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Etna Excursions FAQ

Etna Excursions Faq


Hello dear friends of Sicily Travel Tips. I promised you a guide with Etna Frequently Asked Questions and here it is😉.
Let’s go 😉

1. Is it worth taking the cable car?

The cable car is a great way to reach the highest altitude possible 2700m if combined with the 4×4 bus. The cost is about 80€ per person. The view is really amazing, but guide explanation are very poor. If you are not interested in the knowledge of the volcano but only in the panoramic, it is worth the visit. If you choose cable car only (without 4×4 bus option), you will arrive at 2500 m, here you can have a walk (alone without a guide) to the closest crater. Beyond, you cannot go without a volcano guide. Cost 50€. The cable car is open year-round. In summer, queues are very long. No reservation required. You can reach the cable car by public transport from Catania with AST Bus Company. There is a departure at 8 am and a return at 4pm only. It is advisable to be at the bus station very early to get spots. There is a private bus «Tourist Service» but schedule are very strict. Ticket price from 30€ per person. A valid alternative to the cable car is the 4×4 bus Etna north in Piano Provenzana. Active only from May to October (opening may vary depending on weather conditions). Highest altitude reaches, 2800m. Unlike the cable car, departures are scheduled. This is an advantage because you will not have to wait long queues even in Summer and there is a guide for each bus. It is advisable to book places are limited. Cost 69€ per person. There are no public buses that carry out transportation to Etna north. Rent a car or ask for a private or shared transfer.

2. South side or north side, which one to choose?

Each side of the volcano has its charm. The south is simply more accessible. Get to Rifugio Sapienza by bus or car. From here you can simply walk or take the cable car even without a guide. For this reason, the south side is more touristy and crowded. The north side, more difficult to reach because there is no public transport but if you have a car, you can reach this slope very easily. Roads are in good condition. Here you can take a walk to Piano Provenza or in the path called “sentiero dei monti Sartorius”.
South or north side, at low altitude below 2500m, it is not mandatory to have a volcano guide or even a naturalist guide. A guide allows you to enrich the knowledge of the volcano and its territory from a geological, historical and cultural point of view but it is never mandatory below 2500m. 3.

I have joint pain, which hike can I do?

You can choose a company that offer an easy low quote tour, for example Etna morning tour or a sunset tour. This kind of tour is easy for everybody, even with light joint issues. If you don’t want to reach a group tour, you can easily access to one of the two touristic areas, rifugio Sapienza (south) or Piano Provenzana (north) and just enjoy the view and have a light walk.

4. Hiking to the top craters how it works?

In winter, it is possible to reach an altitude of 2900m from South Etna and with volcano guide only. Route: cable car up to 2500m then trekking up to 2900m. It is not possible to go further because the recent eruptions destroyed the old trails and because to date, the limit set by the law for safety reasons is 2900m (south side). Cost €110 includes the cost of the means of transport + the guide + shoes, sticks, and helmets. 👀 Be careful: this type of excursion is suitable for people accustomed to walking in the mountains and who do not have joint, cardiovascular or asthma problems.
Between Spring until winter, it is possible to reach the altitude 3357m, this is the top or the maximum, on the north side and with volcano guides only. Route: from Piano Provenzana 4×4 bus up to 2800m, trekking up to 3357m. Cost 120 € includes the cost of the means of transport + the guide + shoes, sticks, and helmets. 👀 Be careful: this type of excursion is suitable for people accustomed to walking in the mountains and who do not have joint or cardiovascular, asthma issues.

5. Can I hike with a baby on Mount Etna?

For children under 3 years it is recommended not to exceed 2000m altitude, but it always depends on the child.

6. Volcano or nature guide, what’s the difference?

The nature guide is a guide who accompanies you safely, tell you about the landscape, the volcano and take the time to share with you his knowledge. For local law, the nature guide can accompany people below, 2500m. The volcano guide is a highly specialized and more technical guide. Its task is to accompany in a volcanic environment safely. It is mandatory for high altitude excursions beyond 2500m. This guide will tell you about the landscape, the volcano and take the time to share with you his knowledge.

