This is a Rome Guide. As a result, almost all our articles deal with the city of Rome, and the articles contain content of interest to those visiting the city. But, sometimes, we publish articles that deal with other cities and areas in Italy. In the text you are reading right now, we will give you interesting and useful information if you plan on visiting Mount Etna, located south in Italy on the island of Sicily.
It is normal to have lots of questions before you visit Mount Etna. Maybe you are visiting the city of Catania or Taormina, and right now, you are sweating and looking at temperatures around 35 Celsius. But, what is the reality if you decide to visit Mount Etna? How big is the temperature difference between the sea level and the top of Etna?
We will answer as many questions as possible about Etna in this article. If you have further questions, use the comment field at the bottom of the article. We will do our best to answer additional questions as quickly as possible.
Advice as you plan your trip to Etna.
You should know many things as you plan your trip to Mount Etna. First of all, you need to get close to the mountain itself. If you live in Catania, you need to travel approximately 35km to get to Rifugio Sapienza, the most popular place for starting your hike to the top of Mount Etna.
Rifugio Sapienza is about 1900 meters above sea level, making it a perfect starting point for any excursion. Here you have a large parking lot, restaurants, and a hotel.
You can start on foot from Rifugio Sapienza or use the popular cable car to take you up to a height of 2500 meters. From there you can travel by special buses to a height of 2900 meters from where you must have a licensed guide to escort you further up. The highest peak of Mount Etna is approximately 3350 meters.
If you decide to walk on your own, it is possible, but you cannot climb higher than 2900 meters on your own without a licensed guide. The local guides always come equipped with radios and necessary security equipment, something that can come handy as Mount Etna is an active volcano capable of erupting without warning.
How to get to Mount Etna (Rifugio Sapienza)
The easiest way to start is from Rifugio Sapienza. You can travel to this location by bus from Catania every morning at 8.15, and the same bus can take you back at 16.30. The timetable and further information about this bus can be found at http://www.astsicilia.it/bus-catania-etna/.
Another way more convenient option is to join a tour that includes transportation to Mount Etna. Many such tours are available, many of them starting from Catania, but some offer pick-up or Taormina and other similar cities as a starting point. You can look at all these tours at GetYourGuide.
All hotels in Sicily offer tours or transfers to Mount Etna, which is also an option you could consider. It is most likely more expensive than joining an organized tour, but it is still worth considering all the options.
What temperatures can you expect at Mount Etna?
This is one of the most tricky questions and one you definitely need to think about. It is hard to imagine a cold mountain top as you sweat and try to survive 35 Celsius in Catania. But, many have been surprised by the weather at Mount Etna before, so prepare properly to avoid surprises.
A good place to look before your trip is at MountainForecast. Here you can see a weather forecast for Mount Etna, and it is possible to look at the differences between the top (3350 meters), 2500 meters, and 1500 meters. During a warm summer day, the temperature at the top of Mount Etna is about 25 Celsius colder than the sea-level temperature. In other words, if you experience a temperature of 35 Celsius by the sea, it might be that the temperature at the top is only 10 Celsius.
Another thing you need to consider is the wind. What feels like a fresh breeze in Catania, might feel as a chilly storm at the top of Mount Etna. If you haven’t brought a jacket, it is posible to rent a jacket at Rifugio Sapienza. But, don’t forget to wear many layers of clothes, and to wear clothes capable of keeping you warm at temperatures around 10 Celsius with a fair amount of wind.
Not all tours take you to the top of Mount Etna. Some tours will only take you to 2500 meters or 2900 meters. These might not require as warm clothes as those taking you all the way to the top, but a good advice is always to bring too much clothes and not use it all.
What should I wear on Mount Etna?
We have already answered that above, but the difference in temperature between sea-level and the top of Mount Etna is often around 25 Celsius. The difference between sea-level and 2500 meters is normally around 15 Celsius. But it is very important to consider the wind.
One thing you definitely should think about is your shoes. It is worth wearing good and solid walking shoes, and you should also wear a trouser with high shocks. On a very hot summer day, you can walk in a shorts to an altitude of 2500-2900 meters, but that is only if there is little wind and very warm. You should still wear high socks and really good walking shoes. Why do you need high socks? You are walking on volcanic rocks and some of them are quite sharp. Some of these might easily hit your legs as you walk up and down. That is best avoided by wearing good shoes and high socks (or a trouser).
