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Just a few weeks ago, big-mountain skier and mountaineer Chris Davenport skied 15 major volcanoes in 14 days. But while such a feat is reserved for the most elite of athletes, volcanoes are becoming (pardon the pun) a new hot thing to explore for more mainstream adventurers.
Whether it’s a technical ascent up Mt. Rainier (yep, the fifth-highest peak in the U.S. is also the country’s tallest volcano) or a casual stroll to the rim of the sulfur-smoky Volcan Poás in Costa Rica (that’s another of the country’s volcanoes, Arenal, at the left), exploring volcanoes offers some of the same challenges of hiking and mountain climbing, plus, depending on your location, the extra thrill factor of hot lava and steaming geysers. Not surprisingly, more operators are adding volcano tours to their itineraries, but one that’s been doing it for years is REI Adventures, which offers trips for various skill levels to destinations including southern Italy, Yellowstone National Park, and Nicaragua. I spoke to REI adventure travel program manager Justin Wood for tips on safety, cool volcanic terms, and what it’s really like to walk around in an active volcano.
In 2010, it was Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull. This year, Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano is the one making headlines, spewing lava up to 100 feet in the air and forcing closures of several main access roads in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park since it erupted on March 5. A flight restriction under 1,500 feet also is in place.
Of course, that hasn’t deterred adventure travelers, who’ve come out in droves to try to catch a glimpse of the action, according to the National Park Service. I’m not going to advise that – as deliciously tempting as watching molten lava flow into the ocean might be. So until Kilauea calms down, here are some other places where you can tour a volcano. (Though geology experts advise that eruptions can happen much faster than previously believed. Consider yourself warned!)
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