A large boom echoed across Stromboli and into the Tyrrhenian Sea. The mountain shook violently, jolting us to our core and compelling us drop to the ground for safety. From the hiking trail, we looked up to see the volcano, blasting bright orange lava 200-meters into the night sky. We knew that the climb up to the top of Stromboli would be strenuous, but we had no idea how life changing the experience would be. While the Stromboli volcano has been constantly erupting every 5-15 minutes for over 2,000 years, there is no feeling that can compare to watching Mother Nature explode right before your very eyes.
The view of Stromboli from the sea
A licensed guide must accompany every hiker on Stromboli. Therefore, travelers looking to climb the Stromboli volcano must organize a tour guide through an accredited company on the island of Stromboli. You can book your tour well in advance, but make sure to call and confirm a week before the climb. We had been sailing the Aeolian Islands during our visit to Stromboli so the skipper on our yacht called the harbor to organize a tour for the eight of us.
Our motley crew on the way up the volcano
To climb the volcano, there are strict apparel rules. All climbers must have approved hiking/trail shoes (not sneakers) and a headlamp, both of which you can rent from the company you’re hiking with. In addition to the hiking shoes and headlamp, we highly recommend bringing hiking socks, long pants, and an insulated jacket as it gets very cold up at the top. While it will be around 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit at the bottom of the hike, it will dip into the 30’s at the top of the volcano. On top of the aforementioned gear, the company will also provide every hiker with a helmet and gas mask. Hiking poles are available for rent as well, but they’re not absolutely necessary.
We recommend bringing two liters of water, a protein bar, and sandwich for the hike. The hiking companies do not provide food and water so please pack wisely for this 5-6 hour hike.
Climbing Stromboli was by far the highlight of our trip through the Aeolian Islands and we highly recommend it to anyone visiting Italy. The climb is not for the faint of heart; it starts around 5:30 / 6:00 pm at night and ends around midnight. To begin, hikers ascend the volcano on a fairly steep trail, hiking switchbacks to about 400 meters of altitude. Once hikers hit the 400-meter mark, this is the “no turning back zone,” and all climbers must move forward together or all turn around together.
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely a badass adventurer, so you’ll probably keep hiking past the 400-meter mark, climbing into the clouds. As you ascend, you’ll eventually climb above the clouds where you’ll be able to enjoy a heavenly sunset on top of Stromboli. As night begins to fall, you’ll hike the final incline to the top of the mountain. Once on top, you’ll be instructed to put on your helmet, turn off your headlamp, and wait quietly for your turn to watch the volcano erupt.
It’s hard to describe exactly what it feels like to watch a volcano erupt right in front of your very eyes, but it is both intimidating and fascinating all at the same time. The eruption will infuse you with adrenaline and shake you to your core and make you realize how small us humans are compared to the grandeur of Mother Nature.
Once at the viewing point, you’ll be instructed to take a seat and watch the volcano erupt for around twenty minutes. For that twenty minutes prepare to be captivated and hypnotized by the most incredible naturally occurring event on earth. While at the top, don’t forget to look up at the night sky where you’ll be treated with dozens of shooting stars and an unforgettable view of the Milky Way.
On the way down, you’ll be instructed to keep your helmet on, turn your headlamp on, and put on your gas mask to protect from the volcanic ash on the hike down. For the climb down, the first half is mostly volcanic sand so you’ll descend the mountain like a skier would, sliding down the trail. The rest of the hike is retracing steps on the trail that took you to the top of the mountain.
In total, the hike is about eight miles with a 3,000 foot incline and then a 3,000 foot decline.
Styling in our gas masks, head lamps, helmets, and multiple layers!
Stromboli is part of the Aeolian Islands, only accessible by sea or helicopter. Since there are no airports, travelers will have to take a private boat, a private helicopter, or a public ferry. A full list of ferries can be found here.