The Great Fossa Crater in Vulcano – Aeolian Islands Travel Guide


Gran Cratere della Fossa sull'isola di Vulcano

The Great Fossa Crater.

The summit of the Great Fossa Crater is one of the Aeolian Islands’ most scenic viewpoints – together with Lipari’s Quattrocchi Belvedere and Pollara’s Belvedere in Salina. Reaching 386mt at its highest point and measuring 500mt in width, the crater is Vulcano’s foremost attraction. No wonder the island takes its name from the roman God of fire: whilst the first records of its activities date back to the 5th century b.C., the last eruption occurred between 1888 and 1890.

Le fumarole sul cratere di Vulcano

The fumarole.

Turisti che attraversano le Fumarole sul cratere di Vulcano

A group of hikers walking through the fumarole.

Today, the volcanic activity is limited to the ‘fumarole’, exhalations of hot vapour containing boric acid, ammonium chloride and, mostly, sulfur. The combination of sulfur and bacteria causes the ground and the surface of the rocks to be covered by a veil of ochre colour with red nuances. The smell of sulfur is the distinctive feature of the island – so strong it will reach your nostrils even before you land.

If you decide to walk the entire circumference of the crater you are bound to walk through some of the ‘fumarole’: it’s warm and it smells of sulphur but it is perfectly safe provided you have no serious medical conditions and walk swiftly across them.

Here is some simple advice for a safe excursion on the volcano:

  • The ‘fumarole’ contain potentially hazardous gases: do not stand in the fumes for long or otherwise use a face mask.
  • The gases of the fumarole are very hot and so is the earth beneath: use appropriate hiking boots and do not stand around too long.
  • Do not under any circumstances venture inside the crater.
Entrata per la scalata a Vulcano

The beginning of the climb to the Great Fossa Crater.

It’s around 2,6km from the harbour to the summit of the Great Fossa Crater. The walk should take you between 45min and an hour. It is an easy walk and a pair of trainers are good enough. Bring a torch if you plan to watch the sunset from the summit and walk back after dusk.

Sentiero sabbioso a Vulcano
Il paesaggio dal sentiero di Vulcano
Sentiero in sabbia vulcanica a Vulcano
Sentiero a Vulcano

After the first kilometre, the volcanic sand gives way to a clayish tuff easily susceptible to erosion: take extra care when walking this second section for the rains can carve insidious furrows through the malleable rock.

Il paesaggio dal sentiero per la cima di Vulcano
Sentiero in Tufo per arrivare alla cima di Vulcano

As you climb, the scarce vegetation of broom shrubs will subside, leaving you surrounded by a lunar landscape: welcome to the Great Fossa Crater, with its fumarole and its breathtaking views over the whole Aeolian Islands’ archipelago.

Il Gran Cratere della Fossa a Vulcano

The Great Fossa Crater.

Il tramonto visto dal cratere dell'isola di Vulcano

The sunsets during a hike around the crater.

Il tramonto visto dal cratere dell'isola di Vulcano

The view from the summit of the crater: behind the crater and the fumarole, the islands of Lipari and Salina.