I know – it sounds bizarre to even consider walking on what is one of Europe’s liveliest volcanoes. However you should bear with me, since there are many people who safely walk or hike around Mount Etna on a regular basis. Perhaps you too will become one of them when you visit Sicily.
The most important thing to note is the need to be prepared. You may be excited to walk many miles around Mount Etna but you should be sure you are physically capable of any trail or route you choose. There are many routes here and some are better to ascend the volcano, while others are more preferable when you wish to descend again.
Furthermore it is wise to explore the terrain of Mount Etna long before you reach it; one side of the volcano may not be as pleasurable for you to explore as another. A lot will depend on your fitness, your desire for a challenge and how long you wish to spend on the volcano itself.
It is possible to climb without a guide, although of course you can choose to have one if you wish. However this is only applicable up to 2,900 metres, so if you wish to go beyond that you must by law have a guide with you. It is also wise to check the latest status of this grumbling mountain prior to walking any route, no matter how high or low. Mount Etna can and does erupt, and you do not want to be in prime viewing position when she does!
Every mountain, every trail and every situation needs to be respected, but with Mount Etna this becomes ever more important. However if you do just that and you start to explore what she has to offer, you will be appreciative of the views she will provide you with. She looks down over Sicily, threatening occasionally and drawing the attention of thousands on a daily basis. No one knows quite what she has in store, but for the many walkers and hikers who arrive in Sicily each year, she is the main attraction without a doubt.
If all this suggestion of walking is a little too much, you can get close to the mighty Etna in another more sedate way. Climb aboard the Ferrovia Circumetnea which takes you part way up the volcano, to around 950 metres. Rather less energy is required for this trip than would be needed from a serious hike, especially if you have no intention of going higher than 950 metres or so anyway. The train service is never overly crowded so you can take your seat, sit back and enjoy the marvellous views out of the window. As you climb higher you will see more of Mount Etna and you may even spot a walker or two out of the window.
Which would you prefer – to be the walker or the person appreciating everything the scenery has to offer from the comfort of the train? To be honest I am torn between the two! If you have time I would definitely recommend them both.