Why is the Stromboli hike so breathtaking?
Taking part at the Stromboli sunset tour, a hike up on one of the two active volcanoes of the Aeolian Islands was the most amazing, breathtaking natural spectacle I’ve ever experienced. Like really!
And I have quite some awesome adventures in my pocket, like swimming within glowing plankton under a sky full of sparkling stars, diving with sharks or observing wild Orangutans in Indonesia. But seeing the eruptions of Stromboli is definitely over the top of all this. The hike itself is very beautiful already. Half of Stromboli is very green and full of flowers, not to mention the breathtaking view. One highlight of this hike is the sun setting into the sea which dips your whole surrounding in red light. Not to mention the breathtaking eruptions of the volcano. As soon as it is dark the eruptions are so magical and unreal that I had to poke myself to make sure that I’m not dreaming. The fountains of glowing red lava look so perfect. As you know it from documentaries, they even reminded me of these little fireworks you can buy for new years eve.
You might think that my magical description of the Stromboli sunset tour is a bit exaggerated. I promise, it is not. It is truly the most magical natural spectacle, watch yourself:
Long story short: If you are in Sicily or the Aeolian Islands, make sure to include the Stromboli sunset tour on your trip! It is way more adventurous and stunning than hiking up Mount Etna where you only see some sulfuric gas coming out. You don’t need to be an experienced hiker, but a basic physical condition is required. The hike takes more or less 2,5 hours up and 1,5 hours down. Usually the guides go very slow so that all age classes can take part and adapt their speed and breaks to the condition of the group.
All about the Stromboli sunset tour
The Stromboli sunset tour starts either at the main square or in front of the office of your tour operator. If you book at „Stromboli Adventures“ it is at the tour operator. The walk starts from the centre of town. In the beginning, walking felt very exhausting because the sun was still quite high and it was hot. But the walk itself is very beautiful. Stromboli is surprisingly green and colourful at the foot and the first hundreds of meters of ascent. We walked along a small path through bushes with many yellow and purple flowers.
After 200 meters of ascent, there was already a breathtaking view of Stromboli town and a little „island“ just some hundred meters before Stromboli. It represents the peak of another, not active anymore, volcano. What is very interesting is that all the Aeolian islands are just the peaks of huge volcanoes under the sea. Only approximately 5% of the volcanos are over water which are visible as the islands for us and the main part of the volcanos are underwater (like the iceberg principle).
After climbing up 500 meters vegetation starts to be rare and the typical volcano landscape with its black sand and volcanic small rocks starts.
We started getting really excited because the peak came closer and closer. But it was still a hike of around 1 hour till the peak. After an ascent of 500 meter, it started being very cold and we changed from shorts and top to long pants, two long sleeves and a wind proof west. The last part of the hike is characterized by long serpentines with many rocks in the way. This requires concentration and endurance as well as hiking shoes. The sunset which was already on the go and the smoke we saw coming out of the top gave us a lot of motivation to continue the hike and finally make it to the top. When we arrived on the summit the sun was still setting and the whole surrounding was glowing in golden red light. The steaming crater and the silhouettes of other groups still on the way up created already a stunning atmosphere and we were totally impressed.
The magical eruptions of Stromboli
And then suddenly without any warning, a load explosive sound and BAAHHHHHM. We saw our first eruption, a big red fountain spilling up in the sky followed by a lot of black smoke which slowly moved further and extended the mystic of the eruption just by hanging in the sky and disappearing slowly. Wow this was so amazing! The sun was setting really fast.
As soon as it was completely dark the eruptions and fountains of lava were even more breathtaking than before. They looked like glowing like fireworks in the dark.
Almost every 10 minutes there were eruptions of different sizes and shapes, sometimes just little explosions forming the shape of a palm tree which were just the forerunner before another bigger eruptions came, sometimes really strong, straight up in the air like a hard jet of water from a pipe and up to 150 meters high. But each and every movement of the lava was amazing. We were sitting on the ground on the top of Stromboli around 300 meters away from the crater and the eruptions which were on a lower level. We enjoyed the spectacle for almost an hour. Even the 10th eruption was still breathtaking and sometimes we could even feel the strength and heat of this powerful lava which comes deep out of the earth by a warm glow in our faces. After each eruption we got to feel the power of nature when sand and little stones flew into our faces as after effect of the eruption.
