If you want to give your teens some incredible family adventures, think about bringing them to Stromboli—one of the seven beautiful Aeolian Islands just off the northern coast of Sicily—so they can climb a volcano. What makes this volcano unique among all others in the world is that it continually erupts. The lava ejected from the volcanic craters light up the night sky giving Stromboli the alternative name the ‘Lighthouse of the Mediterranean’.
Take your teens to experience an active volcano
Ancient written sources indicate that the volcano has been this way as far back as 2,000 years. Although the volcano can occasionally produce large explosions, the majority of eruptions are comparatively small and short in duration, throwing lava 325-980 feet into the air. What makes climbing the volcano a worthwhile and sensational adventure for teens is that they are able to stand 490-820 feet directly above and watch the lava spew from the active craters.
Although the typical teen might want to climb Stromboli without a guide, this is very unsafe and illegal—you must sign up for a trekking tour. If you don’t feel like climbing the volcano, night boat tours are available as well, but nothing will be as exciting for teens as seeing the lava up close. The tour does not leave until late afternoon because the best and most thrilling way to see the lava erupting from the crater is in the dark.
Before ascending the 2953 foot high active volcano, everyone needs to be properly equipped for their adventure. Trekking groups range in age from ten to over 65 and everyone is required to have proper hiking shoes, warm clothes, water, a flashlight and some food. If you don’t have all of this equipment you can rent most of it from the touring company. Everyone is also given a helmet for when they reach the top, so teens don’t have to worry about being the only one looking dorky. Once everyone is prepared, you begin your trek up the volcano. As the sun begins to descend, you ascend towards the tree line and push through the tall grasses that block the magnificent views of the island. Tour groups stop every half an hour or so for a mandatory rest. On these occasions guides take the opportunity to point out landmarks and inform you of the island’s history. The guides collectively speak many languages so everyone is able to understand the information.
Climb to the top for a sensational view
The first portion of the trek is relatively easy but when you pass the tree line it becomes slightly steeper and the wind begins to pick up. The smell of sulphur becomes stronger as you ascend higher, which will only further spurn teens to move faster in their anticipation to see the erupting lava. The rocky path is well worn, marked and easy to traverse but the occasional rest stops are welcome, even for excited teens. After two and a half hours you finally arrive at the top of the crater. Smoke fills the sky, the wind fiercely blows and the smell of sulphur wafts into your nose and mouth. With the sun just disappearing over the horizon, even the most jaded teen who is reluctant to admit that mother nature is beautiful will be awed by what they see.
The little remaining light shimmers off the water and from the top of the volcano you are provided with breathtaking views of the island, sea and the small uninhabited volcanic plug of Strombolicchio. The best view however is when darkness finally takes over and the night sky lights up whenever lava spews forth. Teens will enjoy this magnificent view for about an hour before starting the hour and a half long descent back to the touring office. By the time you arrive back it is close to midnight and the hydrofoils and ferries are no longer running. Although an adventurous teen might want to camp out on the beach under the stars, finding accommodations for the night before your volcanic trek is a better alternative.
There is much more to Stromboli than the volcano
Although a bit off the beaten track, Stromboli is not the only Aeolian Island to offer teens unique and adventurous experiences. The tiny sulphuric smelling island of Volcano gives teens the opportunity to take a radioactive volcanic mud bath, reputed to have therapeutic powers. Afterwards you can both relax and try to wash off the sulphuric odor in the spring-warmed sea. Hobnob with celebrities, such as Kate Moss and Princess Caroline, on Panarea, an island so small there are no roads, only footpaths. Trek around Lipari, the largest island, and visit the archaeological park, sample some of the sumptuous fresh seafood or tour through the castle/citadel that once protected the heart of the old town. Of course all of these islands have picturesque beaches where teens can sunbathe and swim.
Fortunately the island of Stromboli has more to offer teens than the just the volcano, so finding things to do during the day is easy. Teens can creep through the narrow streets of San Vincenzo peering into and shopping at the local stores while enjoying the magnificent views and smelling the salty air. Teens can even make their way to the black-sand beach for a short refreshing swim. If time permits, teens can traverse a hiking trail to the other side of the island and visit the quaint tiny former fishing village of Ginostra, rarely visited by tourists. If hiking is not their thing, they can take a boat.
When teens finally depart Stromboli, they will realize this experience will be difficult to duplicate anywhere else in the world. Standing on top of a volcano over a crater throwing lava, ash, smoke and rocks into the air is a tale they will often brag about to their friends.
Craig Taylor is an adjunct professor of Greek and Roman history at the University of Alberta and Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He and his wife are embedding their love of travel into their two young sons as they explore the globe. You can connect with Craig on Twitter @CraigPTaylor1