in the villages, when nature meets man
If you are interested in the Sicilian tradition and culture, in addition to visiting Etna, you can opt for a visit to the nearby villages. These towns have been affected by Mount Etna eruptions of magma and lava. These episodes marked the territory, but also the local culture and history.
On Mount Etna visit some must-see destinations such as:
This small town stretches along the western slopes of Mount Etna. It is known for the cultivation of the green pistacchio of Bronte PDO.
I could say no more, it is worth visiting Etna and Bronte just for its green gold! In fact, the town is known worldwide as the city of Bronte pistachios.
A plant brought by the Arabs which, by interacting with the volcanic soil, finds its maximum qualitative expression! In early October, you can take part in the famous Bronte pistachio festival.
The city’s link with the volcano is illustrated by the Santuario dell’Annunziata. This sacred place preserves the marble group of the Annunciation, which is entrusted with the role of protection from the fury of the volcano.
2. Zafferana Etnea
This town is located on the eastern slopes of Mount Etna and extends to the summit. A pleasant visit all year round, but in October you will find the town in celebration!
In fact, at this time of year they organise the “Ottobrata Zafferanese”, an event to promote traditional food, wine and local traditions. You can therefore visit Etna by immersing yourself even more in the culture of this delightful village.
In this village you will feel a strong dramatic relationship with the volcano. In fact, the town has been affected by violent Mount Etna eruptions. The streets and alleyways are full of altars and religious monuments erected to protect themselves and ask the volcano for “grace”. This is a sacred place to explore and visit Etna from different points of view.
Apart from the elegance of its historic centre with religious buildings, Linguaglossa is known by sportsmen and women for the Piano Provenzana ski resort, located on the north side of the mountain. Are you curious about this aspect of the volcano? Follow me, in the next paragraphs your curiosity will be satisfied!
This medieval village is located on the northern slope of Etna and is also known as “the city of a hundred churches”. In fact, you can visit the town’s three historic churches and walk along the suggestive “via degli Archi” made of lava basalt, along which you will find pointed arches. You will appreciate the natural landscapes of the three parks that cross this town (Etna Park, Nebrodi Park and Alcantara River Park).
How to get there? Mount Etna visitor centre
If you decide to go to Mount Etna by car, you will be able to reach the volcano via several signposted roads.
On the other hand, if you decide to visit Etna by public trasports, no problem! In fact, there are several ways to reach this natural beauty by public transport.
One of the most original and alternative options is the Circumetnea Railway, not only to get to Etna but also to visit it! This is a historic railway dating back to 1898 that runs 110 km around the park’s protagonist. Want to organise Mount Etna tours from Catania? The route starts in Catania Borgo station and ends in three hours in Riposto. You will pass through some of Etna’s villages and see the park from a different perspective!
Another interesting way to visit Etna is by cable car, which is located on the southern side of the volcano. Mount Etna cable car starts from the valley station, called Rifugio Sapienza, and will take you to the summit at about 2500 m.
Moreover, this means of transport is essential for those who want to ski. Yes, you can also ski on Mount Etna, didn’t you know? Follow me in the next paragraph if you are a winter sports enthusiast!
Otherwise, you can use the classic bus service from Catania’s central station to get to Mount Etna.
A landscape to experience in all seasons!
Visiting Etna will be an experience suitable for all seasons.
As we have seen so far, there are so many activities to do in the Etna park that you will be spoilt for choice.
For excursions, a mild, sunny but not excessively hot climate is preferable. The ideal seasons are therefore spring and autumn. It will also be possible to visit Etna in summer and winter if you are adequately equipped with technical clothing.
You can choose whether to visit the park on your own two feet, with greater relaxation and abandonment to the rhythm of your steps, or choose different, more adrenalin-fuelled experiences such as mountain biking or helicopter riding.
Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, in the cold season it will be possible to enjoy these landscapes by practising winter sports such as skiing, cross-country skiing, ski mountaineering and snowboarding.
On the north-eastern side of Mount Etna, you can ski at the Linguaglossa ski resort, Piano Provenzana. Another reference point for winter sports on Etna is Nicolosi Nord. From here you can enjoy skiing at an altitude of 2700 metres!
Where to stay on Mount Etna
If you want to experience the thrill of sleeping on a volcano, there are several options to choose from. The more adventurous can sleep in mountain huts. If you want to relax after an intense day of skiing or hiking, you can choose from several B&Bs and hotels located in the towns of the park.
Now that you’re dreaming of visiting Etna, take a trip with Italia Delight to Bronte and Randazzo and then continue exploring this treasure trove of wonders! You can also create your tailor-made food tour with Italia Delight’s Local Experts! 🤩