Photo: Petr Novak
Elemental pits of flames and fire.
THE PROSPECT OF TRAVERSING AN ACTIVE VOLCANO is certain to send a blaze down your spine. Yet, the coadunation of the unprecedented thrill of facing the incendiary elements, and the unparalleled rustic grace of Earth’s creations, is a smouldering experience like no other.
Situated off the Sicilian Coast, this volcanic island is poised entrancingly and majestically, in near-symmetrical fashion. The smoke billows daintily; there is constant moderate volcanic activity. Towering at 924m above sea level, the view of the Tyrrhenian Sea from above is vividly resplendent.
Visitors seeking to reach the peak have to follow guided tours, which are available between March and October, and typically begin in the late afternoon. At the summit, witness the lava compellingly spew out of the crater in relative proximity, with your naked eye; the encounter is simply surreal. Against the dreamy night-sky, the scene is phenomenal.
Photo: Sara Marlowe
Mount Bromo, Indonesia
Named after the Hindu god of creation, Brahma, this legendary Indonesian volcano is a colossal presence. Part of a sprawling complex that encompasses Mount Semuru, Mount Batok and several other mountains, the entire landscape is breathtakingly electrifying. The journey on foot to the summit takes approximately 2 hours. Alternatively, opt for horseback rides that bring you close to the volcano. Brave a length of “Sea of Sand”, pass by a sacred Hindu temple, and scale a stretch of upward ascent, before you reach the vast Bromo boiling crater. Within, pillars of smoke swirl; there is a faint sulphurous scent – the raw force of Mother Nature is palpable.
Photo: Candra Firmansyah
Kawah Ijen, Indonesia
East Java is home to one of Earth’s most astounding experiences. In the bank of Ijen’s crater, wicked blue flames dance delightfully and tantalisingly – a consequence of the combustion of sulfuric gases. Only noticeable in darkness, keen explorers would have to begin their two hour long journey up the 2799m frame just after midnight, then embark on a forty-five minute descent (equipped with a gas mask) into the crater. Nearby, a toxic green-hued lake sizzles in ominous mien, highly acidic due to the reaction with hydrogen chloride gas. Dripped with an air of terrestrial deviltry, the whole compound makes for extraordinary viewing.
Snow-capped and mighty, it is dignifiedly beautiful from afar. But the volcano is often dubbed “The Gateway to Hell”; it is one of the Nordic country’s most active, and most destructive. The base is accessible by a 4×4 drive, and the 7km hiking route up to the wintry rim leads one to terrific views of South Iceland. During spring, skiing trails are open around the crater, giving rise to skiing and snowboarding opportunities down the nival slopes. Given the cataclysmic reputation though, and a forecasted long-overdue eruption, fearless adventurers have to be fully aware of the risk, and consistently retrieve up-to-date news.
Photo: Beth and Anth
Cerro Negro, Nicaragua
Translating to Black Hill in English, Central America’s youngest volcano sports a gravelly and dusty façade. The steep terrain is lined with fine volcanic sand – suitable conditions for an exhilarating activity unique to the site: volcano boarding. Group tours take you on an arduous hour-long climb up to the top, under the relentless sun, where a visibly steaming crater awaits you. From there, there is only one way down: on a sturdy (volcano!) board. Geared up with orange prison-like tracksuits and visors, the swift whizzing descent can be beguilingly fast – speeds can reach up to 95km per hour.
Due to the hazardous nature of such endeavours, travellers are advised to strictly follow all regulations and safety guidelines set in place by local authorities. Flouting such rules might mean placing yourselves, and others, in unwarranted danger.