Sunglasses are recommended and if you fear the dust from the volcanic rocks, consider a mask (even though most people visit the mountain without).
Remember sun lotion because the sun is strong and you will have no shade to hide behind as you climb Mount Etna.
If you are worried about all of this, join a private tour that provides jackets, shoes, and other necessities for the tour.
Where can I go to the toilet on Mount Etna?
We all need to visit the toilet. What can you do if you need to pee while hiking at Mount Etna? There are toilets at Rifugio Sapienza; if you use the cable car to get to 2500 meters, you will find new toilets on the top. But after that, it is not much luxury to expect. If you need to pee, you must hide behind a bush somewhere. There is just one tiny problem… there are no bushes on Mount Etna. In other words, you should do your uttermost to drink only as much as necessary to keep yourself alive without making your bladder explode. You can, of course, pee here and there, but if you join a group with 20 others, it is very hard to find a hiding spot without having a group of people staring at you while you do your thing!
Is there cell phone coverage on Mount Etna?
There is mostly good cell phone coverage on Mount Etna. As you walk around, you can use your phone to call friends and family and upload a picture of yourself to Instagram, Facebook, or any other social media site you use. The signal gets weaker around 3000 meters, but in general, it works fairly nice. However, it is important to remember that smartphones often perform poorly during rain, snow, and cold weather. For this reason, professional tour guides always wear radios to communicate with other tour guides and tour operators in the area (in addition to their smartphones).
Is smoke coming out of Mount Etna?
Are you seeing something looking like smoke coming out of Mount Etna? Is it smoke or is it a cloud? Since Mount Etna is an active volcano, there is actual smoke coming out of the volcano all the time. This smoke can be quite dangerous (and poisonous), and that is why many of the peak tours that aim to take you to the top of the volcano (3350 meters) only take you to lower peaks at 3000 meters due to wind direction and also based on the stability of the volcano.
Many tours tell you that they will take you to Mount Etna’s summit (top). That is a nice promise and a nice goal, but it is important to know that no tour guide can tell your 100% beforehand that you will get to the actual top. That always depends on the actual circumstances, meaning you can pay for a summit trip without visiting the summit. Normally, no warranties are included on summit trips, so keep this in mind as you pay for a trip that will take you to the summit.
How much does it cost to travel with the cable-car from Rifugio Sapienza?
The cable car price from Rifugio Sapienza at 1900 meters to the tourist hut at 2500 meters is 50 euro (t/r). If you want to travel on from there with the 4×4 bus the price is 30 euro (t/r). If you join a private tour that takes advantage of the cable car or the Unimog bus, make sure to check whether those tickets are included in the price of the tour or not as they might come as an expensive surprise later (if they aren’t included).
How long time does it take to climb Mount Etna?
This all depends on whether you are using the cable car or not, and how high you plan on going. Some private summit tours last 8-10 hours, while others last 4-6 hours. If you plan on walking from Rifugio Sapienza on your own to the highest level of 2900 (without a guide), you should count on using 4-8 hours (depending on your physical shape). The easiest way up is following the path of the cable car and the buses, as they will take you on a clean and easy-to-follow path. If you decide to hike on your own on hidden paths, you might choose much harder and more dangerous paths, so be careful and seek the advice of professionals before you decide to do your own off-the-path tour.
Can I visit Mount Etna with kids?
Some organized tours have age limits saying that children under 12 years cannot join the trips. In such cases, follow the directions and rules of the tour you are on. Even more important, you know your children’s physical condition and abilities. Climbing Mount Etna is a tiresome experience for many reasons. Climbing 500-600 meters is demanding by itself, but if you also add the very loose soil (almost like walking in deep sand upwards), and the weather conditions, this might become a gigantic challenge, not only for the kids, but also for the adults.
If you walk on your own, you can also be flexible and stop upon request. That isn’t so on a group tour, so if you or your kid are unsuitable for the trip, you might ruin the experience for the rest of the group. That is always worth considering before you join a tour of some sort.