Vesuvius – an active volcano. The same volcano that wiped out the Roman city of Pompeii and according to many scientists, is due to erupt again soon. It’s not every day you can climb an active volcano and look down in to the crater – an adventure I couldn’t refuse!
So the most obvious question is is hiking Vesuvius safe? Well, it can never be 100% safe given nature is involved, but scientists are constantly measuring and observing the volcano and will detect signs of an eruption well before it happens. So rest assured it’s not going to erupt as you’re half way up it with no warning.
Vesuvius is the centre piece of any view out from the section of coast that runs from Naples to Sorrento, and from the top of Vesuvius you look down in to the Bay of Naples. It really is special to hike up the volcano, and it has been one of my favourite experiences of my many trips to Italy. So, what is the best way to visit Mount Vesuvius?
ONE. How long do you need?
Hiking up Mount Vesuvius takes a couple of hours, so can be done in half a day. Many people combine the hike up the volcano in the afternoon with a visit to Pompeii in the morning, and there are lot of great tours which combine these two attractions. I personally felt that Pompeii warranted more than a morning, so chose to spend a whole day there and then do a separate trip to Vesuvius not held to any time limits and avoiding the big crowds of early afternoon.
How long you have will be determined by your itinerary and base location, but as a minimum you need to set aside a couple of hours for the hike, plus travel time.
TWO. How do you get there?
If you’re based in Rome, and only have a day to experience the area, then I recommend the option of a trip which takes in Pompeii in the morning and Vesuvius in the afternoon. As my Pompeii post explains, you can get a fast train from Rome to Naples, then the Circumvesuvio train to Pompeii all in about 2.5hrs. There is a bus directly from Pompeii (leaves from just outside the entrance) straight to the base of Vesuvius so you can just take this. The bus takes about 40 minutes.
If you’re not heading there after a visit to Pompeii, then the best places for access are Naples or Sorrento. I don’t recommend driving; traffic is awful and driving up Vesuvius to the hike start point is quite complicated and pretty terrifying. Local buses direct from Naples do run, but infrequently and often unreliably.
Instead I actually recommend taking the Circumvesuviana from either Napes or Sorrento to the Pompeii Scavi stop, and then the aforementioned bus from Pompeii. If you’re not combining with a visit to Pompeii then you can get on one of the first buses of the day and avoid all the crowds. Perfect.
Be warned though, the drive is twisty turny up a volcano – if you get travel sick you might struggle. The bus had to pull over for me to be sick three times; what a kind bus driver! And on the plus side I got to take a photo at this pretty lookout spot.
THREE. What should you take with you?
If you’re visiting Pompeii as well, don’t take a huge rucksack as they don’t allow them in the site. But do take water, some sun cream and comfortable shoes. Walking up Vesuvius (and around Pompeii at 44 hectares) is not an easy stroll. My friend did the climb up Vesuvius in sandals and hugely regretted it (she was also cleaning ash of her feet for at least 3 days afterwards) – my trainers were a much better choice.
Vesuvius can actually get quite cold the higher you get. So also check the weather and be prepared for both boiling heat and feeling cold in one day and take a jumper if there’s any risk of cloud cover. If it’s raining, they also often close the crater so check ahead there too. We visited on a bit of a misty day and our views from the top were a bit spoiled, but fun never the less.
FOUR. What is the hike like?
The hike up can be done in around 30 minutes by someone pretty fit. It’s quite a steep climb, and a lot of it is just an ashy surface. For someone of moderate fitness, taking a few breaks, it will take about an hour. It’s then the same to get back down – so in total around 2 to 2.5 hours once you’ve stopped at the top as well.
FIVE. Can you see inside the crater?
Yes you sure can. It’s normally smoking a bit which is pretty cool and you can see all the volcanic ash and particles – I was surprised by how red the rocks were, and that there was plant life growing in there!
SIX. Should you go with a guide?
I think there is value in having guides at most sites, including Pompeii. But at Vesuvius they literally just walk you up the same path as everyone else walks. They talk mainly about the history of the volcano and it’s geology which is interesting but was nothing I couldn’t find out from a quick internet search (or just listening to the guides walking right past us, one after another repeating the same information). It’s 10 Euros to enter the park, and I wouldn’t waste any money on a guide to supplement this.
Thank you for reading! I hope you’ve found this guide to hiking Vesuvius useful. And if you want to check out all of the destinations on my Amalfi coast road trip you can here. Stay safe everyone!