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Iceland, Chile, Azores: our volcanic destinations for this summer

Posted Apr 15, 2022, 10:00 AM

Since the dawn of time, volcanoes have fascinated, surprised and terrorized. More or less active, they draw the history of each continent, imprinting their mark on it: they create new advances of lava on the sea, divert watercourses, dig the ground of hot springs. If some are visible from afar with their conical peaks, such as Villarrica in Chile or Etna in Sicily, they are nonetheless difficult to access: and for good reason, some volcanic regions are still very active, as in Iceland. , and deserve a lot of caution.

Others, covered with lava and magma, have impassable soils, such as the Rwandan volcanoes of the Virunga chain, a natural refuge where many gorillas hide. Softened by erosion and vegetation millennia later, the “wisest” are carved out of rounded calderas and colored lakes like in Auvergne and on the island of São Miguel in the Azores. A brief overview of these telluric latitudes where volcanoes reign supreme, dominating the landscape and keeping us awake.

The Puntiagudo volcano, in the region of the lakes, in Chile.© Stephane Gautronneau

In Chile, a walk in southern land

High place of world volcanic activity, the region of the lakes in the south of Chile is studded with demiurge volcanoes: Calbuco, Osorno, Casablanca, Puyehue, Villarrica or Lanín have shaped and undone the geography of these southern lands for centuries. If some are still too dangerous, the most reassured allow many activities: skiing on the Villarrica area, steep ascent of Cerro San Sebastian to discover from the top a panorama of eight volcanoes, excursions in lava fields, walks through araucaria forests in view of the majestic Lanín, 3,747 meters high, on the border with Argentina…

Or sleep ? At the heart of all volcanic adventures and excursions, the “& Beyond Vira Vira” ecolodge allows you to contemplate, from a distance, the plume of the Villarrica volcano and the red halo of its crater at nightfall. Created by a Swiss couple passionate about wide open spaces, the establishment was built in an ecological way in the middle of bucolic landscapes, between peaceful rivers, green pastures and horses roaming free. Reflecting the Mapuche culture (indigenous people of the region), the lodge boasts beautiful objects and extends around with a cheese factory, a teeming vegetable garden and a small beach of white pebbles which hosts the asado (traditional barbecue).

Suite from 706 euros.


The “Bisate Lodge”, in Rwanda, in an eroded volcanic cone. © Crookes And Jackson

In Rwanda, in the gorilla sanctuary

It’s the trip of a lifetime. Penetrating the Volcanoes National Park (which extends the Virunga National Park, in Congo) to observe mountain gorillas, an endangered species, is a unique experience in the world. These 160 km2 of tropical forests contain five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga range, including Karisimbi (4,507 m). In the adopted land of Dian Fossey, the primatologist who inspired the film “Gorillas in the Mist”, you climb the mountainside to approach the great apes a few meters away, subject to a permit booked well in advance.

The slopes of the volcanoes of the Virunga range are the den of mountain gorillas.

The slopes of the volcanoes of the Virunga range are the den of mountain gorillas. © Stephane Gautronneau

Or sleep ? Installed in the amphitheater of an eroded volcanic cone, “Bisate Lodge” is an ideal base for experiencing the adventure of encountering large primates. Composed of a handful of suites facing the chain of volcanoes, the ecolodge also works for the conservation of gorillas, reforestation and helps local communities deprived of access to drinking water. In the suites, everything is sourced in a sustainable, ecological and committed way.

Villa from 1,595 euros.

On the island of São Miguel, in the Azores, the Lagoa do Fogon (Lake of Fire) occupies a volcanic crater.

On the island of São Miguel, in the Azores, the Lagoa do Fogon (Lake of Fire) occupies a volcanic crater. © Theo Giacometti/Hans Lucas

In the Azores, between tropical flora and multicolored lakes

There are many hikes that allow you to discover the ancient volcanic calderas and the colored lakes of the island of São Miguel. A spectacular path thus leaves from the Lagoa do Fogo watchtower to access the eponymous lake below (160 m drop, three hours round trip): you walk among tropical flowers and giant ferns, before reaching the shores of the lake and the beaches. bordering it at one end. We will also marvel at the caldera of Sete Cidades from the extraordinary belvedere of the Grota do Inferno: from there, we overlook the perfectly encircled colored lakes whose yellow-green, emerald and azure hues evolve with the weather. Breathtaking !