The way down
After one hour which felt like a dream the whole group was freezing a lot and we started making the way down. The guides chose another way because the way we came up was too dangerous to walk in the dark. Instead we walked down with torches on the other side of the peak or should I say slide down? It was a wide sandy way and making steps was not really necessary. We just slid down almost like a cross-country skiers. After some hundred meters of the way we realized that making real steps would have been better: Our shoes were full of sand only after some minutes. But that didn’t disturb our good mood and we continued sliding happily down, already seeing the big pizza we wanted to eat after the trek. But we were not there yet and the way down still took more or less 1.5 hours. A sledge would have been faster, we thought, but non of the guides had this idea so far 😉
Finally, back in town, we went to the best pizza place of Stromboli island, „Giovanni“. It is in Via Roma and a very authentic place with tables on a little terrace outside. After a cold beer and a big salami pizza we went happily to our accommodation and slept immediately after such an adventures day.
If you plan a trip to the south of Italy or even Sicily or the Aeolian Islands, make sure not to miss this unique experience of hiking Stromboli!
How to get to Stromboli
The easiest way to get to Stromboli is taking the Ustica hydrofoil (check timetable at http://www.libertylines.it/) from Milazzo or Messina in Sicily. There are not that many boats per day, so plan well ahead.
At Stromboli, there are two places to stay: Ginostra on the southwest of the island which has only 40 residents and Stromboli, the town where the hikes start and end. In Stromboli, there are 4 tour operators (like Magmatrek and Stromboli Adventure) which offer the Stromboli sunset tour. Basically, they all offer the same trek as there is just one way up and down for the same price (25 €). We chose Stomboli Trek for booking the Stromboli sunset tour and were very lucky with our guide who spoke Italian, French, English and a bit of German. We stayed a bit longer on the top than all the other groups which is definitely a pro for this tour operator.
Equipment for Stromboli Sunset tour
You’ll definitely need hiking shoes and a torch. But no worries if you don’t want to bring all this in your suitcase. On the main square, where the church is located, there is a store called „Totem Trekking“ where you can rent all equipment, even backpacks and warm jackets (check for renting online totemtrekkingstromboli.it ) for the Stromboli sunset tour. Don’t underestimate the equipment. We also thought hiking shoes are not necessary and for the walk up they are not for experienced hikers in my opinion. But on the way down you’ll really appreciate the boots. Very important is also to dress in layers and bring warm clothes. I started wearing shorts and top and ended up in long pants, a long-sleeve, a fleece jacket and a down feather west and was still freezing. The tour operators will provide helmets for the top as the eruptions might through little stones and a breathing mask for the dusty way down.
Timetable of Stromboli
In May and June, the tours start around 5 or 5:30 pm, in the summer months in July and August a bit later, between 6 and 7 p.m. In September and October between 3 and 4 and in winter from November till January between 1 and 2 p.m., in February and March between 2 and 4 p.m roughly.
Make sure to arrive on the island in time. We came from Salina and there are only two boats per day to Stromboli, one early one and another one which arrives at 4:15 pm at Stromboli. We thought that would be enough time to drop our stuff in the hotel, change and walk to the main square. But we ended up rushing and starting the tour with just one litre of water for the both of us and no food. Definitely not the best start for such an adventure.
Insider tip: viewpoint at Ginostra
And last but not least an insider tip from a Dutch couple which we meet on the island: If you don’t want to hike all the way up you can stay at Ginostra, the southwestern town of the island. There is a pizzeria a bit up the mountain from where you can watch the sunset. After you can hike Stromboli a bit up, around an hour along a little path till you reach some kind of viewpoint from where you can see the eruptions as well – farther away of course. But if your physical condition doesn’t allow a big hike, it is an easy alternative to enjoy the spectacle as well.
Even if you hate hiking I really recommend joining the Stromboli sunset tour!