If you're keen to visit Sicily's Mount Etna, the largest and most active volcano in Europe, there are a number of ways to get there and several ways to experience the volcanic area. Most visitors depart from either Catania or Taormina, the closest major cities to the volcano. From those cities, you can reach the Parco dell'Etna National Park by private transfer, tour bus, or rental car. Once in the park, you take a cable car to an upper elevation, and then either hike or ride in a 4x4 jeep to the active volcanic area.
Duration: 1-2 hrs
From Catania, there are daily AST (Azienda Siciliana Trasporti) buses to the park visitor center at Rifugio Sapienza. The 22-mile (35 km) trip take 2 hours, and buses leave at 8:15 am each day from Piazza Papa Giovanni XXIII, across the street from Catania Centrale train station. The return bus leaves Rifugio Sapienza at 4:30 pm every day. Private tour buses also have regular departures to Etna from Catania and may allow for more time to visit the park.
If you're driving from Catania to Rifugio Sapienza, the trip takes between 60 and 70 minutes. A private transfer is also a great option for this journey, as it allows you to be picked up and dropped off according to your own schedule.
Duration: 60-70 mins
The 31-mile (50 km) drive from Taormina to Rifugio Sapienza takes about 1 hour, depending on traffic. There are no public buses from Taormina to the park, so if you're using public transportation, you'll have to take a bus or train to Catania, then transfer to the AST bus to Rifugio Sapienza. Read more about how to travel between Taormina and Catania.
There are plenty of tour buses and private tours leaving from Taormina, many of which can include stops at archaeological sites or historic towns along the way.
From Rifugio Sapienza to the Summit
Duration: Minimum 2 hrs
Once at Rifugio Sapienza, visitors can take the Funivia dell'Etna cable car up to Montagnola. From there, it's possible to take a guided hike or board a 4x4 vehicle, with a guide, for the trip to the summit.
Getting to Sicily
To get to Mount Etna, you first have to get to Sicily. The major airports on the island are located at Catania, Palermo, Trapani, and Comiso. Currently, there are no direct flights from the US to Sicily. Instead, most travelers fly into Rome, Naples or Milan and transfer to an island-bound flight. Another option is to fly to Reggio-Calabria and take a ferry from there to the island. All train or car travel to the island involves taking a ferry to points of entry in Sicily.
This 7-day tour of Palermo, Taormina, and Catania includes a day on Mount Etna.