Mount Etna is one of the highest highlights of Sicily. You can see the volcano from the airport of Catania and you might wonder why there are so many people living on an active volcano. Climbing Mount Etna is an activity you can’t miss when you’re in Sicily.
You can climb Mount Etna from different starting points. We couldn’t find a lot of information about the routes, but we did find out that the route Etna South is popular with tourists. However, we don’t like the touristic things, so we decided to use the route Etna North to hike the Etna and this is our story.
The hike starts with a car ride to Linguaglossa. You can follow the route Etna North (signs with “Etna Nord”), which leads us up the volcano through amazing nature. We keep driving, but at 1800 meters we enter a car park. That’s it: we can’t go any higher by car and this is where our hike starts.
Parking costs: You have to pay €3 ($3,50) to park your car at this parking.
Climbing Mount Etna without a guide
We love adventures, so we decided to climb Mount Etna by using Maps.me. The hike starts well: we can follow a path. However, after a while, everything changes. There is no longer a path, but Maps.me says we have to follow a hardened lava river. The river leads us uphill, so we think it’s still the right way to go.
Maps.me guides us through a rough piece of nature. We have to climb, but Iris doesn’t like climbing trees, so we decide to go left. Guess what, we lose connection with Maps.me. We keep walking, hoping to find the route again. Unfortunately, we don’t find it and the hike gets harder: the rocks are loose and there is a lot of very fine sand. Every step forward means two steps backward.
We take break number 827 at 2650 meters. We have the best view ever and we have a short discussion: do we keep going up, or is it getting too dangerous and do we have to go back? However, it looks like we almost reached the top. We are not quitters and we decide to go further. After a while (and another break or two) we have our final discussion: we’re giving up and we’re going back to our car. It’s getting too dangerous, the volcano is making angry noises and it’s getting dark. We take a last look at the smoking summit before we decide to descend.
The fastest way down
Getting down a volcano is way easier than getting up: we are sliding down through the sand. At first, we try zigzagging because the hill is too steep, but going straight down seems to be the better option. We’re going super fast and it freaks the hell out of us. With every jump, our feet disappear in the sand. When we’ve managed the steepest part, we take a break to empty our shoes because they’re filled with black sand and small rocks.
When we reach the car, we get a surprise: we got a parking ticket. It says we haven’t paid and we have to pay another €3 ($3,50) within five days. If we don’t, the fine will be €35 ($41). Just to be clear: we did pay (and we were the only ones at the parking), but unfortunately the ticket fell down from the dashboard, probably as a result of the doors closing. However, even this ticket doesn’t put a damper on our day.
Tips that will get you to the summit of the Etna
We think it’s important to start your hike well-prepared and we love to share our tips and tricks to get you to the summit!
1. Make sure you are in a good physical condition;
2. Invest in good hiking shoes (we saw people hiking on their flip-flops… Seriously?!);
3. Make sure you wear comfortable clothing, for example, sport leggings and/or sport shirts;
4. Use the method of multiple layers of clothing, because the higher you get, the colder it gets;
5. Stack up on blister patches;
6. Take some toilet paper with you. You never know…;
7. Take a break when you need one.
Climbing Mount Etna is a challenge, especially when you start on the North side. A guide or a good map will make it a lot easier. However, exploring the volcano by yourself is also a nice adventure. Nature is amazing and at some moments you can hear yourself think. In our opinion, hiking Mount Etna is an experience you cannot miss while visiting Sicily.
By the way, if you love hiking in Europe, please check the blog of Travelletters about the mountains in Norway.