Top 10 active volcanoes to visit

They're nature's own lightshow, spectacular and terrifying fire monsters that have tormented and toyed with humanity throughout history. They also transfix, and once seen, they're never forgotten. Here are  ten active volcanoes that will light up your life.

1 Piton de la Fournaise Reunion, France

The "Peak of the Furnace", this shield volcano at the south-east corner of this Indian Ocean island is one of the most accessible and also most active of the world's volcanoes. Within the high cliffs that form the rim of the caldera are several craters, the most active of which is the Cratere Dolomieu. The walking trail that zig zags down into the bowl of the caldera takes about five hours to complete, although it can be closed depending on conditions. The most recent eruption took place between May 17 and 26, 2015.

en.reunion.fr

2 Etna, Sicily, Italy

Coughing ash into the sky within easy reach of some of Sicily's loveliest baroque villages, Europe's tallest and most active volcano dazzles and delights. From the end of the road at Rufugio Sapienza, a cable car hoists visitors to a height of 2500 metres. A four-wheel drive bus continues to a higher elevation from where it's a crunchy walk with a guide across black cinders to visit several craters. Aim for a morning trip and a clear day. In mid May, lava flows were reported, accompanied by ash plumes and booming Strombolian eruptions.

italia.it

3 Mount Yasur, Tanna, Vanuatu

From the lush green forests that cloak the lower slopes of the island, a four-wheel drive vehicle takes you across scorched lava fields to the edge of the crater, which is strewn with lava bombs. At your feet is an open wound in the earth's flesh and from the bottom comes thunderous noise. Expect spectacular pyrotechnics. In late April 2015, the Vanuatu Geohazards Observatory stated that Yasur continued in a state of unrest, with hazardous conditions around the crater.

vanuatu.travel

4 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, USA

On Hawaii's Big Island, Kilauea is billed as the world's only drive-in volcano, and it's obligingly active. Eruptions are focused on the Pu'u 'O'o vent and also the vent within Halema'uma'u Crater, easily seen from the overlook at the Jaggar Museum. By night the crater's lava lake lights the smoke clouds hovering above it. See it on the Crater Rim Drive and combine it with a three-hour walk on the dramatically beautiful Kilauea Iki Trail.

nps.gov/havo

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5 Stromboli, Aeolian Islands, Italy

In a state of grumbling discontent for the past 2000 years, this almighty hunk of volcanic rock has regularly blown itself to smithereens. The big attraction here is the guided three-hour hike that starts in late afternoon to allow the volcano to show off its true colours, with three glowing craters along the way. Every few minutes there's a rumble, the fire glows and a flaming spear spits into the sky. Lava last flowed in October 2014, and Stromboli is a reliable performer.

italia.it

6 Mount Bromo, Indonesia

One of the volcanic cones that sit within the massive Tengger Caldera in east Java, Mount Bromo is the best known of Indonesia's many volcanoes. The views over Bromo's scorched landscape and into the crater are at their best at sunrise, which means a pre-dawn wake-up for those staying at Cemoro Lawang, the nearest village. The hike to the crater rim is a rite of passage for backpackers, and you will not be alone.

visit-indonesia.com.au

7 White Island, New Zealand

Some 50 kilometres off North Island's east coast, this live volcano comes straight from the geothermal book of wonders with its roaring steam vents, bubbling mud pits, steaming streams and hot acidic lake. The floor of the crater sits just above sea level, and even for those who take the popular boat trip from Whakatane no climbing is involved. The boat tour includes a two-hour exploration of the inner crater with an expert commentary.

whiteisland.co.nz

8 Pacaya, Guatemala

Easily accessible from Antigua or Guatemala City, this 2500 metre cone has been in a moderately eruptive state for the past 50 years, with frequent violent outbursts. From the village of San Francisco de Sales it's a two-hour hike to the crater. The view from the lip takes in a vast lava bowl and Pacaya's jet black cone, and sometimes rocks and ash flung into the sky and even lava flows, spectacular when daylight fades.

visitguatemala.com

9 Sakurajima  Japan

This volcanic island rises from the sea  just 4 kilometres from the city of Kagoshima on Japan's southern Kyushu Island. Rumbling, grumbling and very much alive. On  a daily basis Sakurajima experiences powerful Strombolian explosions accompanied by large expulsions of ash. The craters are off limits but the observatory midway up the mountain offers views of the summit and frequent ground-shaking pyrotechnics.

visitjapan.jp

10 Avenue of the Volcanoes, Ecuador

The spine of the Andes Mountains stretching south from Quito includes some of the world's tallest volcanoes. Among them is 5897-metre Cotopaxi, the poster-perfect volcano. Another, Tungurahua, the "throat of fire", last erupted in April 2015. Guided trips come in several versions, from driving tours to biking trips, lodge-to-lodge treks and the Tren Crucero, which threads between the volcanoes with just 54 passengers in four opulently themed carriages where Miss Marples would be perfectly at home.

ecuador.travel

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