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FAQ

Frequently asked questions

Questions about our tours

What equipment is recommended?

The equipment you need on Etna depends on the time of year, the specific weather conditions and the tour or altitude.

For all moderately difficult and difficult tours, you need good hiking boots that go over the ankle. We walk a lot on Etna over volcanic rubble and ash. The small, sharp-edged stones easily get into low shoes. That’s why we recommend long trousers for protection on these tours, even in summer. Long socks are also important to protect against the volcanic sand.

It is best to wear clothes in many layers that can be taken on and off.

The temperature on Etna at over 2500 metres is about 10 to 20 degrees colder than on the coast. At 2000 metres it is about 10 to 15 degrees colder. When it’s windy, it can feel really icy, especially in winter. When the sun is shining, it can be warm in summer even at higher altitudes. The actual temperature felt can therefore vary greatly and can change rapidly from one day to the next or even within one day.

In summer you need sun protection (cap, sunscreen, sunglasses) and enough to drink (at least 1.5 litres per person).
Even in winter, when there is snow, sun protection can’t hurt. You will also need a hat, gloves and warm, windproof snow clothing.
On Etna it is often windy and the wind brings fine ash, so we recommend sunglasses also to protect against wind and ash. If possible, you should avoid contact lenses and wear glasses instead.

We would like to visit Mount Etna with our children. Which tour is the right one?

Many of our tours are experienced daily by our young guests with interest and passion. Call us and find the ideal solution together with us. Just tell us how you would like to spend the day with your children and we will recommend the right tour for the whole family, depending on your preferences and whether it should be more adventurous or quiet.
We are always happy when we can get children excited about nature and the wonders of our planet!
If you want, we can also organise a private tour just for you and your family!

Can I take my dog with me?

With pleasure! We love dogs too! Please let us know in advance so that we can find the best solution for your four-legged friend, tailored to his size and his needs.
If you want, you can book a private tour!

Fresh lava sand is sharp-edged and can hurt your dog’s paws. We will be happy to advise you on which tours are currently recommended for dogs.

What happens during an eruption?

EtnaWay always observes the applicable safety regulations on Etna. Therefore, normally the tour can take place as planned. However, it may be necessary to make minor detours to avoid the ash rain.

What if I have health problems?

Please inform us in advance about any health problems, allergies, heart conditions, blood pressure problems, limited mobility, disabilities. We will find the optimal solution for you!

What happens in case of bad weather?

Normally, the tour takes place as planned. However, you can change your booking free of charge, e.g. move it to another day. If you have already paid and wish to cancel the tour, you will be refunded the full amount.

How can I pay?

You have the following payment options:
– Cash payment on site to the guide
– In advance by bank transfer
– On request: By credit card on site with the guide

When will I know the exact time of the pick-up?

If you have booked a tour with pick-up from the hotel or another meeting point, we will also inform you of the pick-up time with the booking confirmation by e-mail.

How can I book?

The easiest way is to use the booking form on our website (in the respective tours).
Or call us on the following numbers, also welcome on WhatsApp, Telegram or Signal:
Tel:+39 328 197 7919
Tel.: +39 347 770 4302
You can also send an e-mail to: info@etnaway.com.
Or visit our office in Taormina:
Legendary Sicily Booking Point Taormina
Salita De Luna 10, Taormina
Tel:+39 328 197 7919
Tel.: +39 347 770 4302
* For further questions contact us by clicking here.

What do I have to do to cancel a booking?

You can cancel a booking simply by sending an email to info@etnaway.com.
If the cancellation is made within the period stated on our website, you will receive a full refund. After this period, we cannot refund the amount paid. However, we are always interested in resolving a cancellation by mutual agreement.
Please note that cancellations via phone, SMS or WhatsApp will not be accepted!

How do I get my money back if I cancel in time?

If the cancellation is made within the period stated on our website, we will arrange a full refund by bank transferor by cancelling the charge on your credit card.

  • If you paid by bank transfer:
    Send us the IBAN and BIC/SWIFT code of your account by e-mail and we will transfer the amount already paid to you.
  • If you paid by credit card:
    The amount will be transferred directly to your account.

Questions about our helicopter tours

Which helicopter do we fly with?

We fly with an AS350.

How many people can be accommodated in the helicopter?

Our helicopter has room for 6 people: 5 guests and the pilot. The pilot sits in the front right, one guest can sit in the front left. The remaining 4 guests sit in the back.

Can I talk to the pilot during the flight?

Yes, in the helicopter there is a headset for each guest, through which they can hear the pilot and talk to the pilot themselves. The pilot speaks English and Italian. You can also be accompanied by an English-speaking guide during the flight, who will explain everything about Mount Etna.

The headsets are of course disinfected after every flight!

What do I have to wear?

You can wear normal street clothes.

