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Dances with fire – The most beautiful volcanoes of Europe

July 25, 2017

When in 2010, the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull resulted in the largest air-traffic shut-down that has been seen since World War II, we all realized how powerless man could be facing the forces of the interior of the earth. And we are reminded of the power of nature every time the volcano Etna erupts in Sicily, which happens every few years. And that is without forgetting the history classes where we all heard about how Pompeii was buried under the ashes of Vesuvius.

But volcanoes do not only destroy. For thousands of years, their fertile lands have been attracting peasants and adventurers risked their lives just to have a look at their bubbling abyss. And we understand why. There exist only a few things as breathtaking as thousands of tons of lava lying under you, threatening to erupt at any moment. It is simply fascinating.

And you know what´s best about it? Volcanoes are present in places you would have never imagined possible! Who would think of placid Bavaria when talking about volcanoes? Or did you know for example that Greek Island Santorini was of volcanic origin as well? No? Then continue reading and let us surprise you with our travel stories to Etna, Vesuvius, Santorini and the Rauher Kulm!

 

Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy

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You need to reserve some time to climb up Mount Etna. First, you reach the cable car station by car or bus. There are jeeps that go up from there but when conditions allow it, it’s really worth it to continue on your own. It’s for sure challenging to climb Mount Etna, but you will be rewarded with an impressive natural spectacle that has yet to be matched. The beautiful hike to Torre del Filosofo (2920m) is fairly straight forward. The view is stunning. We continue our way. The top is covered with snow for most of the year. In winter, you can even go skiing on Mount Etna. When you reach the top, you suddenly feel different. Thinking of the power of this volcano takes your breath away, just like the toxic fumes that come out of it will do once arrived on the top. There, you shouldn’t stay too long. But the experience to look into the abyss makes it absolutely worth it.
If you have time, you should visit the surrounding Parco dell’Etna. The highly fertile earth boasts a palette of fruits made of oranges, figs, pistachio and the so typical and delicious lemons. But that’s not it. Beautiful vineyards are also to be found there. And the historic harbour town of Catania is the perfect place to enjoy Limoncello at the beach front. Moreover, Aci Castello and the wonderfully restored Palazzo Biscari are worth a visit.
Mount Etna is around 30 km from Catania, where you can stay in the unique and beautifully decorated palace from the 18th century Duomo Suites & Spa. Even closer to Mount Etna is the Hotel Donna Carmela from which you have a view of the majestic volcano. More lodgings can be found here, don’t hesitate to ask us: we will find the perfect one for you!

 

Let’s continue in Italy! Famous Vesuvius is awaiting us!

 

Vesuvius, Italy

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In the south of Naples, Mount Vesuvius boasts with a great view over the city and the golf of Naples with the islands Capri and Ischia. The only active volcano of continental Europe has gained sad fame since it buried the city of Pompeii and its people when it erupted in AD 79.
But even though the volcano is still dangerous, more than one million people are living in the vibrant city of Naples, fearing another eruption.
But until now, the volcano seems to slumber. Its activities are constantly monitored and checked. So don’t be too worried: it is possible to visit it! And trust us when we say it is worth the risk: standing at the edge of the caldera of Vesuvius is an experience you will never forget.
The volcano lies less than 15 km from Naples. To get there, you can either go by car or use the public transportation services that serve a car park close to the caldera. Once you reached the car park, it will only take you half an hour walk until the volcano. Even though it’s a rather short walk, you’re well advised to take good shoes, warm clothes and sun scream. But unlike Mount Etna you will hardly miss the right path. Up here, the sun is strong and it’s quite windy. If you’re lucky, you’ll see Capri, Ischia, the Almalfi coast and Naples. The crater of the volcano doesn’t boast bubbling lava, it seems more like a moon like landscape. Sulfur gases rise from it.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to believe how much power lies under the boulders. But you will realize when you visit the ruins of ancient Pompeii. It’s one of the world’s most engrossing archaeological experiences. The site is vast and you should plan to spend several hours there. A guided tour will make you feel the spirit of the place and you’ll wander around the antique baths, villas and temples as if it was 2000 years ago.
And to make your holidays just perfect we provide you here with some amazing lodgings in the surroundings of Vesuvius.

