I didn’t just get to Stromboli volcano. I also got to listen to its voice. And it was a thrilling experience.
As a proper volcano and hiking junkie, I could no longer postpone a trip to the Aeolian Islands. I had hiked various active volcanoes in the world. I had gone volcano boarding on Cerro Negro, in Nicaragua. I had looked down the crater of Mount Bromo, in Indonesia. I felt a bit embarrassed that I had been to far away places and had yet to travel to the South of Italy.
It was finally time to fly to Sicily and explore some of the world’s most active volcanoes, which incidentally are at a stone’s throw from where I live.
A one hour flight from Cagliari, Sardinia, to Catania, one of Sicily’s most beautiful cities; then a 2 hour car or bus ride to Milazzo (a small town near Messina); and finally a hydrofoil ride from Milazzo took me to the Aeolian Islands archipelago. Located off the North East coast of Sicily, this is composed of 7 islands, all of them of volcanic origin. It literally is a volcano extravaganza.
In my very brief time there, I had the chance to visit Vulcano (the name says it all!), where I hiked Vulcanello and Gran Cratere, and Stromboli, the island that takes the name from Volcano Stromboli, one of Italy’s most active volcanoes.
Hiking Stromboli volcano was the highlight of my brief time in the Aeolian Islands. In fact, it was one of the best hikes of my life. And I am sure it will be the experience of a lifetime for you as well.
In this post, I highlight everything you need to know to hike Stromboli Volcano and make the most of the island.
Stromboli Volcano: The Perfect Setting For A Hike
I fell in love with Stromboli at first sight, as soon as I set foot there after a hydrofoil ride from Vulcano. Come to think of it, I actually fell in love with it as soon as I saw it in the distance, right after sunrise, from the balcony of my room in Vulcano.
The island is tiny – no more than 12 square km and around 600 inhabitants that reside there throughout the year, although the island gets a large influx of tourists during the summer months. There’s hardly any car – just tuc tucs, golf carts and scooters.
I visited in mid October, at the very end of the summer season, when most businesses that cater to tourists have either already closed for the winter or are just about to.
It was great. The weather was sunny and warm (without the terrible heat of the summer months). I got to experience the best of the island – its environment, the narrow alleys of the small village, the food, the locals – without any of the crowds. And, more importantly so, I got to hike Stromboli volcano, which is one of the most active in the world.
It was a thrilling adventure. One that I recommend to anyone who enjoys hiking, and who wishes to admire one of the most spectacular sunsets in the South of Italy. The following is a recollection of my experience on Volcano Stromboli. This post also includes tips on how to hike Stromboli Volcano.
What To Expect When Hiking Stromboli Volcano
Although I had hiked other active volcanoes in the past and had even seen the lava explosions on Volcano Pacaya in Guatemala, my experience on Volcano Stromboli was ten times better.
I can’t quite explain why hiking Volcano Stromboli is such an incredible experience. It may be because Stromboli itself is an island, and all the time during the hike you can enjoy splendid sea views. It may be the all encompassing experience, where you can see, hear and literally feel the lava explosions. It is simply fantastic.
A few facts about Stromboli Volcano
Stromboli Volcano reaches an elevation of 926 meters above sea level. There are three craters at its peak, all of them regularly throwing smoke and lava. The most recent major eruption occurred in April 2009. Indeed, Stromboli is a very active volcano, characterized by what are known as Strombolian eruptions: explosions of lava that occur at more or less regular intervals.
The highlight of a hiking expedition on Volcano Stromboli is seeing the lava explosions, and the best time of day to see them is when it is dark and the bright red of the lava strikes against the darkness of the surroundings. As it is easy to imagine, this was a major factor in making me sign up for the hike.
However, there is no guarantee that you’ll able to see the eruptions, as this would depend on the weather conditions. For example, as I walked out to meet my guide and the rest of the group for the hike, the owners of the hotel where I stayed mentioned that guests who hiked the day before didn’t get to see much, because it was foggy at the top.
Soon after meeting the guide and the rest of the group, you’ll start walking to Volcano Stromboli cutting through the village. The guide will let you through the narrow alleys to eventually follow a path that goes all the way to the peak. A few minutes after leaving the centre, you will notice that nature is claiming its place: the vegetation is thick, and the soil dark and sandy, as it often is on volcanoes.
Walking up, the vegetation occasionally opens to reveal the breathtaking views: the intense blue of the Mediterranean sea against the darkness of the volcanic sand of Stromboli beaches and the whiteness of the village.
At around 400 meters above sea level, vegetation starts becoming sparse. Eventually, getting closer to the crater, the landscape gets completely bare and it feels like walking on the moon. That’s when you will realize that, indeed, it is a volcano you are hiking. That’s also when you will notice the presence of several other guided groups hiking Volcano Stromboli. You’ll get the impression that the few tourists on the island are all doing the same thing. You won’t be able to blame them!
