Written by Brian Johnston
Feared, prized for their fertile soils, and admired for their beauty, volcanoes have always excited the human imagination. Here are five fiery wonders to make your jaw drop.
Mt Fuji, Japan
It’s the ambition of many Japanese to make the arduous hike to the 3,776m summit of this volcano, where they’re rewarded with a red badge. But the mystery and beauty of the legendary mountain is best appreciated from a distance, since the conical perfection of Mt Fuji rises in isolated splendour from the surrounding plains like a snow-capped mirage. On a clear day, you can see it from Tokyo’s skyscrapers. The windows of the bullet train as it passes the town of Fuji supply some of the most outstanding views – and not a step of hiking required.
Distance: 8,279 km
Flight Time: 9 hours, 30 minutes
Crater Lake, USA
The state of Oregon has only one national park, but makes it count: Crater Lake is surely one of the USA’s most beautiful landscapes. Visitors see none of it until their car crests the crater and the lake cupped inside it comes dramatically into view, shimmering in shades of peacock blue. Around it rise cliffs and pine forests where chipmunks skitter. Many visitors just drive the scenic Rim Road, but a hike provides a more rewarding encounter with this astonishing landscape.
Los Angeles, USA
Distance: 13,366 km
Flight Time: 16 hours, 25 minutes
Virunga National Park, DR Congo
Africa’s first national park is a World Heritage Site famous for its mountain gorillas, but it attracts admirers of volcanoes, too. Mt Nyiragongo volcano features the world’s largest lava lake, where molten rock bubbles and hot gases erupt. Virunga borders Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, where more fiery marvels unfold.
Distance: 3,801 km
Flight Time: 7 hrs, 20 mins
Frequency: 4 flights a week via Entebbe
Mt Vesuvius, Italy
Surrounded by bubbling hot-mud springs and still occasionally rumbling, Vesuvius looms unnervingly close to Naples, one of Italy’s largest cities: suburbs and vineyards rise up its slopes. Nearby are two stunning archaeological sites, the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, both devastated by a massive eruption in 79 CE. You can still ascend to the rim of mainland Europe’s only active volcano for fabulous views into the crater and across the Bay of Naples. Don’t miss a visit to the Observatory for some background into volcanology research.
Distance: 4,020 km
Flight Time: 6 hours
Frequency: 2 flights a day
Mt Bromo, Indonesia
Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park in eastern Java is a wonderland of volcanic landscapes, dramatic highlands, and spectacular scenery. It’s home to the island’s highest volcano, Mt Semeru, but many visitors head to the more accessible Mt Bromo, where a stumbling ascent of the crater in the dark puts you in a grandstand seat for sunrise, when the vast crater’s colours are at their most splendid.
Distance: 6,918 km
Flight Time: 8 hours, 55 minutes
Frequency: 3 flights a day