There are city breaks, beach holidays, and wilderness vacations where you can get up close to nature’s more spectacular creatures and scenery. Most nature holidays focus around plants and animals or maybe on snow, sea, or sun. When it comes to geology, few people get really excited, but the rise in volcano tourism is slowly changing that.
And why not? Volcanoes are incredibly spectacular and there are several places where it’s quite possible to view volcanic activity quite safely. Think volcano and most people immediately picture red hot rivers of lava and huge explosions tearing apart mountains. The lava flows are relatively common, the massive disruptive eruptions less so. Many active volcanoes have slow and steady activity patterns rather than brooding silence interrupted by furious eruption. Visiting them can be perfectly safe.
Hawaii’s Big Island is one of the best places to go to see active volcanoes. The most spectacular is Kilauea, which is probably the most famous volcano in the world and undoubtedly the most popular with tourists. It has been erupting more or less continuously for almost 30 years so visitors are virtually guaranteed a spectacular view. At various points it is usually possible to see flowing lava making its way towards the sea, huge clouds of gas and steam, and glowing volcano vents.
The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is filled with hiking trails, information centers, and museums. There are plenty of accommodation choices. Of all volcano holiday destinations it’s probably the best equipped to provide safe, exciting trips. It’s a great choice for families and you’ll be able to spend some quality time on the beach too.
Costa Rica’s Arenal region is less well known but it’s fast establishing itself as a center of excellence in volcano tourism. Unlike the flatter shield volcanoes of Hawaii, Arenal is a classic steep cone- a stratovolcano. Views of red hot lava flows are common and visitors can also experience volcanic activity in a milder, more intimate form. The area is dotted with hot springs, many of which are the perfect temperature for bathing and swimming.
Icelandic volcanoes made the news in 2010 when expelled clouds of ash from Eyjafjallajökull grounded planes all over Europe. The ash might have caused chaos for travellers all over the world but after that particular episode died down, tourists became interested in Iceland’s volcanic side for other reasons. They aren’t so reliably active as Arenal or Kilauea, but Iceland is home to incredibly spectacular geysers, hot springs, and several volcanoes that may erupt in the next few years. You can experience the midnight sun in summer and the Aurora Borealis in winter so there are plenty of other reasons to go.
In Iceland, Hawaii, and Costa Rica the volcano experience is relatively safe. The eruption patterns are fairly deeply understood and the risks to bystanders are very well managed. You can sleep soundly in a hotel room under Arenal just miles from the lava vents. However, there are volcano tourism options for those who want a little more adrenaline. Nicaragua’s Masaya volcano is not for the faint of heart, and Krakatau is still very much an active and dangerous place.
Although volcano tourism is booming, only a tiny number of people have been lucky enough to safely experience the tremendous power and majesty of a volcanic eruption. As a holiday, seeing a volcano is an unforgettable experience, unlike anything else on Earth.