Gruppo di escursionisti sulle pendici di Etna nord

Visiting Mount Etna

This guide aims to explain how to visit Mount Etna in Sicily. We will share suggestions on self-guided tours both on foot and with a Mountain Bike. We will advise how to get to Mount Etna by bus, by car, and the price range for guided tours on Mt. Etna departing from Taormina or Catania. We are going to explain the differences between the south side of Mount Etna and the north side. If you wish to know more about how to visit Mount Etna, keep on reading this 2023 ultimate guide.

mount etna sicily

Etna is a stratovolcano located in Sicily, the southernmost region of Italy. The geological history of Etna begins with underwater activities 500,000 thousand years ago. Around 300,000 years ago, Mount Etna's activity became sub-aerial, and the volcanic building began to form. Only 170,000 years ago, it moved to the current eruptive center. Around 35,000 years ago and for about 20,000 years, Etna goes through a more explosive phase, which produces large pyroclastic flows, the ashes of which reach as far as Rome. Around 9,000 years ago, the volcano's east flank collapsed, sliding into the Mediterranean sea, forming a gigantic depression called the Valle del Bove. The collapse of the east side of Etna generated a tsunami that reached and destroyed most of the eastern coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The last major lateral eruption that destroyed the ski lifts, two hotels, and a series of shops dates back to October 2002. From 2002 to March 2022, Etna produced at least another 35 summit eruptions from the southeast crater, the most active of the four craters that form the summit apparatus. The height of Etna is 3328 meters (10,912 ft). The fertile soils along the sides of Etna have always supported flourishing agriculture. In the last thirty years, a young and innovative generation of oenologists and entrepreneurs has given birth to a  wine district visited every year by tourists worldwide. Hiking up to the summit craters is also an important income source for tourist agencies that organize day trips. During the winter, two ski lifts are in operation.

How to Visit Mount Etna

Mount Etna is undoubtedly a Sicilian icon that draws hundreds of thousands of tourists to the summit area and along his flanks every year. But, How can we visit Mount Etna? We can cycle from the woodlands to the edge of the lava desert at 3000 meters; we can hike for days and days or just for a couple of hours. We can explore Mount Etna riding a horse or in the company of a lama. We can decide to drive to the cableway, at 1900 meters and then go for a self-guided walking tour, or choose an Etna Guided tour from Taormina or Catania. Let us find out how to visit Mount Etna and how to get to Mount Etna from Catania and Taormina.

Shall I Go to The South or North Side of Mt. Etna?

Before you decide how to visit Mount Etna, you should know the differences between the south and north sides of the volcano. The Northside of Mt. Etna has a vast forest, many cycling trails, a series of fantastic hikes, and is not crowded. The main tourist cities close to the north side are Taormina and Giardini Naxos, even Castelmola and Letojianni are located north of Mt. Etna. From 2023 it's possible to hike all the way to the summit of the volcano from the north side, this means that if you are staying in Taormina you do not need to drive all the way to the cable car at "Rifugio sapienza". The south side is more barren, but thanks to the Etna's cable car is the ideal side if you decide to climb to the summit area starting from Catania. The south side at Rifugio Sapienza is crowded, but still, the landscape is stunning and worth a visit. Remember! Catania is closer to the south side, while Taormina and Giardini Naxos are closer to the north side.

When to visit Mount Etna

The best time of the year to cycle or hike on mount Etna is between April and the beginning of November. While between December and March, Mount Etna offers the chance to enjoy some skiing thanks to the two ski lifts on the north and south side and, a Nordic ski trail located at Piano Provenzana on the north side.

Mount Etna clothing

The recommended clothing to visit Mt. Etna varies according to the season. When visiting Mount Etna between November and March heavy clothing is Paramount. We recommend wearing winter trousers, waterproof shoes, a good sweater, a jacket, gloves, and a hat. Bring always a pair of extra wool socks in the rucksack just in case you will get your shoes wet, you do not want to freeze your feet. From April until October you can opt for lighter clothing, but carry always a jacket and a pair of trekking boots. Lava rocks are sharp as razors.

Mount Etna temperature

The average temperature on Mount Etna between 1000 meters and 2000 meters is 12degrees Celsius. August is the hottest month, with an average temperature of 22-24 degrees Celsius. Between December and February above 1400 meters, temperatures can drop below zero even during the day.

Visiting Mount Etna with a guided walking tour

Out there, the offer for tours on Mount Etna is broad. Still, at the end of the day, there are three or four essential excursions worth buying to explore this Italian volcano.  When buying a tour ask always if the price includes, pick up to your hotel, walking boots, and walking poles.

