Feeling bad for poor, erupting Iceland, a country once again enveloped in a cloud of ashy volcanic fog? Don’t worry. While Iceland is prone to more volcano eruptions than Katy Perry’s face before Proactiv, its tourism economy sees notable long-term benefits from the unstable terrain.
After the ash plume lifts, tourists travel to sites such as Grimsvotn (the volcano currently disrupting flights all over Europe) and Eyjafjallajokull (the volcano that ruined millions of summer vacations and copy editors’ lives last year). These destructive forces of nature make for eye-popping sightseeing. Here are 10 volcano vacation destinations.
Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano, draws booming tourist business to the Big Island of Hawaii. Regular lava-viewing areas are designated within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, while the lava-ravaged southeastern side of the island welcomes hippies and backpackers with its black sand beaches, volcanic hot pools and 1970s throwback rainforest collectives.
Also among the top five most active volcanoes in the world, Mt. Etna in Sicily has been erupting nonstop for at least 3,500 years, and not surprisingly, every culture from ancient Greece to Rome to Arab wove it into their legends. Because Etna never sleeps, people have learned to give it just the right amount of distance. Visitors can spot see sheep happily grazing on its slopes while the summit grumbles in a cloud of steam.
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.
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 such as Chaos Jumbles and Bumpass Hell are the eerie modern-day mementos of Lassen’s heated roilings. Farther out from the center, dozens of secret hot springs are secreted within the park and surrounding areas.
Arenal, Costa Rica
Credit: Costa Rica Tourism
As forbidding 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. The off chance of molten gaseous destruction 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.
Cerro Negro in Nicaragua isn’t an active volcano, but its landscape is almost lunar because of exhaustive damage wreaked by ages-old eruptions. Ironically, its blackened, ashy surface and steep incline makes it perfect to boogie-board down, or, as devotees call it, “ash board.” Most slide seated, as though they were sledding. A brave few try standing up, skateboard/snowboard-style.
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.
On the other side of the world, Papua New Guinea not only has 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. One recent Papua New Guinea Tourism contest invited divers to “Name your own reef!”
There are more than 100 active volcanoes in Japan. Pictured is the largest, Mt. Aso, on Kyūshū island. Mt. Aso’s caldera is size-wise on par with Yellowstone, and sees even more traffic than the park. There is a city inside of the caldera. Many dangerous areas are off-limits, including the steaming crater pictured.
Credit: George Tapan
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. Note the small central portion called “Volcano Island”–this 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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