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If you are planning a trip to Mount Etna, you should be aware of one thing: The volcano is no longer an insider tip. The best time to travel - also to avoid the crowds in the high season between the end of June and September - is spring, when everything is in bloom and the landscape turns into a sea of colour.

Catania is the largest city on the volcano with 312,000 inhabitants. Many airlines offer direct flights from Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin, Zurich or Vienna. From Catania airport, you can drive to the villages of Bronte, Randazzo, Milo or Linguaglossa in just over an hour by rental car.

But even if you don't want to spend the night directly on Etna, but prefer to stay in Catania, you can easily take the bus to the "Rifugio Sapienza" valley station for a day trip to the volcano. This is the starting point for many hikes and jeep tours. The cable car "Funivia dell'Etna" takes about 15 minutes to the station at 2,500 metres above sea level. By the way, volcano fans can watch Etna at any time via a live webcam installed at the top of the cable car and get in the mood for the excursion.

On the trail of lava

It is hard to resist the fascination of Mount Etna. The usually peacefully smoking mountain towers mightily over the impressive landscape. On the way to the volcano you see typical maquis, citrus plantations and terraced vineyards, beech, oak and chestnut forests and - the higher you go - barren basalt rocks on which only broom and tragacanth grow.

Many local tour operators offer hikes, mountain bike tours and even horseback excursions on the volcano. Guided tours in German are offered by the tour operator Go Etna, among others. Here, both courageous trekking enthusiasts get their money's worth as well as families who want to take a more comfortable tour with the children in a jeep.

The spectacular valley "Valle del Bove" on the eastern flank of the volcano, with its lava desert and craters, can only be visited in the company of trained guides, and it is only accessible on foot or by bicycle. If you want something more exclusive, you can book a helicopter flight over Etna, with a uniquely impressive view of the volcano guaranteed!

Exotic skiing area

Most winter sports enthusiasts probably don't immediately think of Etna when it comes to booking their next ski holiday. And even though the two ski areas Etna North and Etna South are among the smallest in Europe, they are nevertheless among the most spectacular. The Etna North ski area is located near Linguaglossa on the northeast side at Piano Provenzana at 2,300 metres. The ski slopes in the Etna South - Nicolosi ski area run along the south-east side and reach an altitude of 2,600 metres. Above 2,000 metres there is snow on Mount Etna and from November to April there is almost always enough for skiing. In good weather, you can even see as far as the sea from the slopes. So winter sports fans, why not try something new?

Medieval villages

The village of Linguaglossa is also called the "northern gate of Etna" because it is the northern access to the ski slopes, to the lava flows, to the pine forests and to the extinct or active craters of the volcano. Although it now thrives on tourism, it has no special sights to offer. Far more rewarding is a stroll through the medieval old town of Castiglione di Sicilia with the castle Castello di Lauria, which towers over the village. Equally beautiful is Randazzo, further west, with its small alleys and picturesque churches. The abbey of Santa Maria di Maniace, also called Castello di Nelson, is imposing. It is located on the border between the municipalities of Bronte and Maniace on the western flank of the volcano. The legendary English naval hero Admiral Lord Nelson spent his twilight years there. The castello can be visited.

Unspoilt nature

Not far from Etna, to the northwest, lies the Parco dei Nebrodi nature reserve. The Arabs called the area "an island on the island". The reason for this were its lush forests, small lakes and beautiful torrents. The landscape of the Nebrodi still differs from the traditional landscape of Sicily. The unique interplay of climatic conditions creates a special habitat for many animal species and plants on the territory of the Nebrodi. Absolutely worth seeing!

Nature and hiking lovers will also feel like they are in paradise in the Alcantara Valley between Castiglione di Sicilia and Motta Camastra. The hiking routes along the river leading to the gorges of Alcantara are among the most beautiful and at the same time least known in the area.

Taormina and Catania - two tourist magnets

The coastal town of Taormina, north of Mount Etna, is considered by many to be the most beautiful town in Sicily. With its narrow alleys, the noble main street Corso Umberto and the elegant Piazza IV Aprile, it immediately captivates the visitor. The famous ancient Greek-Roman theatre is one of the most photographed motifs on the island. Here, too, it is better to avoid the high season in order to really enjoy the city.

Catania, the provincial capital south of the volcano, also has Greek roots and is home to Sicily's oldest university. The amphitheatre and the elephant fountain in the Piazza Duomo, together with the baroque cathedral of Sant'Agata built of lava stone, are the city's landmarks. But strolling through the fish market in Piazza Alonzo di Benedetto is also an unforgettable experience. It's best to get up early in the morning and simply let yourself drift through the city.

Railway enthusiasts can take the Circumetnea line from Catania to Riposto once almost around the volcano, spectacular views included.

Leisure activities for children

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