Etna is the highest active volcano in Europe. Together with the mafia and Sicilian sweets, cannoli is the hallmark of the island. And everyone who comes to Sicily considers it his duty to visit Etna.
I recommend the article ” How to plan a vacation in Sicily “
- Etna’s height is variable, and varies from eruption to eruption, at the moment – about 3329 meters;
- Etna erupted about 200 times during its existence, at the time of writing, the last eruption was May 21, 2016 (2 weeks before our visit);
- the lava flow rate during the eruption does not exceed 5 km per hour, so you can literally run away from the eruption;
- the distance from Catania to Etna (to the Rifugio Giovanni Sapienza site) is approximately 40 km.
Etna. How to get there.
The most convenient way to get to Etna is from Catania, firstly, it is easier, and secondly, closer. However, with a great desire to see the visiting card of the island, you can get from other cities of Sicily. Now I will tell you what options are there.
Firstly, Mount Etna can be reached by car. If you rented a car at the airport of Catania or Palermo, it will not be difficult to get to the volcano. The road is good enough, the serpentine is not scary. There are three routes for climbing Mount Etna :
- Southern (EtnaSud) through the Rifugio Giovanni Sapienza / Rifujo Sapienza platform (the most popular among lovers of car trips and those who prefer public transportation. More excursions are also brought here). On this route we got to Etna by bus.
- East – the path lies through the village of Zafferana Etnea / Zafferana Etnea and also leads to the Rifugio Sapienza site. On this route we went on the return journey towards Taormina – the path passed along narrow, almost country (but asphalted!) Paths, sometimes the road was literally in one lane, where it was necessary to part with oncoming cars, but there were few cars along the way.
- Northern (EtnaNord) – lies through the cities of Piedimonte Etneo and Piedimonte Etneo and leads not to Rifujo Sapienza, but to Piano Provenzana base, here, unlike the first platform, there is no cable car.
I’ll tell you more about the Rifugio Sapienza site . In fact, this is the base point where buses from Catania come, as well as most independent tourists by car. The base is located at an altitude of 1900 meters. There is a large parking lot (parking price about 4 euros per day), as well as souvenir shops, cafes and ticket offices where you can buy a ticket for a further rise. Already at this height there is something to see – not far from the parking lot there is one of the side craters.
For those who want more – a lift or telecabina, which raises to a height of 2300 meters. At this level there is a cafe, a point of delivery of warm clothes (jackets and boots, in my opinion there are no pants, like hats with gloves, the cost for a set is about 2 euros). Here it is already becoming quite cold and pants, a warm jacket or even a jacket are needed. From here, buses go even higher – to a height of 2900 meters. There you can see several new craters, as well as listen to the tour that you most likely already paid for. Since we were not dressed very warmly, we did not go to the highest level. Buses run frequently, every 10-15 minutes
Now about the prices. A lift to a height of 2500 meters costs 30 euros, a bus to a height of 2900 meters costs 24 euros. Plus 9 euros per guide, to refuse from it, judging by the reviews on the Internet, you are unlikely to succeed. Accordingly, a complex ticket will cost 63 euros.
Excursions to the volcano Etna (Sicily)
Take a trip to Etna – the most popular excursion on the island, and this is no accident! After all, having arrived on the island it is impossible not to see its symbol! An excursion to the Etna volcano can be bought at travel agencies in Palermo or Catania, or you can book an excursion in advance.
Etna Volcano on its own without a car
For those who do not drive, or do not want to bother with renting, but who do not like excursions, there is only one option – public transport, namely, a bus from Catania. Getting to Etna from Catania is the easiest way. The only difficulty is that every day only one flight leaves for Etna, namely, at 8.15 the bus leaves for Etna, at 16.30 from Etna. The journey takes about 2 hours, of which 20 minutes the bus is in the town of Nikolosi, this is its standard route.
So, how and where to buy a ticket to Etna yourself. There may be
some difficulty with this, we had to run around a bit, although we read all the information in advance. So, the bus to Etna company AST is sent from the bus station next to the central railway station of Catania. But, there are several of these stations. The very first one is literally 30 meters from the exit from the Station. We do not need it. After passing another 50 meters, another station (located right on Piazza Papa Giovanni XXIII) – it is with her that buses to Etna leave.
