Journey to volcanic lands
What are the most beautiful volcanoes in the world? Now, that’s a burning question! Providing some of the most intriguing natural landscapes on Earth, extinct and active volcanoes are dotted all over the world. Here, we look at ten of the most remarkable. All are worth a visit as soon as possible to contemplate their beauty and mystery.
Stromboli – Stromboli Island, Sicily
This volcano is so majestic that locals have personified it, calling it “Him” (Iddu in Sicilian). Set on a circular island located between the Sicilian coast and Italy, Stromboli can be fully appreciated from the sea, where it dramatically stands out against the horizon. Its slopes bear the scars of the most recent lava flows, particularly on the north-western side where the Sciara del Fuoco talus scree regularly emits fumaroles, the very breath of the volcano, that can be seen for miles around in good weather, creating an other-worldly atmosphere.
Mosychlos – Lemnos Island, Greece
According to Greek mythology, Lemnos Island in the Cyclades was home to the forge of the god Hephaestus, located in the Mosychlos volcano. Now extinct, it shaped the surrealist landscapes of Falakro. On the ochre and beige earth, eroded lava flows, isolated peaks and spherical basalt formations create a panorama worthy of a painting, enhanced by the blue of the sea in the foreground.
Mount Otemanu – Bora Bora, French Polynesia
If you’re visiting one of the most famous lagoons in the world, then you can’t miss the moss-covered rocks of Mount Otemanu, the highest point on Bora Bora island. The atoll is formed around a volcano, now extinct with only four fragments remaining. Each of them shapes the site’s unique topography and contributes to its spectacular appearance, particularly when seen from the sea.
The volcanoes of the Aleutian Islands – Alaska, United States
Stretching for almost 1,800 kilometres, the Aleutian Islands are evidence of the seismic activity in this part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The area is home to around fifty particularly unusual volcanoes, including the famous Mount Pavlof with its Basaltic andesite formations, the crater lake on Kasatochi Island, the tempestuous Augustine Volcano, and the Islands of Four Mountains, particularly known for Mount Cleveland.
Mombacho – Nicaragua
Although not officially declared extinct, Mombacho hasn’t erupted since 1570. The vegetation has made the most of this to reclaim its territory: the slopes are home to a cloud forest and to tropical flora that is now rare in Nicaragua. Particularly easy to access, it provides superb views of the city of Granada and Lake Nicaragua, proving that walking on the side of a volcano isn’t necessarily dangerous!
Pico do Fogo – Cape Verde
The highest point of Cape Verde can also be its hottest: this volcano erupts effusively, spewing boiling red lava. Its basalt flows have shaped the ribbed landscape of the island of Fogo, which is inhabited along the coastline. One of its slopes is used as a vineyard, and the Chã das Caldeiras caldera provides one of the most impressive views of this type of volcanic formation, evoking the Moon or Mars.
The calderas of the Azores – Sao Miguel Island, the Azores
For 200,000 years, volcanoes have inhabited Sao Miguel Island in the Azores. Three of them have taken the form of crater lakes, their flanks devoted to crops and flourishing vegetation. The Fogo, Furnas and Sete Cidades lakes aren’t the only sites to have been shaped by multiple eruptions: on Faial Island, the caldera of the same name testifies once again to the seismic activity of the Azores archipelago, but also to the impressive beauty of its sumptuous “valleys” that can now be explored without fear.
Kilauea – Hawaii, United States
In the south-east of Hawaii, Kilauea mountain is home to one of the most famous volcanoes in the world. Its restlessness and the violence of its eruptions have made it a prime location to study various seismic phenomena. Kilauea, which is of great symbolic significance in Hawaiian culture, boasts some pretty unique landscapes, such as those brushed by the goddess “Pele’s hair” (volcanic rocks which look like thin strands of hair).
Sakurajima – Japan
A volcano within easy reach of the city: that’s how you could define this peak, located on Kyushu Island in Japan, just a few minutes from the city of Kagoshima. You can observe it at your leisure from the adjacent bay and surrounding buildings. Imposing through its sheer size, Sakurajima is as fascinating an attraction as other famous Japanese sites, including Mount Fuji and Mount Unzen.
Poás – Costa Rica
Approach with caution: the Poás crater contains an acidic lake, which intermittently releases sulphuric gases that can be dangerous. Over 11 million years old, this volcano, located in northern Costa Rica, primarily emits grey volcanic ash. It is also home to another extremely clear crater, surrounded by a jungle. Combining lunar landscapes with lush vegetation, it offers a rare composite view.
Take it further…
Tips: It goes without saying that for excursions on foot, especially those off the beaten track, you need good hiking shoes as reaching craters can involve steep climbs. Thanks to stony roads or basalt tracks, you can usually make the trip up by vehicle, which is more relaxing but not recommended for people with back problems. It’s a pretty rocky ride!
Must-see: A Volcano Odyssey, a documentary by François de Riberolles explaining all there is to know about the geological phenomena that shape the lives of volcanoes.
Must-read: L’Homme qui jouait avec le feu (The Man who Played with Fire), by Patrick Barois, to immerse yourself in the life of one of the most important volcanologists of our time.
PONANT takes you there
Set off for a luxury cruise that brings you closer to these volcanoes, all incredible natural beauties!