The incredible sunset
By the time you’ll reach the top, the sun will be setting. The light is simply spectacular. On a clear day, the islands of Alicudi and Filicudi will be easily visible. The sea and the sky will look like one, big, cloud. Your guide will lead you to a viewpoint where you can literally sit and enjoy the show that is taking place in front of your eyes.
Finally, the smoke, the fire and the lava explosions on the craters below will be visible, and also clearly audible – though keep in mind at first you won’t be able to recognize what the loud roar you’ll be hearing is! You will even feel the ashes from the explosion on your skin.
Most groups spend around 30 minutes admiring this incredible show of nature before eventually making their way back to the village.
Practical Facts And Tips To Hike Stromboli Volcano
Due to the high activity of the volcano, only guided groups are allowed on Volcano Stromboli (in any case, I hardly recommend hiking alone in general: read here why). Guided hikes are offered between the end of March and the end of October. I wouldn’t recommend hiking in the summer months, as it really gets too hot!
There are various companies that offer guided hikes in a variety of languages. Group expeditions of up to 20 people cost around €30 euro per person, though it is also possible to hire a private guide (which is inevitably more expensive). Advanced bookings are essential.
I walked with Il Vulcano a Piedi and had a good experience.
You can book guided hikes to Stromboli Volcano online. This is a selection of the best tours:
- Volcano Stromboli Sciara del Fuoco hike
- Hike to the crater of Mount Stromboli
- Panarea and Stromboli eruption by night
Hiking expeditions to Volcano Stromboli depart directly from the village in the afternoon – depending on the season, between 3:00 and 5:00 pm. The hike lasts around 6 hours, based on the number of breaks and on the time spent at the top of the volcano. The idea is that of getting to the top right in time for sunset and walking down when it is dark already.
TIP: Make sure to carry some snacks and plenty of water for the hike. The groups usually return to the village well after dark and it’s nice to have a little something to hold yourself until dinner.
The path is mostly sandy: a steady uphill on the way to the craters, and a steep downhill on the way back to the village.
I didn’t find the hike to be difficult nor strenuous, though I suppose that depends on one’s level of fitness and I would recommend to not underestimate that.
Gearing up for the hike
Here’s a short list of what I recommend wearing and carrying for the hike to Volcano Stromboli:
- Hiking boots are vital: the soil is very sandy and good ankle support makes it much easier to walk. The good news is that all companies that offer guided hikes also rent boots and other gear, and there’s plenty of shops in the village where it is possible to buy them too.
- Wear layers, and carry at least one extra t-shirt: I recommend wearing a thermal, quick dry t-shirt and to carry an extra one to get changed during one of the breaks. Long Hiking Pantsare necessary, as it gets cold at the top, especially as the sun goes down. Also take a good wind jacket, a Avalon fleece sweater, a scarf and if possible also a hat and gloves. I hiked in mid October and I wished I had gloves, as my hands almost froze. I am not exaggerating!
- A head lamp or torch is necessary: the walk back down to the village is all done in the dark, and a light comes in handy. Companies usually provide that too, along with a helmet that must be worn once near the crater.
- Wear sunglasses: most of the walk is actually done in the shade or in the dark, but there is a lot of dust.
- Bring a small daypack that can be used to carry extra clothes, plenty of water, and some snacks.
- Carry a camera: the views along the hike and from the top are simply stunning.
Where to stay and eat in Stromboli
Though the island is small, there are plenty of accommodation options and places to eat in Stromboli. I only spent one night there, and opted to stay at Hotel Miramare. Rooms there are plain but comfortable, and they all have a large balcony with incredible views of the sea. The owners are two lovely, incredibly sweet and kind ladies. There’s a bunch of friendly cats hanging around – they are all rescues. That added to the relaxed atmosphere to me!
Another option, if staying longer, is that of renting one of the many villas in Sicily by the sea. I have seen several walking around the narrow alleys of Stromboli. They all have beautiful gardens and the benefit of having a kitchen to enjoy cooking using fresh local produce.
A good place to eat is Pizzeria Da Luciano. Pizza is perfect: a delicious, soft and crispy crust and some great fresh toppings; but there’s also other great options, which include fish and seafood, lots of pasta dishes, salads and a great, creamy tiramisu.
The best gelato is that of Lapillo, which also makes the freshest typical Sicilian granita.
Getting to and from Stromboli
Stromboli can be easily reached via hydrofoil. There’s three leaving daily from Milazzo, near Messina, to Stromboli. Two of them are direct, while one stops in Vulcano, Lipari, Salina and Ginostra islands before reaching Stromboli.
You can book your high speed ferry from Milazzo to Stromboli here.
There are 4 daily hydrofoils leaving from Stromboli and going to Milazzo. Keep in mind that if the sea conditions are too rough the connections are stopped. That happens regularly in the winter months.
Traveling to Sicily? Make sure to read my posts A Great Guide To The Things To Do In Catania, Italy and A Fantastic 8 Days Sicily Itinerary.
Legal disclaimer: I was a guest of Imperatore Travel during my visit to the Aeolian Islands and wish to thank them for putting together an incredible itinerary. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.