Here is a “do it yourself” Mount Etna full-day hike trip, experience the most iconic places based on my research and great tips we got from a local guide (our Airbnb host).
While driving south from Rome to Sicily me and my wife of course wanted to experience Mount Etna. We stayed in Mascalucia for a couple of nights (near Catania) then head over to Mount Etna for a full day hike.
Planning a trip to Sicily and Mount Etna can be a bit confusing because of all the tours and website guides that are around. Reality is that if you have your own car, there is no reason to hire someone to take you to these places, you can do it by yourself. If you want to know about the history of the volcano and the most interesting facts, you can find them all online for sure.
Mount Etna Full-day hike
So this is what we did, in this order:
1. Valle del Bove viewpoint hike
Valle del Bove is the big lava field that that Etna created in the southern side. Hiking to this viewpoint is in my opinion the best way to have a clear view of the conic-shaped volcano summit.
Start at Cassone – Monte Pomiciaro, there is a well marked trail that takes you to the big lava field If you really want to see the cone-shaped volcano summit, this is where you need to head first. Leave the car at the parking lot and start walking up from there. The hike is relatively easy and it takes about 1 hour to reach the main view point (it has a cross on a rock), from there you can continue hiking as much as you want.
Here is the route by car. Take this route only as the other end of the road is for hardcore 4×4 cars, even with a 4×4 I would take this one 😀 If you close up in the map at Cassone – Monte Pomiciaro you’ll see the parking lot there.
2. Visit Cassone lava cave
I did some research of what lava caves are in the area and the one that was most impressive and closer to us was Cassone Lava Cave. From Monte Pomiciaro you need to go back to where you came from and turn right in the main road SP92. Drive 10 minutes and the lava cave is just besides the road, careful not to miss it. There is a parking place just across the cave entrance.
You will enter the door-like cave entrance and find yourself in complete darkness, take a lamp (preferably a headlamp) with you. This lava cave is slowly deteriorating so it won’t be long before authorities close it for safety. In it you will see several lava formations, shiny roofs and bats.
3. Hike in Rifugio Sapienza
This part of the volcano is really touristy, so expect to find more people, that’s why we did the Valle de Bove hike first. A benefit from Rifugio Sapienza is that it has restaurants to grab a bite and coffee if you want.
To reach this place after the cave, you can continue driving west, the same direction you came from. After another 10 minutes you’ll reach “Craters silvestri of Mount Etna” there is a restaurant to park the car. In here you have several options to hike/walk. We went to the Crater Silvestri part first also called “la boutonnière” as it is a group of craters that resemble buttonholes.
After walking in “la boutonnière” for some time we hiked the trail up to the 2001 crater, the trail is well marked and it is across the road, right beside the “La Capannina” restaurant. Then just go wild as as soon as you get up there you’ll see plenty of trails up and down, an amusement park 😉
Note: In Rifugio Sapienza there is a lift (Funivia dell’Etna) that can take you from the entrance (2000 mts) up to 2500 mts then a 4WD bus to 2920mts, it has an extra cost of around 60 euros. We didn’t do this as we wanted a more adventurous hike while saving us a good amount of euros. After reaching 3000mts, if you want, you can also hire a Etna certified vulcanologist and go up to the summit, it won’t be cheap though, the tour above 3000mts is somewhere around 250€ per person. It is completely forbidden to get above 3000mts without a certified vulcanologist as a guide.
So this is it, an iconic Mount Etna full-day hike. We started driving from Mascalucia at around 9am and started to drive back until like 5pm/sunset. It was in the middle of winter (end of December) so if you do it in summer you’ll have even more day hours.
These hikes are totally doable for persons with any type of physical fitness. The “Valle de Bove” hike is the hardest of them but you can do it as slow as you want, the view from the top towards the lava valley will make it worth it.
Dress accordingly depending on the weather, but a windstopper jacket/pants would help when up in the mountain as winds can get strong. Sturdy hiking shoes are recommended as the terrain can be uneven, specially in the lava cave. Take the basics, water and snacks as you may stay longer there, so much to see and hike. And of course, don’t forget your camera!
As I mentioned before if you decided to go to the cave bring lamps because otherwise you won’t see a thing.
Totally FREE! All the hikes described here have no cost, this is the best part.
I hope this Etna guide is helpful. Questions? just write a comment below or contact me on my Instagram @mercurial_traveler 🙂