Q: Where on Etna can I take a cable car/start a trek?
A: There are two gateways to Etna Volcano: Rifugio Sapienza near Nicolosi (Etna south) and Piano Provenzano near Linguglossa (Etna north). Both stations serve cable cars (funivia), jeep cars (‘fuoristrada’), offer other services e.g. eateries, trekking shoes rental (at Rifugio Sapienza only), professional licensed guides for short and long treks. Both Rifugio Sapienza (1910m) and Piano Provenzano (1810m) are convenient starting points to explore Etna volcano – on your own or with a guide, by cable car (funivia), jeep or on foot.
The funivia at Rifugio Sapienza reaches the height of 2500 m. It used to arrive to a higher point of 1920m that was previously called Torre del Filosofo . Torre del Filosofo was ruined by the eruption of 2013. The same eruption damaged the part of the funivia that arrived to that point, and now it stops at 2500m. The funivia at Piano Provenzano reaches the height of 2940 m. This point is called Osservatorio Vulcanologico.
It is forbidden by law to move from 2900m (approximate height of ex-Torre del Filosofo and Osservatorio Vulcanologico) up without a licensed guide.
Q: What is the price to go to the main crater?
A: There are different options including a cost – free one (to go up on foot). This option is not legal as you can’t go up to the main crater without a licensed guide, and there are fines for violation. However, take into consideration that whatever service or package you take, it is likely to include a net price of the cable car and a 4X4 jeep to go up which is 65 Euro per person combined (as of July 2017).
Q: When is the best time to visit Etna?
A: Visit early morning on a sunny day for optimal weather conditions. Prefer not to go in case of a rainy/cloudy meteo conditions as the visibility and panorama will be low. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to go if there is an eruption. During the eruption and depending on its force the Rifugio Sapienza and Piano Provenzano stations may deny access to go up by funivia and/or jeep.
Q: Can I go up to the top craters of Etna volcano all alone?
A: The law forbids to pass 2.900 meters without an authorized guide. This is the approximate height of Torre del Filosofo and Osservatorio Vulcanologico, the highest points where funiva arrives from Rifugio Sapienza and Piano Provenzano. It is better to explore Etna with an authorized guide even if you are an experienced trekker. It is only GUIDE ALPINE and GUIDE VULCANOLOGICHE that provide secured and licensed service on Etna. Ask your tour operator or the guide if he/she belongs to these professional groups, and be aware of the other guides. Etna is no joke!
Q: How should I prepare for a trip to Etna?
A: Make sure to have warm clothes and a good jacket with you. It is usually very windy up there on Etna, and the temperatures can go as low as 5C even in summer. We advise to have closed trekking shoes. You can rent the shoes at Rifugio Sapienza for 3 Euro/pair. Check these tips will help you prepare for a visit to Etna.
In summer on a sunny day it may be very hot on Etna despite the wind and lower temperatures. Make sure to take hat, long sleeves and suncream.
It is better to explore Etna with an authorized guide even if you are an experienced trekker. It is only GUIDE ALPINE and GUIDE VULCANOLOGICHE that provide secured and licensed service on Etna. Ask your tour operator or the guide if he/she belongs to these professional groups, and be aware of the other guides.
Q: Is Rifugio Sapienza and/or Piano Provenzano open out of season?
A: Rifugio Sapienza is open year-round. However, from about end of December till late March it serves the same route on a ski pass (cost varies around 25 Euro/day). Piano Provenzano is open year-round, but its funivia mostly serves winter sports. You can find guides, jeep service and start a trek there. Rifugio Sapienza provides more services with expanded tourist infrastructure. We advise you to only go to Piano Provenzano with an advanced plan/or a guide booked in advance.
Q: How do I visit Etna without a tour?
A: There are a few main options if you want to explore Etna on your own. The easier ones start at Rifugio Sapienza Note that you can’t reach the main crater and the summit of Etna on your own, but you can do what is usually called a short trek/short tour.
You can also start a trek/reach 2900m from Piano Provenzano (Etna Nord, Linguaglossa), but here we do recommend a professional guide. Le Guide Alpine are professionals licensed for guiding people at Etna. This is the link to this group starting treks at Piano Provenzano.
