Hiking any mountain poses its fair share of challenges, dangers and rewards. Volcanoes, at least those that are still active, offer an added element of risk and reward that is especially appealing to adrenalin junkies with an affinity for nature. The seven volcanoes in this gallery are impressive, both for their beauty and power. From Mount Vesuvius to Mount Bromo, these behemoths are worth braving—of course, only in safe conditions.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
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On the island of Java within Indonesia's Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park you'll find not one, but two active volcanoes. The highly photogenic Mount Semeru and Mount Bromo are a must-see if you're planning to visit the country. Mount Bromo sits within the Tengger Caldera and a trip to the rim will take you through the massive Mars-like Laut Pasir, which translates to Sea of Sand. Both volcanoes put on quite the show, as they regularly spew steam, smoke and occasionally ash.
Photo by GokuPhoto, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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As the most active of Hawaii's five island volcanoes, it's no wonder Kilauea is named after its penchant for spewing lava. This active shield volcano located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a popular destination for viewing active lava flows. You can see the volcano and its scenic surroundings by car via the 11-mile Crater Rim Drive that takes you around the summit caldera.
Photo by Beligat Damien, CC BY-NC 2.0
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Ominously famous for burying and subsequently destroying the Roman city of Pompeii, Italy's Mount Vesuvius remains considerably active after all these centuries. Its last full eruption was in 1944, leaving many to believe it's long overdue for one. You can hike to the rim for a view of its steaming crater, which serves as an all-to-real reminder that this more than 4,000-foot high stratovolcano is only sleeping. A car can get you close to the summit, but you'll have to hike the last stretch leading to the rim on foot.
Photo by Gordon, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Relatively young by geological standards, Arenal Volcano is around 7,000 years old. This more than 5,000-foot-high stratovolcano sits just 55 miles from Costa Rica's capital of San Jose within the picturesque Arenal Volcano National Park. The volcano had a considerably sleepy existence for 400 years before quite literally bursting back to life in 1968. Hiking within the park offers the opportunity to get up close to lava fields.
Photo by MariaAngelica Picado, CC BY-SA 2.0
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Considerably close to Seattle and Portland, Mount St. Helens may very well be the most famous volcano in the U.S., in part because of a violent eruption in 1980. If you're planning on making the trip, there are several visitor centers and observatories that provide an educational background on the volcano, as well as the breathtaking scenery you likely came to see. Hiking to the summit is currently open, although a permit is required. If the steep 5-mile climb doesn't interest you, a variety of roads and scenic drives can you get you close enough to say you were there.
Photo by Karen Blaha, CC BY-SA 2.0
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While the Democratic Republic of the Congo might not be at the top of your bucket list, the breathtaking Mount Nyiragongo within the UNESCO World Heritage Virunga National Park makes it well worth the visit. At nearly 11,400 feet, this stratovolcano is home to the most voluminous lava lake in the world. Hiking this beauty requires some endurance, as well as a permit, but is a rewarding effort. Most aim to spend a night near the summit to witness the lava lake aglow after dark.
Photo by MONUSCO Photos, CC BY-SA 2.0
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Whakaari, also known as White Island, holds the title of New Zealand's most active cone volcano and its only active marine volcano. Located within the Bay of Plenty, the volcano puts out a near-steady plume of steam. The volcanic island is relatively small, just over a mile in diameter, and is accessible only by boat. Once there, hiking by foot is a great way to witness sulphur encrusted fumeroles and the bright green sulphur crater lake. Helicopter tours over Whakaari are another popular means for seeing the volcano.
Photo by Javier Sanchez Portero, CC BY-SA 2.0