 

But of course, there volcanoes are not only to be found in Italy! Our next stop: Nea Kameni in Greece.

 

Nea Kameni – Santorini, Greece

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In the centre of the caldera of Santorini, you will find a small uninhabited island: Nea Kameni. It’s an active volcano from which ascends sulfurous smoke that turns the island into a yellow desert. During the day, boats bring tourists to the little harbour. From there, you can climb a gravel path to reach the top of the 130 meter high volcanic crater where it’s possible to complete a full circuit of the rim. The best time to go is spring when it’s not yet too hot.
The path passes by the oldest crater, Mikri Kameni, leads to Dafni and continues to the highest craters. Hot sulfurous smoke is ascending and we have a great view over the huge caldera. The different layers of lava are in different colours, depending on their period of origin, reaching from cinder lava in black to more sandy ones. The landscape is not as sparse as we expected.
Again passing the craters, we are returning to the pier and continue exploring the island by boat. There are hot springs on the other side of the island. Since the waters get very shallow here it’s not possible to reach the hot springs by boat. Instead, you have to jump! The water there has a beautiful turquoise blue colour. To reach the hot springs, you will have to swim 50 meters through the open sea. The water of the springs is auburn. Don’t have too much hope for your swim clothes: they might never get their original colours again. But the mineral-rich baths offer a slew of natural health benefits so we will be fine with that.
It’s a fantastic trip. Santorini is just perfect. The Cyclades are amazing islands to explore and Nea Kamenia just has everything to offer: Amazing views over the islands, moon like volcano landscapes, turquoise water in the bays, great hot springs…! It’s absolutely stunning! And of course, as usual, we have sole wonderful lodgings in Santorini that we selected just for you! Enjoy!

And now: Our last stop lies thousands of kilometers north of Santorini: Bavaria!

Rauher Kulm & Volcanoes in Upper Palatinate, Bavaria, Germany

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Who would have guessed that Bavaria had volcanoes? And even more surprising, how many the region counts? You have no idea? Well, there are plenty of them! The reason you might have not yet heard about them, is that they are not active anymore. Nevertheless, convergent tectonic plates coming together have created the most beautiful natural wonder of Germany: The Rauher Kulm. Next to Neustadt an der Kulm, in Upper Palatinate, Bavaria, the more than 680 meters high basalt outcrop stands out from the landscape. It’s a volcano that has never erupted.
The trail up to the top of the Rauher Kulm is easy: there are no rough boulders. Instead, you will discover a pleasant path through the forest, for which sneakers are perfectly ok. You will walk about one hour and a half to reach the top of the basalt outcrop. In the sixteenth century, there was a castle there, but it doesn’t exit anymore and nowadays, there is a tower on the top. Going up the stairs of the tower, you will be able to enjoy an amazing view. The landscape is characterized by little villages, meadows and trees – life appears to be very pristine here. We understand why the Rauher Kulm has been selected as the most beautiful natural wonder of Germany.
But the Rauhe Kulm is not the only volcano in Upper Palatinate! Some, like the Rauher Kulm are conical mountains, others are rather flat elevations. There are also some spas that benefit from the hot springs that have emerged due to the volcanic activities, e.g. Böhmisches Karlsbad, Marienbad, Franzensbad and more.
To go on in our discoveries of volcanoes, we visited the Parkstein. What’s so special about it? You can literally see the interior of a volcano! And it’s as easy as opening a door and walking through it. The caves used to be storage rooms for beer and foods, but nowadays they are open for the public. In total, there are three caves that have been restored. The big stones are round because they have been moved up and down by the forces of the interior of the earth.
It’s impressive how the volcanoes changed this landscapes. Even though you won’t find bubbling lava here, it’s really worth to explore the volcanoes and surroundings! Situated in the east of Bayreuth and Nuremberg, those unique nature highlights are not yet overrun by tourists.
And regarding the lodging, we took care of it for you: you’ll find some amazing hotels in Bavaria here.

 

We just presented you a little selection of volcanoes and of course there are many more. Mount Etna is for sure the most demanding to climb but there are as well volcanoes that are easily accessible. We wish you a lot of fun and hope to hear about your own volcano story soon!

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