Mt. Bromo/Ijen Crater Combo – Indonesia
Why visit one volcano when you can visit two? That’s what my grandfather always said. Mount Bromo is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. They block off certain areas citing “imminent danger” as if the eruption of lava and destruction are predictable. In order to reach the ridge, you must first cross Laut Pasir, the “Sea of Sand,” making this sound more like a sequel to The Princess Bride than an actual adventure.
Meet the local tribe, the Tengger people. Legend says that a brave prince sacrificed his life for his family in this crater. Once a year, they throw money and food into the void to appease the gods. If you feel like tossing a few bucks or a perfectly good sandwich toward good will, you should go during the Kasada festival in August.
Most people First climb Mount Penanjakan in time to catch the 5:30am sunrise over Mount Bromo, then head back down to hike up to the rim of Mount Bromo itself. It takes between 1-2 hours to get to a good vantage point to watch the sky light up, then another 1-2 hours to summit Mount Bromo. The good news is that restaurants open at 3am for those who don’t believe in sleeping when there are volcanoes to climb.
But don’t stop there! Head another 6 hours away to take in Kawah Ijen. Most notably, you will want to hike through the night to see the flaming lake. The lake is so on fire that the flames are blue. It’s another 1.5-2 hour hike through the night to catch the turquoise sulphur lake ablaze, then another 40 minute stroll around the rim. We do not recommend swimming in this lake of sulphuric acid. We do recommend that you bring a mask to cover your nose and mouth and lungs from the burning, poisonous fumes and that you show some respect to the sulphur miners carrying baskets loaded with sulphur through the deadly zone day in and out.
Sao Miguel – Azores
About 1,360 km off the west coast of continental Portugal as a an archipelago of nine volcanic islands that make up the Azores. Two volcanoes wasn’t enough? Up the ante to 9 islands. We support you. We are only going to tell you about one, though. Sao Miguel has everything a volcano lover could hope for: volcanoes, hot springs, crater lakes, pigs ears.
Once you’ve wandered around the capitol city of Ponta Delgada, finding your way by memorizing the tile patterns in the sidewalk of each avenue, you could hire a tour group to take you to Lagoa das Sete Cidades. Allow us to recommend the local bus, which is cheaper and a rollercoaster ride of death in of itself. It speeds down roads it shouldn’t fit and locals duck into doorways to save their lives. On arrival you can hike around the twin crater lakes, one green and one blue as they reflect light differently from their silty depths. From the car park at King’s View, many people, likely illegally, wander around the dilapidated, allegedly haunted hotel for some photo opportunities.
Wander the rest of the island to congratulate yourself and your well-travelled legs with a dip in the hot springs. Follow this up with the local stew, Cozido das Furnas. It is buried in open holes in the volcano-heated grounds known as fumaroles. The locals took to cooking in the earth, which was cost-free. They pile pigs feet and ears in a pot with chicken, beef, sweet potatoes, carrots and cabbage, wrap the pot in cloth and bury it in the earth for about 7 hours. If you like salt, this is for you, because you have to get past the taste of sulphur to enjoy it.
The last eruption around here was in 1630 and killed 200 locals. Safe? Maybe. Due? Possibly. Worth it? Totally.
Volcano Boarding – Nicaragua
This is our favorite volcano option, not only because it was cooked up by a fellow Australian with a recognizable lack of judgment, one Daryn Webb. Due diligence and comprehensive research had him testing the slide down volcanic rock on a picnic table, refrigerator and his own front door, to create the most perfect vessel for cruising down the side of a still active volcano at a speed up to 95km/hr. The perfect combo is a poorly constructed piece of wood layered with a sheet of metal, on which is glued some formica (which has to be replaced daily since it burns off after a run or two). Your options are to go full-freak and stand on the board like it is a snowboard, but without the ability to make turns or the promise of powder to land on. If you are going for max speed, you can sit on the board like a toboggan, grab on to the rope reins and lean back. Your speed is tracked with a radar gun, for appropriate bragging rights, which you are welcome to exaggerate.
We haven’t heard of any deaths just yet, but did find the story of a man whose sled went sideways. He employed his only breaks, his own feet, and spilled face first into volcanic rock. To his credit, he went for another go with blood dripping into his eyes off his gashed scalp. It’s surely worth it considering you are gifted a cookie and a beer at the bottom, topping any certificate we have come across. Back at home base, they follow it up with a mojito.
Home base, by the way, is the Bigfoot Hostel. Here you sign up, a board is strapped to your back and you get into an orange Mercedes-Benz Unimog truck which matches your prison suit, I mean, safety suit. You must bring your own sensible, close-toed shoes (which you don’t mind burning the soles off if you attempt to slow down) as well as water and $5 to get into the park. If the local stew of the Azores is too high-brow for you, here they cook burritos in the volcanic earth. Get some!