7. Etna 4×4 excursion: What does it mean?

There are companies that offer 4×4 excursions with jeep. They are low altitude excursions ONLY. Be careful because it is not possible, (given the protected area where Etna is located) to do large off-road routes. In addition, the 4×4 is not essential to reach the trails of Etna because, for obvious reasons, they are closed to means of transport. Choosing a 4×4 jeep tour will not add value to your experience. The choice is purely personal.

8. The best season to hike?

If we talk about the weather, then the ideal is late summer and fall. If we mean landscape all the seasons, have their beauty and their colours: in summer, Etna is tinged with the yellow of the broom, in winter the white of the snow, autumn the leaves change colour and everything becomes golden, spring is an explosion of colours.

9. What does it mean to go to the “highest altitude possible”?

This means reaching the highest altitude authorized by local law that can change depending on volcanic activity.

10. What should we wear ?

In any season, it is recommended to dress in “layers”, especially during spring and autumn. It is very important to have closed shoes. If you hike on the trails and at low altitude, sneakers are enough. If the route is more complex, we recommend hiking shoes. If you want to hike to the top craters, hiking shoes are mandatory, but you will not have to carry them in your suitcase because they are included in the price of the excursion (only for the summit excursion)

11. What does it mean to climb Mount Etna?

Etna is a very large volcano. Unlike Vesuvius, whose summit is reached in just 20 minutes, to hike Etna and reach the top it takes several hours.

12. Is there public transport to Mount Etna?

At present, public transport to reach Mount Etna is insufficient. From Catania there is the public bus (AST company) . Depart is at 8am and arrives at Rifugio Sapienza after 2 hours. Alternatively, there is a private service called “Tourist Service” which from Catania reaches Rifugio sapienza but it is not very flexible with the schedules. Tariff is from 30€.

13. Can I visit Mount Etna with health problems?

For people who have cardiovascular, or asthma issues is recommended to avoid altitudes. For light problems, staying lower should not cause any particular discomfort. If in doubt, ask your doctor.

14. How does the small train (circumetnea) that goes around Mount Etna work?

The circumetnea is a small train that goes around Etna from Catania to Giarre or from Giarre to Catania. It is a commuter train for students or workers, so there are very few departures scheduled. Example: from Catania Borgo at 8:05 arrival at Randazzo 10. 10. Departure from Randazzo at 15:05 and arrival at Giarre at 16:18. Then you have to take another train and go back to Catania. It’s a bit complicated, but it’s possible. Very important not to miss the schedules. There are no other trains but only buses. There are guided tours, ask for it.

15. Are there too many excursions, which one to choose?

This is one of the questions that only you can answer because it depends on many factors: your physical shape, your budget, your wish to learn about the volcano…
In general: without a guide, you can do one of the trails s of Etna. Among the best known there is Piano Vetore Trail (Etna South), Schiena dell’asino (Etna South), Silvestri Crater Trail (Etna South) Sartorius Mountain Trail (Etna North), 2002 Crater Trail (Etna North)… More information on this subject can be found on the Internet.
If you want to learn about the volcano, ask for a nature guide (like me or other colleagues). In general, this kind of experience has several stops in order to see as much as possible. Example: Etna in the morning, Etna at sunset, Etna and Alcantara gorges… You can also find these tours in combination with Taormina, wine tasting or other. This tour suits everyone, even families with children, altitude reached between 1600m to 2100m.
If you want to go higher, but effortlessly, the option is south side: cable car + 4×4 bus or north side by 4×4 bus.
If you want to go as high as possible, there are “top craters excursions” from South Etna with cable car + trekking to 2900m or North Etna 4×4 bus and trekking up to 3357m. With a volcano guide only.
For further information, feel free to ask info@enjoyoursicily.com 
Here you can find most common Etna Excursions
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