Q: How much does the fun cost?
As of July 2017 a combined ticket for the cable car and 4×4 jeeps to go up to the main crater costs 60 Euro per person return… This is the net price of these two services, so the organised tours are likely to have a higher price which will include pick-up/transfer/guide etc.
Q: What are the options to visit Etna from Rifugio Sapienza on my own?
- Arrive at Rifugio Sapienza either by car or by bus, and have a walk there towards Crateri Silvestri. This is a nice and not a difficult walk at 1900 meters, you will see two craters and enjoy some nice views.
- Arrive at Rifugio Sapienza and park your car there. Look for a tourist office there and book a jeep (‘fuoristrada’) to go up. Reach the area which is stil known as Torre del Filosofo with the jeep and from there walk around/towards the craters – a short walk, usually very windy.
- Arrive at Rifugio Sapienza, start at the tourist office as in option 2. You can here decide to move the first part up with a cable car (funivia) – it will take you to 2500 m, and from there book the jeep (‘fuoristrada’). The price for option 2 and 3 will be very similar, however check at the office for the latest quote as they change it quite often.
- Alternatively, you can trek up along the cable car (for a personal in good physical shape it takes about 2,5-3 h). This will take you to 2500 meters. A person in a good physical shape makes this way in 2.5-3 hours. In this case, you will have to go down yourself as well or pay 30 Euro for the cable car as for a return ride. From there again the jeep cost is 33 Euro/person (summer 2016). If you decide against the jeep cars (‘fuoristrada), you might trek on your own, but the duration would depend on your level and skill. For security reasons we do not recommend this, and you can’t pass 3 000 m without an authorized guide.
Q: What is a short tour to explore Etna?
Most of the options you will find online will offer so called short trek or long trek. The main difference is that with the short trek you will not cross the 2920m limit, so will not go to the main crater. Technically to that point you may go alone or with someone who is not necessarily a guide with an autorization. Most of the short treks will include the cable car and the jeep (‘fuoristrada’) and a walk around/towards the closest craters. The price tickets for funivia and jeep (‘fuoristrada’) together will be around 60-65 Euro. Most of the organised short treks will offer this service plus a guided walk around for the similar price.
Q: What is the difference between a short and a long trek/tour to explore Etna?
The law forbids to cross the point of 2920 m without a licensed guide, so for a long trek you will need an authorized guide. The long trek is supposed to take you to the main crater and to the summit of Etna. Note that reaching the top is subject to weather conditions and volcano activity. It is not certain that your long trek will take you to the very top.
Q: Can I decide to visit Etna volcano on the tour right there at the Rifugio?
A: Yes, you can decide on arrival at Rifugio Sapienza. There are a few offices of local guides, e.g. Gruppo Guide Alpine Etna Sud , that have licensed guides for both short and long treks. Keep in mind that the long trek starts by 9.30 am so it’s important to arrive earlier.
Q: How to go to Mount Etna by public transport?
A: The only public transport to Etna is the once daily AST bus from Catania. You will find the bus station is next to the central train station. It arrives at Rifugio Sapienza, from where the cable car and the jeep tours start. The bus departs at 8.15 am from Catania and returns at 16.30 from Rifugio Sapienza. The route takes about 2 hours. In summer (from June, 15 to September, 15) there is one more route that parts from Catania at 11 am and arrives at 13.30. The same route back from Etna (Rifugio Sapienza) at 10.45 and arrives in Catania at 12.50
Q: Where can I find updated information about Rifugio Sapienza and the cable car?
The official web-site of the cable car to explore Etna from Rifugio Sapienza
Still have questions? Send us your question, and see how fast we are to get back!
Etna is one of the wonderful options for a day-trip, but there are many more. Here are some ideas for day-trips if you stay on the east coast (Catania, Siracuse, Taormina or around).
And here – some suggestions for day-trips if also want to explore the northern part of Sicily, wonderful Nebrodi, Medieval Cefalu and the other interesting places.