Volcano Vacations

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Volcano Vacations

The volcano is perhaps the only category of natural disaster that has major tourist appeal. Mildly active volcanoes draw crowds with molten-lava activity, otherwordly geological features and nearby hot springs. Among this slide show of the world's top viewer-friendly volcanoes, some are easily recognizable, while others are exotic - some are sleepy, while others catch headlines with their fiery theatrics.

 Volcano Vacations

The volcano is perhaps the only category of natural disaster that has major tourist appeal. Mildly active volcanoes draw crowds with molten-lava activity, otherwordly geological features and nearby hot springs. Among this slideshow of the world's top viewer-friendly volcanoes, some are easily recognizable, while others are exotic - some are sleepy, while others catch headlines with their fiery theatrics.

By Lena Katz

Kilauea | Hawaii

Kilauea, the world's most active volcano, is drawing international focus to the Big Island of Hawaii with its recent eruptions; but Hawaii's not the only place in the world that offers awesome volcano viewing. From Central America to the South Pacific to Africa, volcanoes make unforgettable sightseeing and unique activities for the adventurous traveler.

Photo Credit: USGS/Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

Eyjafjallajokull | Iceland

Last April this Icelandic volcano with the unpronounceable name wreaked major havoc on spring travel; but one year later, it's become one of Iceland's top tourist draws. "Volcano tours now rival attendance at the country's other best-known attraction, the famed Blue Lagoon," reports the North America office of Visit Iceland.

Photo Credit: VisitIceland.org/Ragnar T. Sigurdsson

Mt. Etna | Italy

Also among the top five most active volcanoes in the world, Mt. Etna in Sicily has for a millennia enjoyed a special place in people's hearts. This volcano has been erupting nonstop for at least 3,500 years; and not surprisingly, every culture from ancient Greek to Roman to Arab wove it into their legends. Because Etna never sleeps, people have learned to give it just the right amount of distance - thus, you see sheep happily grazing on its slopes while the summit grumbles in a cloud of steam.

Photo Credit: Italian Government Tourist Board North America

Yellowstone Supervolcano | Montana

Few people realize this, but the popular family destination and outdoor adventure wonderland of Yellowstone National Park is also known as the Yellowstone Supervolcano. That's right, the home of so much natural beauty and wildlife is also a volcanic hotspot regularly monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey. The center of the volcano action lies under Yellowstone Lake.

Photo Credit: National Park Service

Lassen Peak | California

When Lassen erupted in 1914, ash clouds blew as high as 30,000 feet into the air. But that wasn't the only dramatic event for this Northern California volcano. Geological and hydrothermal features like Chaos Jumbles and Bumpass Hell are the eerie modern-day mementos of Lassen's heated roilings. Further out from the center, dozens of hidden hot springs are secreted within the park and surrounding areas.

Photo Credit: National Park Service

Arenal | Costa Rica

As forbidden as it might seem to live in the shadow of a restive volcano, people just can't stay away from Arenal. Its daily eruptions are lauded as a sightseeing perk, its hot springs are world-renowned and the off chance of molten gaseous destrictopm doesn't bother anyone - from backpackers to families doing canopy tours to five-star hotel developers. There's magic about this Costa Rican volcano smoldering over the high jungle.

Photo Credit: Costa Rica Tourism

Cerro Negro | Nicaragua

Cerro Negro in Nicaragua isn't an active volcano, but its landscape is almost lunar and so exhaustive was the damage wreaked by ages-old eruptions...

Photo Credit: Tierra Tour, Nicaragua

Cerro Negro | Nicaragua

Ironically, its blackened, ashed-out surface and steep incline makes it perfect to boogie-board down or, as devotees call it, "ash board." Most riders are seated as though they were sledding - a brave few try standing up, skateboard/snowboard-style.

Photo Credit: Tierra Tour, Nicaragua

Pitons | St. Lucia

Further to offbeat volcano adventures, St. Lucia offers a drive-in volcano experience featuring mud baths and nearby zip-lining. The drive-in volcano is La Soufriere, not to be confused with Soufrière Hills in Montserrat. Pictured are the Pitons, St. Lucia's famous "twin peaks" landmark, located just south of Soufriere.

Virunga Volcanoes | Rwanda

In Rwanda, adventure travelers can journey in the footsteps of Dian Fossey through Parc National des Volcans, tracking gorillas and visiting local villages on the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes.

Photo Credit: Baobab Expeditions

Papua New Guinea

On the other side of the world, Papua New Guinea has not only active volcanoes but ancient extinct ones harboring never-before-seen species. The few travelers that make it to these South Pacific Islands can hike volcanoes, surf undiscovered breaks and explore spots unseen by humans - a recent PNG contest invited divers to "Name your own reef!"

Photo Credit: Papua New Guinea Tourism

Volcano Island | Phillipines

Unbeknownst to most Americans, the Phillipines has more active volcanoes than almost anywhere else in the world - between 18 to 25, depending on who's counting. This image is of Taal, noteworthy for "Volcano Island," which is the active part and counted as separate from the much larger Taal caldera. Surrounded by a lake that now fills the ancient caldera, Volcano Island is described as the smallest active volcano in the world.

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