Most of us probably don’t give much thought to volcanoes in our day-to-day life, but the truth is there are over 1,500 active ones in the world that could potentially leave destruction in their path. Five hundred of those volcanoes have erupted during modern times. Here are some of the most active volcanoes in the world today that you might want to steer clear of in your travels. Then again, if you have a primal desire to live on the edge, you might want to explore some of these potentially explosive peaks.
1. Sangay, Ecuador
The Sangay stratovolcano in central Ecuador has been spewing pretty regularly since 1628, with a few breaks here and there. The many eruptions have led to an ever-changing shape of the summit and crater. The conical mountain is often covered in snow (yup, there’s snow in the equatorial jungle), but the top has never frozen over thanks to its activity. Despite its active status, daring mountaineers continue to climb it.
2. Mount Vesuvius, Italy
Mount Vesuvius is located less than six miles from Naples…and it’s considered one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes out there. The last time it blew was in 1944, but its most famous eruption was in 79 AD when it obliterated Pompei and Herculaneum. With over 3 million people living nearby and tourists flocking to stroll around the summit, this could be the site of another tragic disaster one day.
3. Sakurajima, Japan
Sakurajima used to be an island, until a volcanic eruption in 1914 connected it to the mainland by basically creating a bridge made of lava. The volcano is still active and spews out a steady plume. The ash particles often produce black rain. The 600,000 residents of nearby Kagoshima are under frequent evacuation alert due to seismic activity here, yet it is still a popular tourist attraction.
4. Mauna Loa, Hawaii
Mauna Loa, which means “long mountain,” is the largest volcano in the world, when measuring by volume. It is one of five volcanoes that make up the Hawaiian islands. It looks quite different than a lot of volcanoes out there since its gradual slopes are not very steep and the lava tends to flow down the hill in predictable ways as opposed to exploding out the top. It has gone off 33 times since its first documented eruption in 1843, the last time being in 1984. Mauna Loa is one of the Big Island’s biggest draws for tourists, who can hike, camp or take a 4WD vehicle up to the Weather Observatory, situated at 11,000 feet. Kilauea is another Big Island volcano that often displays flowing lava fountains that volcano tourists want to see.
5. Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland
This unpronounceable volcano in Iceland is covered with an ice cap, and its name means “Island Mountain Glacier”. The last time it erupted in April/May 2010 it caused severe disruption to air travel across Europe. Over 100,000 travelers were affected by flight delays due to the dust cloud. Volcanologists continue to monitor this one closely, but Icelandic tourism continues to boom.
6. Irazú Volcano, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a mecca for volcano enthusiasts, and Irazú is a major draw. At 11,260 feet, it’s the country’s highest active volcano. Its stunning green crater lake is a sight to see. The surrounding national park is rich in flora and fauna that Costa Rica is famous for. Arenal Volcano is another active one in this touristic country, with plenty of geothermal hotsprings and eco-lodges to enjoy in the region.
7. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The geologically young Galapagos Islands are one of the most volcanically active hotspots in the world, second only to Hawaii. Basaltic eruptions occur frequently, and its resulting landscape and natural wonders that exist only there gives this region its nickname “the enchanted islands.” If you happen to be there during an eruption, you might see fountains of lava, spatter cones and glowing rivers of molten magma cascading into the ocean. Recent eruptions include Cerro Azul, Sierra Negra and Marchena, but there are nine active ones in the chain.
8. Stromboli, Italy
The Stromboli volcano off the coast of Sicily has been erupting regularly for the past 2,000 years. It mostly shoots up pieces of lava a few meters high, but it did have a lava flow eruption in 2002 which caused a tsunami and damage to a town on the coast. It is nicknamed “The Lighthouse of the Mediterranean”.
9. Popocatepetl, Mexico
Looming over the heavily populated Mexico City is the ever-smoking giant of Popo. It forms a scenic symmetrical backdrop to the city (when you can see it through the smog). This second highest peak in the country is becoming increasingly active, with several incidents in recent years involving evacuations or flight disruptions. It was spewing as recently as October 7, 2015.
10. Mount Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Mount Nyiragongo is located inside Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is active with a massive lava lake visible within the crater on top. It is one of the most voluminous liquid lava lakes currently out there. Gas seeps around the area can be toxic and deadly, so this volcano is not one to plan a holiday around.
11. Santa Maria, Guatemala
The Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala hasn’t erupted since 1902, but when it did it was considered one of the largest eruptions of both the 20th century and the last 200 years. The volcano has been active for the past 30,000 years, with persistent ash-and-gas explosions. This minor but regular activity draws many daredevil tourists there to catch a glimpse of the volcano in action.
12. Ulawun, Papua New Guinea
The Ulawun volcano has erupted 22 times since the 18th century, and several thousand people currently live nearby. It is one of the most active volcanoes in the country, and the tallest in the Bismarck Archipelago where it is located. In fact, it has been undergoing constant activity for some years now, you never know when it might really explode.
13. Galeras, Columbia
The Galeras volcano is 14, 029 feet above sea level and records have it erupting since 1580. It is currently the most active volcano in the country. An eruption in 1993 actually killed nine people, including some scientists who were conducting studies in the crater.