Everything You Need To Know About Scaling Mt. Etna

Published on 10/19/2022

If you want to hike Mount Etna on your own, climb the peak with a tour, or just take in the scenery from a safe distance, you can discover all the essential knowledge and guidance you need in this book. Along with practical advice on what to pack and how to reach to the location using public transportation (if you aren’t doing a Sicily road trip), it also offers helpful information on hidden fees and tours to avoid.

You basically just need to know everything written here before visiting Mount Etna!


Everything You Need To Know About Scaling Mt. Etna


Choose Your Base Carefully

It is simple to go to Mount Etna by automobile, and you could theoretically pick a base anywhere along the coast and make the drive early in the morning. However, if you plan to travel by rental vehicle, Catania or Taormina are the most likely departure cities. Both locations, which are roughly an hour’s drive from the Etna entrance, are well-liked bases for tourists visiting Sicily as well as pit stops on an east Sicily itinerary.

You should be aware that the roads leading to Etna are extremely winding and impractical for fast driving. We were based in Aci Trezza, a little town outside of Catania, and although the distance appeared to be reasonably short on the map, the actual journey time was much longer than anticipated, necessitating a little bit of a rush in the final stretch.

Mount Etna Is At An Altitude

Both Torre Del Filosofo, where a summit walk will start, and Mount Etna’s summit are 3,300 meters above sea level, places where altitude sickness may strike.

There isn’t much you can do to acclimate to the altitude as you’ll probably be vacationing in Sicily, a region that is almost entirely at sea level, so you’ll just need to pay attention to your body. It’s very natural for you to feel a little breathless on this climb owing to the thin air, but if you start to feel ill, you must stop, let your guide know, and think about turning around because the best way to recover from altitude sickness is to descend below 2,500 meters.

It’s Cold!

The altitude of Mount Etna means that even in the summer months, it becomes very cold at the top. We realize it’s hard to envision your Sicilian summer vacation containing anything other than dips in the ocean, Aperol spritzes, and beautiful blue skies.

When we went in July, we each put on a pair of shorts and got dressed in the morning at our Airbnb with an ocean view. During our day trip to Mount Etna, we bravely marched around barefoot, although in all honesty, hiking pants would have made us feel much better. In a similar manner, we donned a vest and t-shirt when we first set out but by lunchtime had switched to an emergency fleece, and the hoods of our windbreakers were still drawn up over our heads.

Active Volcanoes…

A huge draw for tourists to Mount Etna is the chance to get up close and personal with a highly active volcano. The issue with this is the possibility that it will be a little too active on the day you decide to climb it. This can change your plans and perhaps even prevent you from going higher up, though it is all for the best in terms of safety.

The Summit

With Etna, the answer isn’t entirely clear-cut: you can safely climb up to 2,900m on your own (we’ll go over these options a little later), but if you want to see the summit, you must go as part of a scheduled tour led by a qualified guide who is very familiar with the route, carries safety equipment (including a radio), and can navigate to and from the summit in inclement weather.

Although it may sound a little aggravating, you only need to think about the Sicilian tourism board’s worry of someone unintentionally falling into the crater of an active volcano to realize the tour guide requirement makes total and utter sense. This restriction was originally introduced in 2013.

Three Ways To Rifugio Sapienza

Everyone must travel independently to Rifugio Sapienza, sometimes known as “Etna South,” unless their tour includes hotel pickup (like this one from Catania).

This location is significantly busier than the other “Etna North” because it is the highest point you can drive to, where the Mount Etna cable car departs from, and where all the tourist facilities are located.

The Rifugio is conveniently accessible from Catania by public transport or rental car.