How to climb and visit Etna: where to sleep, tours and excursions on the volcano

Etna, with a height of 3.340 meters, is the highest active volcano in Europe. It is located in the eastern part of Sicily between Catania and Messina, and near the city of Taormina. Climbing Mount Etna is certainly one of the most beautiful and fascinating experiences that can be done in Sicily, although it is advisable to carry out the visit with expert guides and organized tours.

To preserve the territory, the fauna and flora around Etna, the Etna park, a protected natural area. The main attraction of the park is obviously Etna with its about 200 craters, many of which are still active. The crater area is accessible from two entrances: the Sapienza Refuge located on the south side and the Piano Provenzana located on the south side.

Etna is part of the world heritage of humanity protected byUNESCO. Every year, especially from spring to autumn, tourists and enthusiasts who want to visit this come from all over Italy, Europe and the world unique scenic and natural beauty, but you need to be well informed before making the visit.

In this article we will give you all the information for organize the trip and how to visit the Etna volcano, both independently and with organized excursions and tours.

How to visit Etna

How to climb Mount Etna independently

If you want to organize an excursion on Etna independently, the first step is arrive in Catania and stay for one or more nights, if you also want to visit the city, highly recommended as the city offers a lot to see and do.

The second step is reach the Sapienza Refuge which is located at an altitude of 1.900 meters at the southern entrance of Etna. Rifugio Sapienza is a hotel and an excellent base for organizing the ascent to the summit.

To reach the refuge from Catania you can use the bus AST (Sicilian Transport Company). The races are carried out every day starting from Piazza Giovanni XXIII at 8:15 am and arriving at the Sapienza Refuge at 10:15 am.

Il cost of the bus ticket for a return ticket is € 6,60 and can be purchased directly on the bus. Whether you take a day excursion, or a 2 or more day excursion, the return from Rifugio Sapienza to Catania is at 16:30 pm.

If you do not want to use the bus, perhaps to avoid being bound by the bus timetable, you can go up to the refuge with your own car or with a rental car. During the winter period in the last stretch there may be ice and / or snow.

During the winter, snow chains or snow tires are mandatory. The cost of the parcheggio is € 1.20 per hour, € 3.40 for half a day (until 13:00) or € 6 for the whole day

From the Sapienza Refuge you can start theascent on foot along one of the interesting paths that lead to the summit. Along the way you will be able to see the numerous craters present along the slopes of the volcano. The climb on foot is certainly suitable for trained and well-equipped people.

If you want, you can do the ascent with the Etna cableway which rises to 2.500 meters. The climb to the summit of Etna can be continued on off-road vehicles leading to an altitude of 2.950 meters.

Il price of the cable car for the round trip is 30 €, while the tour that includes the cable car + off-road vehicle is 70 € per person. During periods when the cable car is not in operation, the entire route is carried out in off-road vehicles.

The ascent of Etna can also be done by bike, using the ordinary roads or by mountain bike passing through the paths and woods. However, one must be well trained to reach such heights and to pedal at such altitudes, where oxygen is rarefied.

Organized tours on Etna

Although it is one of the most beautiful experiences and excursions to do in Sicily, it is always recommended to do it with experienced people or with organized tours, in order to carry out the visit safely and also in the best way, seeing all the interesting things that the mountain offers.

See all the organized tours on Etna


Lots of organized tours they start from the most touristic cities in the area, such as Catania and Taormina. For this reason, and also because they are the ones that offer the most from a tourist point of view, it is advisable to stay in these two locations.

What to do on Etna


Trekking is not alone a sporting and enjoyable activity to do on Etna, but also useful for visiting the landscape of this wonderful mountain and the panorama it offers. It is advisable to rely on expert guides.

Every day there are guided hikes that depart from Sapienza and Provenzana, weather conditions permitting. Volcano tours are organized and led by expert geologists, volcanologists and nature guides.

Le official guides they are the Etna Sud Alpine Guides Group and the North Etna Guides Group. Trekking is an activity recommended for fit and well-equipped people, if done during the winter period.

I trekking da Provenzana hanno una duration 2-3 hours, while from Sapienza the cable car and off-road vehicles are used to reach the summit, where the 4-5 hour trek on charred ground begins.


On Etna there are two ski resorts open during the winter, one on the south side and one on the north side, both equipped with modern ski lifts.

The first is Nicolosi - South Etna, located above the Sapienza Refuge. The station is located between 1.910 and 2.620 meters above sea level. The ski lifts are a 3-seater gondola lift, a chair lift and 6 ski lifts serving more than XNUMX km of slopes. The Sapienza Refuge you have a wonderful view.

The ski resort of Piano Provenzana - North Etna it develops on the other side of the mountain. The station is located between 1.810 and 2.336 meters above sea level. The ski lifts are a four-seater chairlift and 3 ski lifts that serve the four slopes, for over 10 km of slopes. The 2 ski resorts are not connected to each other.

