Brooding Mount Etna dominates the landscape of eastern Sicily, its snow-capped peak often emitting smoke or spewing molten lava against a clear blue sky. It’s one of the world's most active volcanoes, yet almost a quarter of Sicily's population live on its slopes or at its foot.
The mineral-rich soil provides ideal conditions for agriculture and the combination of dramatic landscapes and fine food and wines makes it a rewarding place to visit. You'll also get a host of Baroque architecture, carved from volcanic rock, in nearby Catania, Sicily's second largest city, a place that reflects the intense energy of the mountain looming above it.
Mount Etna dominates Sicily’s skyline. Standing on its desolate (and, admittedly, often freezing) summit is an experience not quite of this world. Contrast that with a more sedate visit to one of the wineries that populate the volcano’s fertile lower slopes.Italy specialist Kim
Things to see and do at Mount Etna
Vibrant, youthful and gritty, Catania was founded in the 8th century BC and was an important political and cultural hub. Its proximity to tempestuous Mount Etna saw it consumed by lava on several occasions and completely destroyed in the 17th century. Rebuilt in lavish Baroque style, the historic core is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site with many ornate palazzi (palaces) and churches.
However, you'll get a more authentic feel for local character at La Pescheria, the daily fish market. Here, boisterous traders vie for attention and locals pick their way through stalls piled high with sardines, shellfish and squid. The laneways nearby are lined with stalls laden with luscious-looking fruit and vegetables — the pay-off of risking farming on the slopes of a volcano.
The rich volcanic soils of Mount Etna make the region ideal for wine production and one of the joys of a visit is wandering around a local winery, learning about the long history of viticulture here and sampling some of the fine vintages that have come from the area. A tasting lunch offers the chance to pair some of the wines with the region's fine produce, an inviting prospect after a trip up the volcano itself.
Viticulture here goes back to prehistoric times and plays a large part in the mythology of the region. Vines flourish in the mineral-rich soil, while the mountain's diverse micro-climates and the vineyards' differing elevations produce complex, high-quality wines with a distinct character.
One of the best ways to explore Mount Etna is on a 4x4 tour, which will allow you to get to the very top of the mountain, learning about the geology of the area and the people who choose to live here en route.
The igneous-rock villages, vineyards, chestnut groves and pine forests of the lower slopes soon give way to lichen and broom and eventually to the bare, black rock and ash of the summit. Stopping to examine old lava flows and craters, then taking a cable-car to the mountain's peak, offers both remarkable views over the surrounding area and the chance to walk along the rim of an active volcano.
Suggested itinerary featuring Mount Etna
This sample itinerary will give you an idea of what is possible when you travel in Mount Etna, and showcases routes we know work particularly well. Treat this as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Map of Mount Etna
Places & hotels on the map
Places near Mount Etna
- Taormina 29 kilometers away
- Sicily 61 kilometers away
- Villa Romana del Casale 73 kilometers away
- Syracuse 80 kilometers away
- Ragusa, Modica & Noto 95 kilometers away
- Agrigento 135 kilometers away
- Palermo 149 kilometers away
- Erice and Trapani 214 kilometers away
- Marsala 226 kilometers away
- Capri 319 kilometers away
- The Amalfi Coast 323 kilometers away
- Sorrento 325 kilometers away
- Pompeii 337 kilometers away
- Ischia 345 kilometers away
- Herculaneum 345 kilometers away
- Naples 350 kilometers away
- Matera 354 kilometers away
- Puglia 385 kilometers away
- Alberobello 389 kilometers away
- Lecce 400 kilometers away
- Ostuni 400 kilometers away
- Fasano 400 kilometers away
- Otranto 404 kilometers away
Photos of Mount Etna
Our expert guides to exploring Mount Etna
Written by our specialists from their own experiences of visiting Mount Etna, these guides will help you make the most of your time there. We share both our practical recommendations and the best ways to appreciate Mount Etna at its best.
Where to visit in Sicily
Where to visit in Sicily
Where to visit in Sicily
Beyond its azure waters and white pebbled beaches, Sicily offers a complex cultural experience, one that is seen in its Baroque churches, open-air markets, Greek ruins and complex cuisine. Discover why it’s the crossroads of the Mediterranean with Audley specialist Kimberly.Read this guide
Accommodation choices for Mount Etna
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Mount Etna. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.