Where to buy tickets: tickets are bought at the office of this company, which is located about 100 meters from this bus station. If you stand at the bus station facing the train station, then you need to go along the traffic light, which will be several offices to your right and left, one of which is the office of AST.
The price of a one-way ticket is about 4 euros, round-trip ticket about 6 euros. If you are waiting for a bus, buy immediately there and back, it is more profitable. Is it possible to buy a return ticket at the site – this question remained unanswered – no one understood my Italian)))
If you are going on a trip to Sicily, I recommend reading the article “Prices in Sicily”
Just in case, across the road, somewhere around 200-300 meters there is another station, with it you can leave, for example, in Taormina. Buy tickets at the office across the road, now there are large signs hanging on which you can guess that these are ticket offices (see map above)
If you are going to Etna from Palermo (I mean by public transport), then it seems to me personally impossible to meet one day. Plan 2 days. The first day, you leave from Palermo by bus or train (see How to get from Palermo to Catania ), inspect Catania, you can go to Taormina, spend the night in one of the hotels in Catania , and in the morning leave for Etna at 8.15. The last train to Palermo leaves at 19.32, so when you arrive in Catania at 18.30 you have time for the train (it is better to check the schedule in advance at trenitalia.com)
If you, like us, need to get to some small towns, such as Santa Flavia then it will be harder. Since the last train to catch, leaves from Catania at 17.30, and the bus from Etna arrives only at 18.30. Here is the option – to stay for one more night in Catania, or to hitch, which we did (some sources say that hitchhiking is prohibited on the roads of Sicily, so do not go far from the parking lot and you will be happy). Since we have no experience, at first we tried to find people who were leaving in the parking lot. This option is not very successful, because first of all, it is not clear whether people arrived or leave, and generally take us with them or not (not to mention where they go). After 20 minutes of unsuccessful attempts to find travel companions in the parking lot, we went out. There we had 10 minutes to find a car, the young guys from Argentina went to Taormina and agreed to take us with them. Having considered all the options (I had a complete schedule of trains and buses from nearby settlements to Etna in my notebook), we agreed. In addition to the lateness of the train to the Termini Imerese docking station and the standard problems for Italy with transport (“there is a train going there, but it doesn’t go there”, “no, you need another train”, “next, no, the next one doesn’t stop in Santa Flavia either” ….), we got to our hotel all the same on the same day, although closer to midnight.
Therefore, going to Etna from the other end of the island without a car, be prepared for some inconvenience, delays and unpleasant situations that may occur on the way. But on the other hand, this is an adventure! And an adventure, by definition, cannot be bad or difficult!
And now I’ll try to give questions to the most asked questions that worried me too.
How to dress for Etna? Is it really cold on the volcano and you need to wear a jacket or can you go in shorts?
Really cold! Especially not at the height of summer. In early June, the temperature at the Rifugio Sapienza site was 17 degrees. Without the wind it was still bearable, but not very comfortable (I was in long shorts, a T-shirt, sweater and a warm stole). The temperature at an altitude of 2500 meters, where we reached the funicular was about 13 degrees, the wind was piercing, icy, as if from the Arctic Ocean, and it was simply unrealistic to be outside for more than 3 minutes. Therefore, dress warmer, especially if you want to be at the very top, I think the temperature there is about 8 degrees.
Is it true that after visiting Etna, shoes can be thrown away, since it will become unusable?
Not true! I went to Etna in white sneakers, yes, they were dirty with volcanic dust, yes, the volcanic sand is sharp enough, but for something to happen with the shoes, no. At home, the sneakers were easily washed, the laces were removed and now they are ready to conquer new peaks. For climbing Etna, or the so-called trekking, special shoes are required – yes!
Is the road to Etna a good one, is the serpentine too steep?
The road is quite decent, the serpentine is not strong, not terrible, both from the South and East slopes.
Is it expensive to eat on Etna?
Eating on Etna is not much more expensive than in a cafe in the same Catania. Aranchini snack, pizza and tea will cost about 10 euros, 4 euros of which costs tea.
Where to buy lava stone souvenirs?
We bought souvenirs in Taormina and Etna (the platform where the funicular delivers). There is more choice in Etna than in Taormina, at about the same price (about 5 euros for a small lava stone figurine).