Can you hike up Mount Etna?


Hiking up Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano. When you’re a hiking enthusiast hiking Mount Etna is probably on your bucket list. But before you go, some preparations are necessary. I did some research, so you know what you can expect before you plan your hike to Mount Etna.

For most people, their hike up to Mount Etna starts at Refugio Sapienza. From this point, you can take a cable car up to the south side of the mountain until 9500 feet. From there you can start with many different hiking trails. You can hike self-guided up to around 9500 feet. If you want to go higher, you’re obliged to book a guided tour for safety reasons.

Proper preparation is half the work. To make sure you’ll know everything about hiking up Mount Etna, keep reading!

How to get to Mount Etna

Reaching Mount Etna is straightforward. Depending on where you are leaving from you can take public transport, a local bus. Or when you have got a rental car, you can just drive up to Refugio Sapienza (6299 feet). This is actually the highest point to where you can drive up to Mount Etna. Refugio Sapienza is where the hiking starts for most people. From here you have basically three options to go the top;

  • Hiking: all the way up to 9500feet, from there if you want to go further up the mountain, you’re obliged to go with a local guide. This hike will take around 4 hours to reach the mountain station.
  • Cable car:
    A cable car leaves from Refugio Sapienza to Funivia Etna at the height of 8200 feet. From here you can start hiking to the mountain station or when you want to save some time, use the third option.
  • Cable Car + 4×4 Tour to the mountain station:
    Using the same cable car from Refugio Sapienza, but instead of walking to the mountain station, you’ll hop in a 4×4 truck which brings you all the way up to 9500 feet. From where you can start the last guided ascending to the top.

Hiking all the way up to the mountain station is the cheapest way, but it also the hardest way to reach the top. You’ll need to be an experienced hiker to do this. The hike itself is not that difficult, but because of the length and the fact you’re ascending all the time, you must have a good level of fitness and know what you’re doing.

For the best experience, we would recommend taking the cable car and 4×4 trucks for reaching the mountain station. From there you can choose several guided hiking trails to reach the top of Mount Etna. These trails take up several hours and demand a basic fitness level.

Reaching Refugio Sapienza to start your hiking experience can take a bit of time. From Catania, the drive is 24 miles and take up to 1 hour. When you are leaving from Taormina its 35 miles, and you’ll need 1.5 hours to get there. It is recommended to stay close to Mount Etna, we will tell you later about the best places to stay during your visit. Staying closer to the mountain saves you a lot of time, and gives you enough time to enjoy the best hiking experience.

Select your Mount Etna Hiking Trail

It is essential to figure out beforehand what you want to see, how much time you want to spend on the mountain, and knowing your level of fitness. Hiking to the top of the crater is just not for everyone.

Before deciding if you want to ascent to the top, make sure to know how fit you are. You don’t want something to happen to yourself when you’re trying to reach the top. If you are not used to hiking on steep paths or sandy and rocky slopes, you probably better of staying at the mountain station and choose another trail for your own safety.

Luckily there are many trails you can choose from, the most popular hiking trails are:

  • Summit trail (reaching the craters at 3300meter)
    Travel time: around 7 hours
    Including cable car & 4×4 truck to the mountain station.

    The trail to the summit is only available as a guided tour. You can book your tour via GetYourGuide.
  • Schiena dell’Asino path
    A relatively easy hike which starts at Refugio Sapienza and leads you to some old inactive craters of Mount Etna. You won’t reach the summit, but you’ll have great views over the South slope of the mountain
  • Silvestri Craters
    These craters are dating back from the eruption in
    1892. One of the most famous craters to visit, because they’re closeby Refugio Sapienza. It’s just a short walk to the craters, but a great thing to see.
  •  Etna Altomontana trail
    When you’re interested in the biodiversity of the Etna National Park, this is the route you want to take. It is an easy hiking trail, but it will give you great insights in the park and its nature. You’ll stay on an average height of 5700 feet. Because of the length of this height, it is essential to bring enough supplies like water and food.

Alternative activities

When you don’t want to hike up Mount Etna, but want to visit the mountain and enjoy the beautiful views, you’ll like this part. There are many activities you can book that doesn’t involve hiking.

You can just take the cable car and a 4×4 truck which will bring you to the mountain station. From there, you’ll have amazing views. But if you’re interested in a bit more adventure, you might be considering visiting a lava cave with a tour guide (link to Get Your Guide).

It is also possible to drive a scenic tour around the mountain and its villages in a buggy. That might feel a bit more adventurous than just walking around!  

Mount Etna Preparation Checklist

Before you start with your hike to Mount Etna, we already discussed it is important to know what your fitness level is, so you can choose the best trail for you. But there are a few other things you don’t want to forget. You can use this handy checklist to make sure you’ll be prepared for the most essential things.

We use this checklist for our preparations when hiking, for us, it is just a good reminder. We cover only basic things. We’re not professional hikers. Feel free to add your own items to the checklist. For everyone preparations might be a bit different.

  • Hiking shoes
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Comfortable hiking clothes
  • Waterbottle
  • Trekking poles (for long hikes)

For hiking Mount Etna, it is recommended to bring warm clothes. On top of the mountain it can be freezing, so make sure you’re prepared for that.

Best Time to Visit Mount Etna

You can visit Mount Etna year-round, but the best time for hiking is between April and June, and September and October. The weather is perfect for hiking in these months. Temperatures are not too high, and there is almost no rain, which makes the conditions favorable.

On average temperatures will not be higher than 73F. On top of Mount Etna it can be very cold, depending on the time of the year it can even be freezing. In April it can be 28F on top of the mountain. But on average temperatures will be around 41F.

Visiting Mount Etna during the summer months July and August are possible as well, but it is not recommended to go hiking on the mountain in these months. When you do go hiking in these months, make sure to bring extra sunscreen and enough water. It can be boiling with temperatures reaching 104F while walking in the sun between the hot lava fields.

Are you considering a trip to Sicily and not sure when to go? We wrote this guide about the best time to visit Sicily.

North Side of Mount Etna

The most popular routes to visit Mount Etna are on the south side of the mountain. Because from there you can reach the top. But visiting the north side is worth your time as well.

On this side of the mountain, you can find many hiking trails where you will pass sleeping craters, old lava streams (some of them are hundreds of years old!), and a lot of nature. At first, the environment feels less like your walking on a volcano. You’ll pas a lot of forest and wildflowers, but once you walk further, you’ll spot many old craters and lava streams.

To reach the north side of Mount Etna, you’ll need to pass the village of Linguaglossa. From there go to Piano Provenzana, where you can park your car and from there start hiking. Some paths can be steep and challenging, but it is definitely worth the effort once you can enjoy the fantastic views.

Hiking the northside of Mount Etna is allowed on your own, but you can also choose to book a guided tour if you like.

Skiing at Mount Etna

This may be sound a bit unusual, but it is possible. Starting from November, when snow is falling at Mount Etna, the mountain is hardly accessible for hikers. With all the snow it is getting to dangerous to hike all the way up to the top.

You can still use the cable cars of course, but you probably won’t get to the 10.000 feet, but you can go skiing on the slopes of the mountain! How awesome is that!

This is not your typical ski resort. And for experienced skiers, this piste is even straightforward, but on the other hand, how many times you’ll be able to ski on an active volcano?! And it is way cheaper than going to a popular ski resort. A day pass is around € 25.

Between November and February, it can be very cold at the mountain, there’s a lot of snowfall as well, which makes it ideal to go skiing or snowboarding. When you plan to visit during this period, it is recommended to bring your own gear. You can rent some equipment in a few places, but you don’t have a lot of choices.

Where to Stay

When you want to make the most out of your visit we recommend to stay at Refugio Sapienza Hotel, this is next to the cable car which brings you up to the mountain. You can start your day early with a morning hike, and at night, enjoy the peace and quietness of the mountain when everybody left.

However, Mount Etna is also straightforward to reach from Catania of Taormina. Many guided tours will even pick you up at your hotel.

We don’t recommend staying at Palermo if you want to visit Mount Etna, because it will take you around 3 to 4 hours to reach the mountain.
When you’re considering visiting Palermo, you might be interested in reading our article about the great things you can find in this city.

There are many small villages around Mount Etna, which are also very nice to stay. It less crowded, and you can enjoy nature and surroundings before and after your hike. Segreta and Bonte, are two villages at the foot of the mountain, which are great to stay for a few nights.

Planning your trip is exciting, but also a bit overwhelming at the same time. We wrote this guide about the best way to plan your trip and which booking tools we recommend to use.

Mount Etna Facts

Mount Etna is the biggest and most active volcano in Europe.  The highest point of Mount Etna is 3330 meters, which is 10.925 feet. At the broadest point, the base reaches 150 kilometers. The volcano is a so-called stratovolcano with 4 craters, divided between the northeast craters and the southeast crater.

The mountain is an important source of income for the Sicilian inhabitants. Both because of the volcanic soil and tourism.

Mount Etna is the most active volcano in Europe and erupts several times a year. Many eruptions are the so-called strombolian eruptions, which are relatively mild and produces mainly ash and small lava streams. The mountain also caused some destructive outbreaks.

In 1669 was one of the most destructive eruptions Mount Etna ever had. Killed over 1500 people in the town Nicoli. Over the years many other eruptions followed, but not as damaging.

Despite the constant danger of a significant eruption, the volcano is important for the Sicilians. And is often referred to as ‘Mognibello’ which means ‘beautiful mountain.’ The mountain provides in useful soil to grow olives, grapes and other local products. And is very popular among travelers for hiking and skiing.

Related Questions

What is Sicily Famous For? Sicily is the biggest island in Italy and the Mediterranean Sea. It is famous for its long history dating back to 1100BC. And as the birthplace of Archimedes. We wrote this extensive article about the things that make Sicily famous.

What is the Best City in Sicily? Sicily has a lot of cities where you can stay and have a great time. The best cities to stay in Sicily depending on the kind of activities you’re looking for. To visit great beaches, you’ll need to visit Taormina. Cefalù is a hidden gem in Sicily, and for the best historical sites, you’ll visit Agrigento. Make sure to read our guide to the best cities in Sicily.

Léon Kopijn

Léon Kopijn works and lives as a Digital Nomad. He travels the world with the love of his life and writes about inspiring cultures and practical travel tips. Find out more about Léon on his about page!

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