Volcano tours give you a close-up look at one of Earth’s inner workings — just not TOO close
There are few sights as beautiful — or potentially deadly — as that of a volcano in action. The world was reminded of that by the recent eruption of a powerful volcano in Iceland known as Eyjafjallajökull (and PLEASE don’t ask me to pronounce that!).
Did I say “powerful volcano?” When was the last time you saw a 97-pound weakling volcano?!
When you see one of these things erupt, whether in a steady stream of lava as in Hawaii or a cataclysmic explosion such at Mount St. Helens, you know you’re looking at one of the most primal and fundamental forces on this planet, an almost godlike giver and taker of life.
They help feed us by creating some of the most fertile soil in the world, which explains why so many people around the globe seem perfectly content to spend years farming in the shadow of a mountain that could kill them at any moment.
Geothermal steam, an energy source capable of powering whole cities, is little more than underground water super-heated by volcanic lava beneath the Earth’s crust.
But not that far beneath.
People have long held a fascination with volcanoes, and there are tours that will let you get a good, first-hand and unforgettable look at them.
They just won’t let you get too close, and for good reason. Volcanos are no joke. Vulcanologists risk their lives studying these things up close, a lot closer than you will get in any tour — and some of them have died doing it.
Next time you hear somebody talking how “hard” they are, ask them when was the last time they got within spitting distance of a mountain that churns out a river of liquid rock at temperatures topping 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and toxic clouds the size of nations.
That said, there are plenty of places around the world where you can get a good look at volcanoes and their impact on this Earth. They’re conducted by airplane or helicopter, from boats or overland.
And although safety is a priority in all of them, some, the organizers will tell you straight up, are not for the faint-hearted. When choosing one, decide first just how much adventure and excitement you can stand.
You’ll find volcano tours offered in Hawaii, Costa Rica, as well as Italy, Russia and multiple sites in Central and South America, Asia and Africa.
Websites with listings of these tours can be found on the Cool Travel Sites page.
Mount St. Helens is now a national park.
There are even people in Iceland organizing photo tours for the visitors stuck in their hotels after last week’s eruptions grounded their outbound flights.
The tour groups make a point of not putting you at that kind of risk. They let you get just close enough to give you the thrill of a lifetime, and maybe come away with a little better understanding of how this planet works.
One volcano you won’t be allowed to get anywhere near is called Katla. It also is in Iceland, and it’s due for an eruption that could be ten times more powerful than that other one a week ago. Now that would be something to see, wouldn’t it?
For now, though, just take my word for it, okay?