Volcano Watching

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Volcano in Montserrat (Photo: Montserrat Tourism Board)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on March 24, 2010. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: adventure travel, Antarctica, Cannon Beach, Christine Sarkis, Colorado, Costa Rica, destination, Gold Beach, Hawaii Volcanoes Natl Pk, Montserrat, Mount Washington, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Republic of Congo, Tampa, Texas, Tofino, Venezuela, Washington.

While not technically weather, volcanoes do rain down ash, and definitely qualify as a way to glimpse nature's fury.

Since its previously dormant Soufriere Hills volcano sprang back to life in 1995, destroying the city of Plymouth and claiming lives, the Caribbean island of Montserrat has moved its residents safely out of the volcano zone. But the destination hasn't turned its back on the rumbling monster, and in recent years, volcano viewing tours have brought curious thrill seekers to Montserrat on day trips from Antigua or for longer stays.

With lava flows extending the landmass of the island all the time, Montserrat residents joke that the island is the only part of the British Empire that's still growing.


The Montserrat Volcano Observatory has a small visitors' center with educational information and views of the volcano. Some tours include stops at overlooks of Plymouth, buried under volcanic debris. The Montserrat Tourism board offers a list of good and safe vantage points from which to watch volcanic activity. You can also get an eyeful from the air: Many people choose to fly to Montserrat (instead of taking the ferry) because the flight affords excellent views.

More Volcano Watching

Hawaii's islands offer many ways to get close to active volcanoes. Visit Volcanoes National Park to see lava flow, steam, and cool; or hop aboard a boat to feel the heat of the lava from the Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii's Big Island.

At the Arenal Observatory Lodge in Costa Rica, you can see lava flows from the comfort of your balcony. For a true adventure, hire a guide and hike the Nyirangongo stratovolcano in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to see one of the world's largest lava lakes.

Do you know of more places to glimpse spectacular nature up close? Share them in the comments below!

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