Mount Etna, a 10,922-foot stratovolcano in Sicily, is an irascible peak. Its long history of violent eruptions, coupled with its proximity to population centers, accounts for its designation as one of 16 worldwide "Decade Volcanoes," closely monitored by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior. One of the great peaks of Europe, it also stands as a beacon for hikers.
Avoid the extremes of Etna's mountain climate. Summers upon its lava-scarred highland are unforgiving, and winters bring fierce snows. Plan your hike for spring or fall. Autumn brings the added thrill of Etna's deciduous woods cycling through their fall color display.
Flora and Fauna
Keep your eyes peeled for everything from skinks to golden eagles on Mount Etna's broad slopes as you wander woodlands of oak, pine, beech and birch.
Several walking routes traverse the volcano or offer grand views of its summit. Take a three-day circumambulation of Etna from Rifugio Brunek to Rifugio Sapienza, or traverse the volcano on the eight-hour route from Piano Provenzano to Rifugio Sapienza.
Explore Mount Etna on your own or seek a guided tour; there are plenty in Sicily.
Be sure to check local conditions on the mountain before setting out. It's a volcano, after all, and an active one at that.
Article Written By Ethan Schowalter-Hay
Ethan Schowalter-Hay is a writer and naturalist living in Oregon. He has written for the "Observer," the Bureau of Land Management and various online publishers. He holds a Bachelor of Science in wildlife ecology and a graduate certificate in geographic information systems from the University of Wisconsin.