Exploring volcanoes – Aeolian hiking

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Stromboli erupting 2012

Aeolian Islands hiking is the first episode of Exploring volcanoes 

This post was named after true experiences while visiting Sicilian volcanoes with some nice guests!

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Daniel and wife at sunrise

That morning of July some years ago, we just wanted to explore the beauty of a singular active volcano and have an incredible hike of one of the most amazing mount in the Aeolian.

It was about 6 o’clock AM and as usual we could enjoy an outstanding sunrise once we got to the crater’s summit.

Let me explain you where it was exactly and how easy it is to get to this gorgeous place. But first of all check out this video here.

Aeolian and volcanoes

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Gran cratere della Fossa, southern slope, I. of Vulcano, Sicily

The Aeolian Islands (Isole Eolie in Italian) are a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily, named after the demigod of the winds Aeolus (Eolo in Italian). The largest island is Lipari thus the islands are sometimes referred to as the Lipari Islands or Lipari group. The other islands include Vulcano (where the photo above was taken), Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi, Panarea and some beautiful islets like Basiluzzo or Strombolicchio.

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Pumice into the sea, I. of Lipari, Sicily

The present shape of the Aeolian Islands is the result of volcanic activity over a “geologically recent” period. Purists even include Lipari among the active volcanoes since it had its last eruptive activity in historic times, probably in 729 AD, at Monte Pilatus at the NE tip of the island, forming a spectacular obsidian lava flow. Since Ancient times, the island has been known for its rich deposit of pumice (the largest deposit in the world!) and obsidian, – a highly valued raw material to manufacture tools such as knives and arrowheads in the Stone and Bronze Age. Obsidian from Lipari has been found throughout the Mediterranean, proving that a vast trade network existed already during the 2nd millennium BC (www.volcanodiscovery.com). There are two more active volcanoes to mention, Stromboli and Vulcano. The volcanic activity of steaming fumaroles and thermal waters are on most of the islands but especially on the Island of Vulcano.

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Volcanic island arcs and subduction

The archipelago forms a volcanic arc originated by the movement of the Earth’s crust as a result of plate tectonics. The African continental shelf, which is heavier is in constant movement towards Europe. The resulting collision has created a volcanic area with ruptures in the Earth’s crust with consequent eruptions of magma. The “Aeolian Arc” is due to the subduction of the plates, the African plate going under the Eurasian one.

The complex of the 7 major Aeolian Islands, covering an area of 1,600 square kilometres, originated from a great plain at the bottom of the Tyrrhenian sea. Emissions of lava from depths of up to 3,600 metres resulted in the formation of the Aeolian Islands, together with Ustica and a series of submarine volcanoes named Magnani, Vavilov, Marsili and Palinuro, as well as two that are unnamed.

Love hiking volcanoes

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Main fumaroles’ area on Vulcano’s crater

To enjoy more, hikes generally begin early in the morning, although evening hikes can also take place during the summer when the temperature in Sicily reaches 40 degrees Celsius at daytime in a way to admire the sunset. As early birds, hit the trails before the crowds set in, and start early so that you can take it more easy  along the way and take as many pictures as you like or make short films. Total stressfree experience!

You actually can go and hike in different locations such as the Aeolian naturally but also on the Etna, the Madonie, the Nebrodi and some other incredible places like the Aegadian Islands in western Sicily. Sicily offers a lot of gorgeous sites.

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Riserva dello Zingaro, Trapani province, Sicily

Wanna hike? 

If ever you are interested in making a small group of friends and relatives directed to Sician beauties, be sure I could help you out and write upon request a tailor-made program for you, including hikes from short and fairly easy to intermediate. I generally prefer smaller groups (more intimate), and I like to get off the beaten pathways as often as possible. We can hike and swim (see the above picture of the Riserva dello Zingaro for example).

Sicily truly offers a large range of any kind of mountains. Hikers are then very welcome and can find in Sicily exclusive locations and unique sceneries.

You now know a bit more about the Aeolian and their active volcanoes. Let’s speak about how easy it is to reach the summit of the Gran Cratere della Fossa in Vulcano, where we were on the pictures with Daniel and his wife (only 391 meters upon sea level)!

Reaching the crater at sunrise time

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Early morning contemplation on the crater of Vulcano

The best time to hike during the summer is definitely in the early morning and that’s what we did with Daniel (on the first picture). You need to wake up and that’s it! It only takes more or less one hour to get to the highest point of the “Cratere della Fossa”, the active crater of the Island (fumaroles and sulfur). Everyone can do it. If you want to make sure you don’t miss the attractive fumaroles’ areas and want to get things explained, you can hire a tour guide there at the harbor almost all year long. The scenery from above is breathtaking, you just have to walk along the pathways and should not decide to get inside the “mouth” of the crater because some gas are lethal, even if some guidebooks or some people could recommend it as a must. It wouldn’t be crazy but simply stupid to risk your life!

The Island is only 21 square km but so nice that you’d rather stay overnight, in one of the hotels, bed and breakfast or other accommodation.

Since I am a tour guide, I obviously can take you to this volcano and to many other interesting places in Sicily. Tailor-made tours can be organized upon your request. If interested, find out more by sending an email explaining me better what you would like to do, see and experience to contact@franckgreco.com.

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