Hotspot volcanoes

Three of the best places to experience volcanoes

In March, a volcano in southwest Iceland, on the Reykjanes peninsula, began to erupt. Thousands of visitors have since been drawn to the Geldinga Valley to watch lava flows from what geologists call a “minor” eruption. “But for Icelanders, it’s a rare opportunity to see their volcanic landscape take shape,” Egill Bjarnason told the Financial Times.

Naturally, volcanoes must be respected. “Never look at the volcano with the wind in your face,” warns Logi Sigurdsson, a security volunteer, or you risk breathing in the toxic gases that are emitted. The crowds, however, are unfazed. “A huge tongue of lava is spreading like honey over the yellow grass,” says Bjarnason. “Someone is throwing a big snowball. Puff!”

Stromboli: the Lighthouse of the Mediterranean

“For anyone looking to experience the raw, almost supernatural power of a volcano, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place than Stromboli,” Robin George Andrews told The New York Times. Located northwest of Italy’s toe, Stromboli is known as the “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean” for a reason.

“If you stand at the top at night and turn off your flashlight, all you can see are diamond specks glinting in the dark. an endless pool of ink. The inevitable rumbles of the blackened earth beneath your feet eventually remind you that you are still on this planet. And when a jet of incandescent molten rock shoots skyward and illuminates the earth like a flare , you have the impression of looking at a dragon.

The aftermath of the eruptions creates “famous fertile ground for tourism,” says Rachel Ng for National Geographic. The “onsen ryokans” (thermal inns), for example, have emerged in Japanese villages near volcanoes since the 8th century. Mount Fuji has restaurants on its flanks and Mount Vesuvius in southern Italy was a highlight of great tours in the 17th and 18th centuries. The “steam, crackle and noise of active volcanoes has a look all its own”.

Over the last decade or so, fueled in part by the rise of social media, this has attracted “lava hunters”. It can be “the thrill of life – or a fatal attraction”. In December 2019, 22 tourists were killed and 25 injured when New Zealand’s Whakaari/White Island volcano erupted. And last month, those living on the northern end of the Caribbean island of St. Vincent were evacuated after the La Soufriere explosion. Yet, rather than discouraging tourism, the danger seems to arouse curiosity. Meanwhile, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa – the world’s largest active volcano – is “slowly waking up”.

A safer way to witness the power of volcanoes is to visit the Azores. Straddling the North American, African and Eurasian continental plates, these islands are a geological hotspot full of volcanic craters, explains Jane Knight in The Mail on Sunday. Some of them you can walk inside, with their “steaming fumaroles, bubbling hot springs, verdant valleys and cavernous caves formed from solidified lava”.

The larger island of Sao Miguel has beautiful lake-filled craters, such as Sete Cidades, three miles in diameter, and filled with water in hues of blue and emerald. You can hike near the Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire) lined with hydrangeas and, in Furnas, refuel on cozido, a kind of casserole cooked in a volcanic steam chamber. “Of the many walking trips on offer, Regent Travel has one of the best, combining the geographical highlights of Sao Miguel with the lesser known island of Santa Maria, where you can admire its highest peak and visit an area of ​​land brightly colored known as the red desert. From £1,335 pp for eight days; regent-holidays.co.uk.

Iceland Fagradalsfjall © Getty images
Immerse yourself in geothermal waters

Back in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is located in the Unesco Global Geopark and otherworldly lava field and it is understandably one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country. But don’t be put off by its popularity, says Nicole Trilivas in The Spectator. You can avoid the crowds by checking into the luxury, all-suite hotel The Retreat at Blue Lagoon (from ISK 180,000 or £1,050; bluelagoon.com). There are even four suites with personal lagoon pools for “the ultimate private dip in the medicinal, milky blue geothermal waters.”

Discover the World also offers a trip to the Blue Lagoon (entrance fee) and the Reykjanes Peninsula before heading along the south coast of Iceland, as part of its Volcanic Explorer package. From £671, excluding flights; discovery-of-the-world.com.

This article originally appeared in MoneyWeek

MoneyWeek