The excursion center near the Sapienza cable car also offers ski mountaineering, off-road cycling and quad biking according to the season, while the Piano Provenzana area offers trekking on donkeys.

Train ride on the Circumetnea

An easy choice, convenient and also economical to see the area surrounding Etna is to take a train ride on the Circumetnea Railway. The trains of this narrow gauge railway depart from Catania and arrive in Riposto, crossing the landscapes and cities located at the base of the mountain, until they reach the coast again.

Trains depart from Catania (Borgo station) and run stops in the villages of Paterno, Adrano, Bronte, Randazzo, Linguaglossa and Giarre. The tour allows you to learn more about the area and the people who live at the foot of the volcano. The ticket cost to complete the entire route is € 6,80 and the duration is about 3 hours.

What to see on Etna

One of the main reasons for the climb to Etna is to admire the beautiful landscape and territory, and it is the latter that offers so many interesting things to see. Among the most interesting things to see on Etna we have:

  • Serra la Nave astrophysical observatory - to observe the sky, planets, stars and constellations in general
  • craters and effusive mouths - some off, others still active
  • Botanical Garden of Etna Nuova Gussonea - located at an altitude of 1700-1750 meters on the southern slope of Etna, this botanical garden hosts practically all the flora of the Etna volcanic area
  • woods, pine forests and forests - there are also green and wooded areas on Etna, the main ones are: Forest State Property of Giarrita, Bosco di centorbi and Pineta Ragabo
  • caves - the territory of Etna is dotted with many caves, some even 700 meters long, others presented inside the perennial ice and some used as a snow deposit

How to get to Etna

THEcar is the best and most used way to get on Etna. However, it should not be forgotten that during the winter there can be ice and therefore snow chains may be necessary.

Search and book a car rental


La starting point more convenient to start the climb and the visit of Etna is Catania, even if the tourist resort of Taormina could be a good alternative. In any case, Catania remains the best choice both as an easy location to reach from all over Italy, but also for starting the climb to Mount Etna.

You can reach Catania very easily and with different means: by car, plane, bus, train, ship or ferry. Many arrive in Catania by plane using the many low cost flights departing from the airports to the Sicilian city.

By car

To get to Etna by car, if you come from the peninsula, you must first reach the port of Villa San Giovanni in Calabria from where you can harness on one of the ferries departing for Messina.

From Messina then you can reach the coastal towns located under Etna, such as Taormina, Acireale and Catania, with thehighway A18.

The A18 motorway has various exits in the Etna coastal area: Taormina, Fiumefreddo, Giarre, Acireale, Catania and Misterbianco. In any case then it is recommended to use a smartphone or navigator to find it faster and more convenient.

By bus

The only one public bus that goes up to Etna it is AST Bus 607, which goes from Catania via Nicolosi to Rifugio Sapienza. It runs once a day from Catania (main bus station) at 08:15, returning at 16:30.

However, during the spring and autumn, and especially during the summer that connect Catania to Etna, many of these are tourist buses or belonging to organized tours.

If you need a bus to reach Catania from the peninsula, there are currently no direct lines. Anyway you can check on the site FlixBus if there are direct lines or with a change from your city.

By train

Even if you want to reach the area by train, you must arrive earlier by train to Reggio Calabria, then embark on a ferry to Messina and then take the Messina - Catania - Syracuse railway line.

Buy the train ticket


The train can also be used for visit the area surrounding the volcano, taking the Circumetnea trains departing from Giarre-Riposto and Catania.

By plane

THECatania Fontanarossa Airport it is the closest airport to reach the tourist area of ​​Etna. To reach Catania from the airport you can use the urban bus line AMT 457 "Alibus" which leaves every 20 minutes from 5:00 to midnight

Find the best flight deals to Catania

Where to sleep near Etna

The most comfortable areas and places to sleep to visit Etna are Catania e Taormina, which are also the most interesting places from a tourist point of view, those with the largest number of accommodation facilities and from where many organized tours depart for visiting Etna.

How to climb and visit Etna: where to sleep, tours and excursions on the volcano
Catania, Sicily - Photo from Istock

If, on the other hand, you want to stay at high altitude, to be closer to the summit, the best area to sleep is that of Nicolosi. The best structure is the Corsaro Etna Hotel & SPA, a 4-star hotel located about 300 meters from the Sapienza Refuge and the Etna cableway.

Find a hotel or accommodation in the Etna area

To know

To make an excursion on Etna it is advisable have mountain or hiking equipment such as: ankle-high mountain shoes, telescopic poles, enough drinking water and clothing to protect you from rain and wind.

Pay close attention to sudden changes in weather. Before hiking inquire about the weather and climatic situation present on the mountain. Depending on the period, some days there may be fog, wind, rain, thunderstorms or snow.

How to climb and visit Etna: where to sleep, tours and excursions on the volcano
Veduta dell'Etna - Image from Pixabay
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