Taking our cue from BBC documentary Lost Land of the Volcano, which tracks scientists unveiling new species amid the dense flora of Papua New Guinea's extinct Mount Bosavi volcano, here are World Travel Guide's top ways to experience some of the world's most impressive volcanoes, without getting your fingers burnt.
There are over 1,500 volcanoes, from extinct craters shrouded in emerald rainforest, or craggy peaks spluttering molten lava, to those who have their gigantic nature disguised beneath hundreds of metres of sea water. While the spectacle of glowing orange lava oozing its destructive path down charred grey rock may have enchanted travellers for generations, there exist a whole host of other thrilling volcano-related activities to get you up close and personal with one of nature’s most awe-inspiring landscapes.
Bath in hot springs, Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
The luxurious hot springs of Tabacón and Baldi can be found at the base of Costa Rica‘s Arenal volcano – the most spectacular of the Central-American country’s volcanic giants. Each resort centres on pools of gloriously warm spring water, heated naturally by fiery Arenal’s bubbling magma, and embellished with luxurious trimmings such as wet bars, well-manicured tropical greenery and ambient tunes. Active since 1968, Arenal looms 1,670m (5,470ft) above sea level, and attracts a continual stream of tourists eager to catch a glimpse of tumbling lava. A frequent pillow of low cloud settled upon Arenal’s peak can make lava-spotting a little tricky in the humid day, so immerse yourself in steamy hot springs for a sure-fire volcanic experience.
Run a half marathon, Soufrière Hills Volcano, Montserrat
Jog a close path to one of the world’s most carefully observed active volcanoes whilst raising money for charity, in the world’s first volcano half marathon. On 5 December 2009, the Montserrat Volcano Half Marathon takes place on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, with the 21km (13.1-mile) route passing the active Soufrière Hills Volcano (also known as the Montserrat volcano) and including areas ravished by the volcano’s lava. The event aims to raise money for three Montserrat charities, and cash prizes will go to the first three participants to complete the volcanic course. After many years of slumber, the Soufrière Hills Volcano awoke in 1995, and the volcano has erupted since on numerous occasions, the last in 2008. See Montserrat Volcano Half Marathon for more information.
Scuba-dive, Whakaari, New Zealand
Found 48km (30 miles) off the east coast of New Zealand‘s North Island, Whakaari (also known as White Island) is an active marine volcano rising 1,600m (5,248ft) from the seabed, and poking 321m (1,053ft) above the waves of the South Pacific. The waters surrounding this volcanic isle offer prime scuba-diving conditions, with colourful sea life populating the submerged base. While Whakaari is privately owned, many tour operators run boat trips to and around the island from the nearby town of Whakatane, and fishing is also popular. If New Zealand is a few too many air miles, then the Greek destination of Santorini – a little archipelago in the Aegean Sea created by a large volcanic eruption – offers fascinating diving for those looking to explore a volcanic marine landscape.
Take a helicopter tour, Kilauea, Hawaii
Get a bird’s eye view of one of the world’s most active volcanoes with a helicopter tour across the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Tempestuous Kilauea has been issuing a continual stream of lava since 1983, and consequently Hawaii‘s fiery attraction is one of the world’s most visited volcanoes. It is whispered locally that Kilauea houses the goddess of volcanoes, Pele, and spits its scalding magma whenever the goddess is angry. The surrounding park is also home to the world’s largest volcano, Mauna Loa, which spans 75,000 km3 (19,000 cubic miles). Less active than neighbouring Kilauea, its most recent eruption was in 1984. Companies running helicopter tours over this fascinating landscape include Sunshine Helicopters and Blue Hawaiian.