Last Updated on June 6, 2024

While some travelers would steer clear of destinations with active volcanoes, other, more adventurous types, have no issue with the possible danger. Venturers like me secretly hope we’ll see at least some lava, steam venting, or other hydrothermal features.

Let’s look at vacation destinations offering unexpected ways to explore nature’s top magma shows.

Iceland

This Nordic, island country is one of the most volcanically active areas on the planet, with a total of 130 volcanoes. In late May, 2024, the fifth eruption since December at the Sundhnjukar mountain ridge shot lava 150 feet into the air. Locals and tourists stayed safe and flights continued to operate.

Volcanic activity is a fact of life in Iceland, where people have learned to live with the drawbacks and the advantages. After all, that constant geological activity is the reason the island has so much natural beauty to see from geothermal pools to mountains.

An unexpected way to observe Iceland’s volcanoes is by sea.

Since this land of fire and ice and midnight sun is an island, the best way to experience it is to sail around. Small ship line Windstar Cruises circumnavigates Iceland on a 7-day “Around Iceland” cruise with 312 guests on board, visiting five towns on the island in addition to the capital of Reykjavik.

These small towns are easy to explore and have opportunities for scenic outdoor adventures (like treks to waterfalls). The bonus of being on a ship if or when a volcano erupts nearby: you sail somewhere else.        

Sicily’s Mount Etna

Mount Etna is the highest and one of Europe’s most active volcanoes, recently making headlines for puffing volcanic vortex rings into the sky. Visitors can hike up the slopes of this volcano, or observe it easily from a distance, Aperol spritz in hand. 

The unexpected way to view Mount Etna is by bike.

VBT Bicycling Vacations offers Sicilian guided biking tours, with additional highlights like biking past volcanic coastlines, staying in an 18th-century palace, and joining Sicilian truffle hunters on a search for the culinary prize.

Plus, who doesn’t love spending time in the unforgettable land of Sicily?

Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is a volcano, and the magma chamber under the park influences its natural features including all those famous geysers and hot springs. In fact, the park has the world’s largest collection of hydrothermal features with more than 500 geysers – that’s half of the world’s total.

Exploration by snow coach offers an unexpected way to experience the National Park.

Winter is the park’s quietest season, but it’s one of the best times to visit. The park’s interior is accessible only by commercial over-snow transportation, and Yellowstone’s snow coaches are essentially the ultimate 21st-century (heated) sleigh.

Some of the best geyser viewing and photography opportunities arise in the dead of winter, when the snow-white landscape provides the contrast that makes thermal wonders appear even more dramatic.

Stay at one of the resort’s wintertime lodges to fully experience the winter magic. 

Big Island Hawaii

Observing a lava lake at Kilauea Overlook, Hawaii.
Observing a lava lake at Kilauea Overlook, Hawaii. Photo courtesy of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Kīlauea and Mauna Loa are two of the world’s most active volcanoes and are located in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii (aka the Big Island). There are 150 miles of trails within the park through craters and lava tubes, making up-close volcanic exploration possible.

The unexpected way to engage with Hawaii’s volcanoes is on a multi-island itinerary.

Holiday Vacations offers a Hawaii Four Island Holiday that spends time in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park but also includes inter-island flights and accommodations on Kauai, Maui, and Oahu, with their own volcanoes to explore as well.

If you’re just planning to spend your time only on the Big Island, you can also add a helicopter tour to your itinerary. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters offers a Circle of Fire tour that takes guests on a breathtaking adventure, seeking out the island’s unique rainforest, lush valleys, newly formed landscapes, black sand beaches and of course, Madame Pele’s magnificent volcanic activity.

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