We recommend black or dark clothing, as light clothing is reflected in the windows and thus in the photos.

Where does the helicopter take off?

Our helicopter takes off from Fiumefreddo, about 10 minutes from the motorway exit.

If you don’t have a car to get to the starting point yourself, we can organise a pick-up for you.

I don't have a car, how do I get to the starting point?

We can arrange a pick-up from your hotel or another meeting point.

The price depends on the pick-up location and how long you would like to stay in the hotel complex where our helicopters take off.

What is the best time of day for a helicopter tour?

We usually recommend flying in the morning hours (between 8 and 11 am), as visibility is usually best at this time of day. Clouds may form during the day as the warm, humid air rises from the sea.

For photographers, a flight in the evening hours migth be interesting because the setting sun creates very special colour and shadow plays. However, by then the eastern side of Etna is already in darkness.

How much does a helicopter flight over Etna cost?

A group flight over Etna costs €300 per person. A private flight costs €1300. For more information, see our helicopter tours.

How long does the helicopter flight to Etna take?

The flight to Etna takes 30 minutes. In addition, you must allow 15 minutes before the flight for the safety instructions.

How high do we fly?

We reach an altitude of about 3500 metres.

Can children take part in the flight?

A flight over a volcano is also a unique experience for children! Children of all ages may take part in the flight.

Children up to 24 months can sit on your lap (as on the plane) and do not have to pay extra. From the age of 2, children must sit in their own seat and therefore also pay the full price.

Can I take part in the helicopter flight even if I have health problems?

Please note that we fly up to an altitude of approx. 3500 metres in a very short time. If you have health problems, such as high blood pressure or circulatory problems, please check with your doctor whether a flight up to 3500 metres is an option for you!

What happens in case of bad weather?

We want our helicopter flight to be an unforgettable experience for you. In bad weather, e.g. when the summit of Etna is shrouded in clouds, a flight makes no sense.

If this is possible for you, we will reschedule the flight for another time of day or another day. Otherwise you will be refunded the total amount.

What happens in the case of a volcanic eruption?

Safety always comes first, of course! Before each flight, the current weather and volcano conditions are checked and a decision is made as to whether a flight is possible.

How can I pay?

Payment is made in advance by bank transfer or credit card.

What are the cancellation conditions?

If the tour cannot take place due to weather conditions, the flight will be rescheduled to another time or day or we will refund you the total amount.

If you wish to cancel the tour for any other reason, the following cancellation conditions apply:

  • No-show or cancellation within 24 hours before the flight: 100% penalty
  • 24 to 72 hours before the flight: 75% penalty
  • 72 hours to 7 days before the flight: 50% penalty
  • 7 days to 30 days before the flight: 30% penalty
  • from confirmation until 30 days before the flight: 10% penalty

Questions about Etna

How high is Mount Etna?

The height of Etna is constantly changing due to volcanic activity. When the summit craters erupt, the volcano can grow as new material is deposited. However, if a crater rim collapses during an eruption, Etna can become smaller again. In addition, as with every mountain, there is erosion and plate tectonics.

The Northeast Crater, one of Etna’s four summit craters, has been Etna’s highest point for the last 40 years – until July 2021: in an official measurement (this was done by analysing satellite photos), the Southeast crater with 3357 metres altitude emerges as the new “summit” of Etna. The altitude of the northeast crater was previously 3326 metres (measured in 2018).

However, a lot has happened since July 2021: the south-eastern crater erupted a few more times in 2021, but on 10.2.2022 a large part of the crater rim collapsed, the cone literally splitting from top to bottom. Whether the official altitude of 3357 metres still corresponds to reality may therefore be doubted.

How dangerous is Etna?

Different phenomena make Etna dangerous:

During an eruption, smaller and larger lava lumps are spewed out. The smaller stones can fly several kilometres and injure or even kill people who are climbing Etna.

Escaping gas, such as sulphur dioxide or ammonia, can also be dangerous for people during an Etna hike.

The escaping lava flows are especially dangerous during lateral eruptions, because these take place at a lower altitude than eruptions of the summit craters. Etna’s lava flows relatively slowly, but if the eruption lasts long enough, the lava can reach inhabited areas. The last place to be completely destroyed was in 1928 – the small town of Mascali in the east of the volcano. In 1993, however, a lava flow reached the town of Zafferana Etnea, destroyed the first house and stopped in front of the second. The city was spared.

One of the most dangerous phenomena are pyroclastic flows. These are hot and extremely fast avalanches of gas and ash that can occur during the explosive phase of a volcanic eruption. Fortunately, they are very rare on Etna. Most recently, several pyroclastic flows occurred at Southeast Crater on 10.2.2022. The largest moved 1.6 kilometres south and south-east at an estimated speed of about 140 km/h, completely covering the northern of the Barbagallo craters (source: INGV – BOLLETTINO SETTIMANALE ETNA DEL 15/02/2022).

Magma or lava - what's the difference?

Magma is the molten material that lies beneath the earth’s surface. It consists not only of molten rock, but also of gases.

When the magma rises to the surface, it is called lava. If the magma is ejected very suddenly from the volcano, it solidifies very quickly in the much colder air. The gas does not have enough time to escape from the material and forms bubbles in the solidified lava. The result is a very light material called lapilli. When the magma slowly emerges from the volcano, the gas has enough time to escape until the lava solidifies. The rock that is created in this way is extremely hard.

Where is Mount Etna?

Mount Etna is located on the eastern side of Sicily in the province of Catania, about halfway up between the city of Catania and the small town of Taormina. From both cities, Etna can be reached in about an hour.

Geologically, Mount Etna lies on the African Plate near the plate boundary with the European Plate, which is also the reason for the volcanism in the region.

How old is Etna?

Etna is about 570,000 years old and thus an extremely young volcano. On the contrary, the rest of Sicily is already over 5 million years old.

How was Mount Etna formed?

At the place where Mount Etna is today, there was previously a large bay. Volcanic activity began there about 570,000 years ago – due to the proximity to the plate boundary between the African and European plates.

The subsoil was made of relatively soft material and the earth’s crust here is probably very porous, like a sponge. This meant that thin-bodied magma could easily penetrate to the surface in many places. Many craters were formed with a low slope. The lava filled the bay over time, making it harder and harder for the magma to erupt, as the lava was much harder than the original bedrock.

As a result, the eruptions shifted more and more towards the centre directly above the underground magma chamber, as the pressure was highest there. In addition, the lava became denser and denser, forming steeper slopes. The initially flat shield volcano thus became a stratovolcano.

How often does Etna erupt?

Etna’s eruptions are not regular and unpredictable. A distinction must be made between eruptions of the summit craters (Southeast Crater, Northeast Crater, Bocca Nuova and Vorragine) and lateral (side) eruptions.

In recent years, the south-eastern crater has been particularly active and is becoming increasingly explosive and dangerous:

  • In 2021, the South East Crater erupted just under 60 times.
  • In 2022, the first major eruption occurred on 10.2.2022, when the southeast crater was practically split and some pyroclastic flows were created. The second followed on 21.2.

Gas emissions and explosions, which can be heard all the way to the coast, are frequent on the summit craters.

The last lateral eruption started at Christmas in 2018: accompanied by some earthquakes and seismic swarms, two fissures opened on 24 December 2018, one from the base of the New Southeast Crater to the western edge of the Valle del Bove, the second, smaller, a little further north. The lava flows all poured into the Valle del Bove and did not come near inhabited areas. The eruption ended after only 3 days on 27.12.2018.

The duration of a lateral eruption can also vary greatly: from a few hours, to a few days or even years.

Questions about the Alcantara Gorges

What is the Alcantara?

The Alcantara is a 52 km long river in Sicily. It rises in the Monti Nebrodi and runs north of Etna towards the east. Its mouth lies just south of the town of Giardini Naxos. Next to the estuary is also a beautiful sandy beach for swimming.

The Alcantara forms the border between the “young” Etna, i.e. the volcanic soil, and the rest of Sicily, which is much older (570,000 years compared to 5 million years).

In its lower course, the river has cut its way through the lava over thousands of years, forming a gorge. The Alcantara Gorges are up to 25 metres deep and famous for its beautiful, bizarre columns of basaltic lava.

Where does the name Alcantara come from?

Alcantara is one of the many Arabic names we find in Sicily, such as the name of the town of Marsala or “Mongibello” (a mixture of Latin and Arabic), as the Sicilians also call Mount Etna. The reason for this is the Arab settlement in Sicily from the middle of the 9th century until the end of the 11th century.

Alcantara means bridge or bridge arch. The name refers to a bridge from Roman times near the mouth of the river, to which the Arabs subsequently gave the name “Alcantara”.

What is the water temperature of the Alcantara river?

In the Alcantara Gorges, cool groundwater flows from crevices in the rock walls into the river. Therefore, its temperature is only around 10 to 12 degrees and is also fairly constant throughout the year.

Can I swim in the Alcantara Gorges?

If you want to swim in the Alcantara river, you have to be tough, because the Alcantara is – even in summer! – quite cool. After a hike on Etna, however, it can be very refreshing!

The water level can vary greatly, and the current must also be taken into account. So you can’t really swim in the Alcantara River, but you can take an (icy) dip.

But you can wade into the gorge with your trousers rolled up – and that’s what we’ll do on our Etna & Alcantara tour. It is best to take bathing shoes with you, so you can walk better on the stones in the riverbed.

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