The Closest Thing to Heaven and Hell on Earth

It’s exceptionally rare today to be able to experience a volcano in the same way that Mark Twain described in his letters for The Sacramento Daily Union, in 1866:

Arrived at the little thatched look out house, we rested our elbows on the railing in front and looked abroad over the wide crater and down over the sheer precipice at the seething fires beneath us. … The greater part of the vast floor of the desert under us was as black as ink, and apparently smooth and level; but over a mile square of it was ringed and streaked and striped with a thousand branching streams of liquid and gorgeously brilliant fire! … Here and there were gleaming holes twenty feet in diameter, broken in the dark crust, and in them the melted lava – the color a dazzling white just tinged with yellow – was boiling and surging furiously; and from these holes branched numberless bright torrents in many directions, like the “spokes” of a lady’s fan, and kept a tolerably straight course for a while and then swept round in huge rainbow curves, or made a long succession of sharp worm-fence angles, which looked precisely like the fiercest jagged lightning.

Quite a difference from what we saw when we visited the same crater, pictured below. Though while our view might not have been equally spectacular, is was spectacular nonetheless.

Kiluaea Crater

Over on the TravBuddy forums, nyk_flashpacker is curious to know what active volcanoes others have hiked and what their experiences were.

I’ve been to Mount Ijen in Indonesia, which had only erupted properly a few months before we were there and we were one of the first groups back up the trekking path. … I don’t think it’s especially dangerous, but there are no real precautions against breathing in what are essentially great big clouds of sulphur dioxide. ~sarahelaine

I’ve climbed several active volcanos. Mt. Yake (Yakedake), Mt. Zao and Mt. Fuji. Mt. Zao was really fantastic with a huge emerald green crator lake. It’s accessible by bus as well so I can recommend it to anyone who comes to Japan. ~Lotus28

Taal Volcano Lake (about 54km away from Manila) is a series of a volcano inside a lake which forms part of a much larger caldera. There are at least three craters from various eruptions, and Taal Volcano is the smallest active volcano in the world. ~nolan

All of these, and several others mentioned by posters in the thread, sound like they would make for amazing trips.

But if you want to achieve the closest approximation to what Twain experienced, you might have to travel to the Mount Nyiragongo, DR Congo or Erta Ale, Ethiopia, as described in this list of best places to see lava.

Which active volcanoes have you hiked? And which would you recommend to fellow travelers?

Read the thread in its entirety: Active Volcanoes !

Volcan Pacaya, Guatemala” by Dany and Maryse. CC BY-SA 2.0.

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