Pretending the floor is lava and jumping from couch to couch is as close as most people get to actually seeing lava in real life. But the reality is, there are some pretty cool places worldwide, where you can see lava safely, up close. Here's our list of seven of the world's best places where you can watch active hot lava flow.
Stromboli Volcano, Italy
This volcano is known for its glowing night time eruptions. It’s been regularly erupting for 2,000 years and it’s one of the only places in the world where you can actually see regular eruptions safely. You can see hot lava here pretty much year round, but most places on the island close for the colder months (October through the winter). And if you’re a scuba diver, figure on seeing the crusted lava below the water’s level too. Here's a link to a great wiki travel page on Stromboli Volcano.
Meet the world’s most active volcano on the big island in Hawaii. Year ‘round this island oozes up new flows of lava that you can view during the day or night and you can walk right up to it. There are no park rangers or tour guides or anybody to keep you from getting too close or hurting yourself, which means you can get up close and personal, but remember to be respectful of the lava—in Hawaii lava is sacred.
Ecuador is considered one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with many towns resting at the foot of at least one volcano. Check out the town of Banos for a city dedicated to viewing volcanoes and their flows. They have tours that will hike you close enough to feel the heat as well as safer distance tours where you can watch eruptions at night from neighboring hillsides. Check out this Lonely Planet article: Ecuador's Top Ten Volcanic Experiences for more info on lava travel in Ecuador or this article by Ecuador.com on Volcano travel in Ecuador.
Erta Ale, Ethiopia
This is home to one of the world’s only persistent lava lakes. Lava lake is exactly what it sounds like, a bubbling, festering pool of hot lava. And, it’s active year round. Locals call it the “gateway to hell.” But hot lava isn’t the only thing burning here—civil unrest in the country makes this place a little volatile to travel in, so beware. Check out this article by Axel Storen Weden about getting there.
Mount Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Mount Nyiragongo is also situated in an unstable country politically. This volcano is known for it’s especially fluid flowing lava that flows like water. Also home to one of the world’s only active lava lakes. Here's a link to learn more.
Meet the world’s southernmost active volcano—it’s in freaking Antarctica! Forget about global warming, it’s hot lava melting these ice caps. (Just kidding, it is global warming.) And if lava and ice isn’t weird enough, this volcano sculpts ice towers that reach heights up to 60 feet tall. While travel here is possible, it’s not easy. We actually emailed the government for help with how to get here. Click this link for their super helpful response!
Lava flows and volcanic activity change constantly. There are other places in the world that are known for lava viewing also, like Volcan Arenal in Costa Rica, and Guatemala’s Vulcan Pacaya, but make sure before you book your lava trip, check on the volcanic activity to see what you can expect. Here’s a link you can always check on, that’s provided by the Smithsonian as part of their volcano research. They post constant updates on volcanic activity worldwide, with play by play updates on volcanos all over the world.