There isn’t much more awesome than Mother Nature doing her thing. Natural wonders, whether it is just the expanse of the ocean, the power of a waterfall, or the beauty of a sunset, make us sit back and appreciate the world around us, making us feel small and insignificant, but not in a bad way.
Instead, when we see nature being nature, completely ignoring us humans, our hearts swell and our jaws drop, and we come back to our daily lives so much richer.
When it comes to understanding and seeing what lies beneath the thin crust of the earth, that powerful feeling is even stronger. To experience the earth’s crust opening up, volcanoes erupting and the earth moving is something quite special.
All over the world there are breathtaking sites (sometimes literally, given that what lies below can be quite smelly!), And while these adventures can be a little spooky at times, they will definitely raise your level. adrenaline rush and make your heart beat faster, giving you a new appreciation for the very special planet we live on.
Here is a range of volcanic experiences that will speed up your pulse.
Editor’s Note: While not all of these experiences take place in volcanoes, they all take place in beautiful regions shaped by volcanic activity.
1. Walk through the lava tubes
Undara Volcanic National Park, about a 3-hour drive from Cairns, has the world’s largest and best-preserved lava tube system, with a geological history dating back to Australia’s most recent volcanic explosion there is over 190,000 years old. An estimated 56 cubic miles of hot lava at 2,192 degrees Fahrenheit flowed from the main crater which extended across the landscape.
Eventually the lava flow stopped and the tunnels were left with ceilings up to 50 feet high. You can go down in it. Some are filled with water, some have bats, and all of them will impress you with their scale and history.
The only way to see the lava tubes is with a trained guide on a tour. Several tours are available, such as the two-hour Archway Explorer, which features three sections of lava tube, the largest of which is the so-called Arcade. Others are longer, others more difficult, and the Sunset Wildlife Tour includes bubbles, a cheese board, a beautiful sunset, and a million bats, more or less.
Pro tip: It’s too far from the coast for a day trip, but there is basic overnight accommodation either on a campsite or in beautiful restored railway cars.
2. Visit a bubbling champagne pool
North Island, New Zealand
The Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is located on the North Island of New Zealand and is a true volcanic theme park, with sparkling and glowing champagne pools; surprising green lakes; a hole in the ground in which the birds nest and hatch their young without having to sit on their eggs; and bubbling, rotating mud pools. It is a true wonderland that is both strange and wonderful – and somewhat “aromatic”, if not downright smelly. Of course, it’s full of natural attractions that prove New Zealand is sitting on the Pacific Rim of Fire.
And don’t worry, after a few days you get used to the smell. Or that’s what the locals claim, anyway.
Pro tip: Just down the road you will find the small town of Rotorua on the edge of a pretty lake, with a shoreline full of spas taking advantage of the springs and naturally heated grounds.
3. Dive among the bubbles
White Island, New Zealand
While in New Zealand don’t miss the Bay of Plenty with the North Island’s most active and only active marine volcano, White Island. The volcano island has been puffing with virtually no stopping smoke since Captain Cook spotted the island in 1769. An ill-fated sulfur mine once stood on the island but was abandoned in 1914 after volcanic activity killed all 10 workers based on the island. . Today, it is one of the most accessible marine volcanoes in the world and attracts tours from nearby Whakatane. The underwater world here is magical, with lava arches and gas bubbles, and thriving marine life, making it a perfect snorkeling spot.
Pro tip: In Whakatane, take advantage of all of the other tours available, which include dolphin and whale watching opportunities.
4. Walk around a crater
Easter Island, Chile
Easter Island, or Rapa Nui to give it its native name, is an island like no other. Located about 2,175 miles from Chile, Easter Island is one of the most remote places on the planet. It is also a story that still leaves historians perplexed today. In addition to the roughly 1,000 moai, the large stone heads that dot the island, it also has a long-extinct volcanic crater at the southern end of the island. The Rano Kau crater is a spectacular sight. The crater itself is filled with water, plants and wildlife, and has its own microclimate. When I was there, there was a small cloud hanging just above the crater producing rain, while the rest of the island was bathed in sunshine under the blue sky. You can hike around the crater, but you should be aware that this is rough terrain and a secluded location. So please let the visitor center at the top know your intentions and, better yet, hire a local guide.
Pro tip: You can also visit the ceremonial village of Orongo Tangata Manu, which is located along the crater, on a guided tour.
5. See a volcano in action
Big Island, Hawaii
One of the most active and accessible volcanoes in the world is Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, located on the Big Island. A shield volcano versus a stratovolcano, i.e. a relatively flat volcano that emits thick, slow lava rather than violent eruptions from a steep cone, Kilauea offers many ways to get closer to the glowing hot lava, from hikes taking you very close to helicopter flights with great views and not so hot feet.
Pro tip: This volcano, when active, is even more spectacular at night, when bright orange lava shines against the dark sky. There are tours that can take you to the best viewpoints in complete safety.
6. Dive between tectonic plates
Iceland sits right where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet or, in fact, move apart by about an inch each year. This not only translates into a plethora of seismic activity, including hundreds of earthquakes every week, and regular volcanic eruptions, such as the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010, which brought airports to the world a cripple.
It also allows you to experience something you won’t encounter anywhere else on the planet: the ability to snorkel or dive in Silfra, the crack between the two tectonic plates. With glacier runoff and filtered through the porous igneous rock, making it crystal clear, the underwater visibility is over 300 feet. But it’s cold, so you’ll have to dive in a drysuit, which you’ll get used to on a professionally-led diving excursion.
Pro tipLuckily, Iceland not only has freezing waters but hot springs too, so book yourself for a hot dip after your adventure.
The largest active volcano in Europe is located on the island of Sicily, off the coast of southern Italy. And besides being the highest volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world, it’s also a volcano that attracts visitors enormously, and the facilities for those wanting to get to see it up close are superb. From an observation station halfway up the slope to the buses and funicular taking you to 8,200 feet of the 11,000 total feet, plus half-day and full-day tours departing from the cities of Catania, Taormina and Messina, there is really no excuse not to see this impressive volcano.
Pro tip: If you want to hike that’s fine, but keep in mind that the temperatures in the spring and fall might be better suited than the summer heat.
8. Mount Yasur
Tanna Island, Vanuatu
Vanuatu isn’t a country that many people have heard of, but it’s worth a visit, even though it’s ‘fair’ for the volcano and the fact that this is where bungee jumping was born ( think of a wooden tower and a sisal rope tied to the ankle…). The South Pacific island nation, comprising more than 80 islands, sits between New Caledonia and Fiji, about 2,200 miles east of Australia, and, like New Zealand, sits firmly, or maybe not so firmly, on the Pacific Rim of Fire.
Mount Yasur is located on Tannu Island and offers visitors regular fireworks displays. What makes this very active volcano more attractive than the others is its still unspoiled and uninvolved location. Although one of the most active volcanoes in the world, you will only find truly intrepid travelers and volcanologists climbing its slopes.
Pro tip: Vanuatu has a lot to offer, so why not consider going from island to island and tasting more than one place? Pencil in a day at the volcano, of course.