Or sleep ? The “Santa Barbara Eco-Beach Resort”, which owes its name to the black beach on which it is located, in the north of the island of São Miguel, has 30 villas and studios. The whole literally blends into the landscape with its horizontal architecture clad in cork. Between lush vegetation, large acid green lawns and the sound of the ocean, we live to the rhythm of the elements, like the many surfers and nature lovers who have frequented the place since its opening in 2015. An ideal base for discovering the many calderas of the island, where we will return to have a local dinner. And for good reason, its organic farm of 4,000 m2 allows the resort to be almost self-sufficient.

Studio from 185 euros.


The “Retreat Hotel” is bathed by the Blue Lagoon, fed by hot springs.© DR

In Iceland, discovering telluric forces

Land of volcanoes par excellence, Iceland has lived, for centuries, to the rhythm of their activity. In the spring of 2010, the island made headlines with the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, which then grounded almost all planes in Europe. Eleven years later, Fagradalsfjall, an isolated volcano located southwest of the capital, Reykjavik, awoke after 800 years of apparent calm. Emerging from its bowels, a lava field froze, contained between two hills. Black today but fiery red a few months ago, it still smokes in places. You can easily access the site, where you can hike to observe and even touch the lava. The surrounding hills and ridges offer a unique panorama over the entire volcanic site.

Or sleep ? Located a few kilometers from the Fagradalsfjall volcano, “The Retreat Hotel” associated with the Blue Lagoon thermal complex is unique in the world. Built secluded, over a milky blue lagoon fed by hot springs, the contemporary glass and concrete building fully extends the experience with its expansive suites and open terraces overlooking century-old lava fields. Here, you can recharge your batteries in contact with the elements, between baths loaded with minerals and floating massages. A dream night that has a price…

Suite from 1,212 euros.

“Le Clos Dagobert”, in Chadeleuf, at the gates of the Auvergne Volcanoes Natural Park.

“Le Clos Dagobert”, in Chadeleuf, at the gates of the Auvergne Volcanoes Natural Park. © DR

In France, in the footsteps of sleeping giants

In the middle of the Massif Central, the Puys chain brings together around 80 extinct volcanoes. Whether you choose to go around the puy de Dôme (a three-hour hike), the loop of the Dômes (over two or three days), discover the volcanic landscapes and craters with a well-defined diameter around the puy des Goules ( 1,134 m) or follow the impluvium path in the Volvic source park, any pretext is good to explore this French tectonic site, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Or sleep ? Guest house with four double rooms installed in a winegrower’s building from 1850, “Le Clos Dagobert” is the project of Marine Raphanel, a converted neuroscientist, and her Auvergne husband. Tired of Paris, it is in Chadeleuf that they have built this project of life and hospitality: chosen in an eco-responsible approach, antique furniture, original materials, such as copper or volcanic stone, and authentic architecture set the tone. The hiking trails start at the end of the garden, from where you can leave, backpack, for the listed village of Montpeyroux, Lac Pavin or the Vallée des Fées.

Double room from 120 euros, breakfast included.

Etna, culminating at 3357 m, is the highest and most active volcano in Europe.

Etna, culminating at 3357 m, is the highest and most active volcano in Europe.© Simone Perolari

In Italy, conquering Etna

Considered the most active volcano in Europe with more than one hundred eruptions during the XXand century, but also the highest (3,357 m), Etna is a legend. In the national park created in 1987, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we go hiking for the day on the slopes of the Sicilian giant, crossing beech forests and lava fields before reaching the crater which overlooks the Valle del Bove , a rare depression 1,000 m deep in the shape of a horseshoe. A unique excursion during which we dominate the Mediterranean and the city of Catania below.


The “Monaci Delle Terre Nere”, Relais & Châteaux in the Etna Park. © Alfio Garozzo

Or sleep ? Nestled in the heart of the Etna Park, the “Monaci delle Terre Nere” estate extends over 25 hectares including vines. An 18th century aristocratic villaand century and several private houses retain the charm of Sicily of yesteryear, with a modern and eco-responsible touch in addition. With its gastronomic restaurant which is part of the slow food movement, and its wines produced on the estate, this Relais & Château is a choice address away from tourist places.

Classic room from 358 euros.

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