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November 19, 2004 -- Eruptions make spectacular television viewing, but you may be surprised to know that there are thousands of people throughout the world who thrive on visiting live volcanoes.

Danger not withstanding, there are a number of specialist agencies that coordinate tours to these hot spots and will throw in a volcanologist rather than a tour guide. At Frommers.com we like to provide you with information about all kinds of traditional and alternative travel, but I will put in a disclaimer here by saying ... "travel at your own risk!"

There are 1,500 or so active volcanoes dotted throughout the world, but the current top ten destinations (based on their recent activity and propensity to put on a spectacular show) include:

  • Indonesia (Java): Mt Bromo, Merapi, Krakatoa, Gede, Papandayan, Semeru and Kawah Ijen
  • Italy: Mt Etna, Vulcano and Stromboli
  • Tanzania: Mt Kilimanjaro, Oldoinyo Lengai and Meru
  • Vanuatu: Yasur, Lopevi, Gaua, East Epi and Karua
  • Hawaii: Kilauea and Mauna Loa
  • Washington State: Mt St Helens
  • Mexico: Colima, El Chichon and Popocatepetl
  • Japan: Mt Fuji, Sakurajima and Unzen
  • Guatemala: Fuego, Pacaya and Santa Maria
  • Montserrat, West Indies: Soufriere Hills

You could choose to travel to these places independently, but, if you want to actually climb the volcanoes with trained experts, we recommend that you consider one of the following options.

Decade Volcano (www.decadevolcano.net/travel.htm; e-mail tpfeiffer@decadevolcano.net), also known as Volcano Discovery Tours, is offering five volcano-inspired trips in 2005. Volcanologist and tour guide Tom Pfeiffer is leading an excursion to the volcanoes of Java, Indonesia. Indonesia has the greatest number of active volcanoes in the world. From April 10 to 24, 2005, this tour priced at $2,900 per person for a minimum of four people includes 14-nights accommodation, all meals including drinks, ground and sea transfers, domestic flights, entry fees, visits to parks and archeological sites, local guides, cooks, tips and your multilingual volcanologist guide. Travel to and from Indonesia, Indonesian visa (30-day tourist visa $25), airport departure tax ($12) and personal travel/health insurance are additional. Their five-day tour for a small group of three to five persons to Kilauea, on the Big Island of Hawaii, provides the perfect opportunity to observe volcanic activity during four full days spent on or near the volcano and as close to its activity as possible. Priced at $1,800 per person, this tour is best taken in December or January. Airfare is additional.

Volcano Expeditions International (www.v-e-i.de/english/start.html; e-mail mail@vulkanexpeditionen.de) is a German operation that specializes in expeditions and trekking to active volcanoes worldwide. They run a number of standardized tours but predominantly rely on German-speaking clientele, so English tours are only offered when enough participants can be put together. All tours include ground transportation, a combination of hotel and outdoor accommodation, porters and cooks where required, entrance fees, full board, tips and required insurance. Six-day Mount Etna (Italy) tours require four to nine volcano enthusiasts and are best taken from June to October. Climbing to an altitude of almost 11,000 feet, you need to be pretty fit to undertake this tour and be able to carry a backpack of around 40 pounds for up to eight hours a day. Beginning in Catania (airfare to Sicily is additional), the tour is $1,158 per person. Get three volcanoes for the price of one with their Tanzania tour in January to February or June to October (minimum of six participants). This 22-day package is $4,500 per person. For even more volcano-packed activity, their East Java in Indonesia tour includes travel to four active volcanoes, which can be visited in one 18-day tour from June to September (minimum of six participants) for $2,600 per person. It starts in Yogyakarta and ends in Bali -- by then you will probably need some R&R on the beach or in a spa.

Volcano Expeditions International also run fixed date and more intensive film and scientific expeditions to the volcanoes of Chile, Vanuatu, Ethiopia and Russia.

Australian volcanologist, John Seach, operates Volcano Travel (tel. +61/438-464307; www.volcanolive.com/resources.html) leading over a dozen tours per year to volcanic destinations in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Italy and Hawaii. The tours range from two to 13 days in duration and vary in degree of difficulty, from easy to expedition standard so your fitness level may not need to be as super-human as is required by other volcano tour companies. If you want a guaranteed eruption, Vanuatu may be your destination. For example, the four-day tour of Yasur volcano, located on Tanna Island provides access to one of the world's most active volcanoes. Yasur has erupted ten to 20 times per hour for 800 years! Pricing for these tours varies by dates and group sizes. John conveniently includes a section on fatalities for each of his destinations. E-mail John at john@volcanolive.com for 2005 prices and schedules.

For more information about active volcanoes to assist in your travel planning, visit the following sites: