A complete excursion for nature lovers. We will visit one of the most interesting areas of Etna,
with lava flow caves, side craters, lava flows and, in the afternoon, the gorges of the Alcantara
river will amaze us with columnar basalts and freezing waters.
€80 per person*
*Price valid for a minimum of 4 participants**.
Children 3- 12 y.o.: €10 off
Babies 0- 2 y.o.: free!
**Do not reach the minimum number of participants or want to customize the tour?
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Once on-board of our 4×4 jeeps, we will make our way towards Etna’s hill. We will leave the wonderful “Riviera dei limoni” (Lemons’ coast), to approach Etna’s villages. We will then get on the road that leads through the volcano’s slopes, crossing old mulattiere (ancient mule drivers’ roads) and coalmen paths, we are soon at about 1000 mt altitude where a protected area of 720km² begins. We also come across cold and dried lava flows that, like black highways, tear the mountainside.Direction: Etna Park
Surrounded by uncontaminated greenery¹, we can enjoy the view of chestnut trees, pines, oaks, beeches as well as endemic plants like Etna’s birch and Etna’s brooms2. Eruptive cones, lava flows, lava valley stand out in front of our eyes, testifying the volcano’s incessant eruption activity that carves out its own shape since more than 500.000 years.
Etna Park Protected Area
1Here woods are mainly of: Chestnut (Castanea Sativa), Oaks (Quercus Ilex, quercus cerris and quercus pubescens), manna ash (Fraxinus ornus), larch pine (Pinus Nigra Larix) and wild beech (Fagus sylvatica).2 There are also typical plants as already mentioned Brooms of Etna (Genista aetnensis) and an extraordinary type of insular endemic tree: the Etna Birch (Betula aetenensis)
We will get into a fantastic Nature trail, inside the Etna Park, heading towards the craters. We will arrive on the top of a lateral crater, created by an eruption with the typical buttons’ line progress, called “bottoniera”. What is a crater? It is a pyroclastic slagheap that has been thrown out from the volcanic shaft and, once placed around the eruptive vent, creates a cone. Once we get to the edge of the lateral crater, in the exact point where incandescent lava used to come out from volcano slope1, we will explain to you the features of Etna’s eruptions. You will have the opportunity to admire all of the different colours that lava turns into, as a beautiful reflection of a rainbow, and experience first hand all of the different kinds of consistency of pyroclastic rocks.
We will be able to see very few plant species that manage to survive in very extreme conditions both in winter and summer2.
Visiting the craters
1On Etna there are around 250 craters, among lateral and eccentric.2 These are mainly plants that exist only on Etna and nowhere else in the world.
A typical example is the Spinosanto, Astragalus Siculus.
We can find a variety of endemic species, actually known as aetnensins: Etna sorrel Rumex scutatus aetnensis, Etna chamomile Anthemis aetnensis and Senecio squalidus. These plants are extremely resistant and have been found up until the impressive altitude of 3050 m. Another noteworthy plant is the Etna soapwort, Saponaria sicula, used as a symbol of the Etna park.
Let’s deeply penetrate in the heart of the wood to discover what’s hiding below the volcanic hard surface. Suddenly a crevice in the ground appears by our eyes: one of the about 190 Etna lava flow caves. We start our underground adventure: leaving the surface, we enter into the mountain deepness to discover its most hidden secrets, visiting a lava flow cave1.
Lava flow cave
1 These lava tubes are created during eruptions, through the flowing of the incandescent lava, still fluid, between 700 and 1100 °C (1292 – 2012 °F).During its flowing, the outer coat cools and solidifies, becoming somehow like a shell or a crust. Once solidified, it lets the inner fluid go on at a stable temperature, sometimes for kilometres, until it completely empties the outer shell, leaving besides a cave. And that is how a new lava flow cave is born.
After having explored the most interesting Etna area, we take a break enjoying a nice lunchtime¹ in a typical mountain hut/chalet that seems to have landed here in Sicily directly from Alps. We can try traditional dishes of our Sicilian kitchen, delicious mountain specialities, since in Sicily we are lucky to have both exquisite seafood and delicious mountain food, typical from the inland areas².
1Lunch not included in the tour price² We should actually remember that Sicily is not only the biggest island in Mediterranean Sea, all beaches and sea: 85% of its 26.000km² consists of mountains and hills.
Coming down we come out from the protect area of the Etna Park and we go towards the Alcantara Valley. We meet the river for the first time near the Castiglione di Sicilia’s bridge and, from this moment, our path is intertwined with it until we reach the gorges.
We leave the jeep and go down walking until we get the riverbed: we are now in the deepest point of Alcantara gorges, facing 25 meters tall basalt cliffs that proudly stand all around us. Here we can touch the icy water of Alcantara river and the bravest of us can even plunge in the water and venture for a few dozen meters inside the gorges.
¹ With an area of about 550 km², this valley hosts the Alcantara riverbed which, from its spring, flows out at 1395 m at sea level close to Floresta on Nebrodi Mounts and, after 53 km between volcanic and sedimetary soils, flows into Ionian Sea close to Giardini Naxos.
After a lengthy exploration of Mt. Etna, we will have reached the end of our adventure together. Once down, we will cross the Alcantara Valley we will be going back home, tired but happy.
See you on the next adventure!