Mount Etna summit tour price range €119 - €189

When buying the Etna Summit Tour, make sure it goes to the summit active craters at 3320 and not just to the Barbagallo Craters at 2900 meters on the south side, or it stops at the observatory of vulvanology on the north side, be careful! Ask if the price for the summit tour includes cable car, Unimog, alpine guide, walking poles, and trekking boots. Some tour operator advertises the tour to the summit at a very low cost, but soon you will realize the price was just for transport. We recommend Sicily Active is a reliable tour operator based in Taormina that sells without hidden fees.

Mount Etna Long Hike Bove Valley price range €79 - €99

This Etna hike is almost unknown to the mainstream, but if you love walking and, want to get off the beaten path, this is the excursion you should buy. This full-day excursion departs from the Rifugio Citelli (A Mountain shelter)  on the north side of Mount Etna. This excursion lasts 8 hours; it covers 14 kilometers and delivers one of the most beautiful views of the volcano; the lunar Bove Valley. Along the trail, there is the suggestive Serracozzo cave.

Etna and Alcantara tour price range €69 - €89

This is an evergreen among Etna's tours. Who choose to buy this Alcantara Etna excursion will get to see in a single day two of the most iconic landscapes of Sicily’s east coast; Mount Etna and the picturesque Gorges of the Alcantara. This full-day tour lasts 8 hours. It includes a 2 hours walk, the descent into a cave, and finally, after lunch, a visit with a swim into the river that plows the fantastic Canyon of the Alcantara.

Mount Etna Wine tour price range €99 - €139

Yes, the flanks of Mount Etna host a large and picturesque wine district. The Tour of Mount Etna and the wine district is the ideal solution for those travelers who wish to visit the volcano and taste some Etna wines paired with local food. A wine tour includes; some off-road through the Etna woodland, a brief walk (45-60 minutes) the tasting of wines, a full lunch, and in the afternoon a drive through the Alcantara Valley, and a walking tour of the town of Castiglione di Sicilia. When buying this tour, ask if the company uses Jeeps.

Can you climb Mount Etna without a guide?

Well,  yes, you can climb Etna alone, as long as you do not go over 2800 meters (9500 Ft.)  Is it worth hiking far from the summit of Mt. Etna? Yes, between 1500 and 2800 meters ( 5000 and 9500 ft.), there are plenty of beautiful hiking trails, and the landscape is fantastic. To find out more about Etna's self-guided tours, you can read our dedicated article about Hike in Sicily. Please keep in mind that even though Etna is not a very explosive volcano, it is one of the most active on the planet. The closer you get to the summit, the higher the risk of accidents becomes. Therefore, please be always cautious and evaluate if it’s the case to stop your climb to the summit.

Where to eat on Mount Etna?

There are just a few places where to eat on Etna's north side. The Mountain Chalet Clan Dei Ragazzi is an excellent choice. They serve a wide range of first and main courses, sandwiches and salads. This lovely Chalet built in a pine forest has rooms and a Mountain bike rental. The Rifugio Citelli instead is a mountain shelter; they serve some pasta and some meat-based dishes. The Rifugio Citelli has a dormitory where hikers sleep. At Piano Provenzana always on Etna nord there is “Chiosco Mare Neve”. This place is a bar, but last year they extended the site. From 2021 they have started to serve some main courses, sandwiches, and the typical “Panino with the sausage”. A couple of hundred yards from the Chiosco Mare Neve, there is Monte Conca Restaurant. This is an authentic restaurant; they have a wide range of food, even though we found that clan Dei Ragazzi food is much better. On Etna south side, at Rifugio Sapienza by the Etna Cable car, you will see many places where to eat and do some souvenirs shopping

How to get to Mount Etna north side from Taormina

The distance from Taormina to Etna's north side is around 40 kilometers. By car, It takes 45 minutes to get to Piano Provenzana, where the road ends at an altitude of 1800 meters. From Taormina, drive along the A18 motorway towards Catania, exit at Fiumefreddo junction, and then follow the road sign to Lingualossa di Sicilia. 

How to get to Mount Etna South Side from Taormina

To get from Taormina to Etna's south side, drive along the A 18 Motorway, exit at Giarre junction, then follow the road sign to Zafferana Etnea. The Distance from Taormina to Rifugio Sapienza is 55 kilometers, and by car, it takes 1 hour and twenty minutes. The south side is where the Etna cable car is located.

How to get to Mount Etna Northside from Catania

From Catania, drive along the A18 towards Messina, exit at Fiumefreddo, and then follow the road sign to Linguaglossa di Sicilia. The distance is 54 kilometers, and it takes 1h and 20 minutes to reach Etna North Side.

How to get from Catania to Etna southside

From Catania to reach Etna south side at Rifugio Sapienza, the distance is 35 kilometers, and it takes 50 minutes. Drive towards Gravina, then follow the road sign towards Nicolosi and then drive toward Rifugio Sapienza, where the Etna cable car is located.