When you are in Campania or planning to visit Campania, you should consider hiking Mount Vesuvius. Reaching a height of 1,281 meters (4,203 ft), Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano in continental Europe. The iconic mountain has fascinated visitors for centuries and these days countless people climb up to its rim every year. This article provides a guide to everything that you need to know about visiting and hiking Mount Vesuvius.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Where is Mount Vesuvius located?
- 2 Brief History of Mount Vesuvius
- 3 Is it safe to hike Mount Vesuvius?
- 4 The Main Trail for Hiking Mount Vesuvius
- 5 Is Mount Vesuvius a difficult hike?
- 6 How long does it take to hike up Mount Vesuvius?
- 7 Other Trails for Hiking Mount Vesuvius
- 8 Mount Vesuvius Opening Hours
- 9 Mount Vesuvius Tickets
- 10 How to get to Mount Vesuvius
- 11 When is the best time for hiking Mount Vesuvius?
- 12 What to wear and bring when hiking Mount Vesuvius?
- 13 Are there bathrooms at Mount Vesuvius?
- 14 Further Reading For Your Campania Visit
- 15 More Information About Italy
Where is Mount Vesuvius located?
Mount Vesuvius is located on the western coast of Italy, in the Campania region. It is situated about 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) east of Naples and overlooks the Bay of Naples. It’s about 39 km (24 miles) northeast of Sorrento and also about 39 km (24 miles) north of Positano.
The volcano is part of the Campanian volcanic arc, a line of volcanoes that formed over a subduction zone created by the convergence of the African and Eurasian plates.
Brief History of Mount Vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius began its life in the caldera of an ancient volcano called Mt. Somma, parts of which can still be seen on the north side of Vesuvius. Mt. Somma collapsed 17,000 years ago in its final eruption, forming the caldera in which Vesuvius grew.
Vesuvius has had eight major eruptions in the last 17,000 years. The most famous event in the history of Mount Vesuvius occurred in 79 AD when the volcano erupted catastrophically.
The 2-day violent eruption came with little warning, ejecting a mushroom cloud of incandescent ash, pumice, toxic gases, and molten rock 19 kilometers (12 miles) into the air.
The white-hot ash and pumice settled like heavy snow on Pompeii, its weight eventually collapsing roofs and floors. The densest part of the gas column descended along the sides of Vesuvius creating a pyroclastic surge (ash, rock, and toxic gas) that reached the nearby towns of Herculaneum, Stabiae, and Oplontis, killing any life form.
The 79 AD eruption was so strong that it altered the morphology of Vesuvius.
When Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, Pliny the Younger, the nephew to the great Roman naturalist and military campaigner Pliny the Elder, was in his Misenum villa across the Bay of Naples from Vesuvius. He documented the catastrophic eruption in a letter to the Roman historian Tacitus, and the letters are recognized as the first detailed eyewitness account of a volcanic eruption. He described an ash cloud shaped like an umbrella pine that rose high in the sky. Today, scientists call volcanic eruptions that produce large umbrella-shaped clouds of rock, ash, and gases “Plinian” eruptions.
The last known eruption of Mount Vesuvius lasted from 13-18 March 1944, during World War II. It caused major problems for the newly-arrived Allied forces in Italy when ash and rocks destroyed dozens of B-25 bombers of the United States Air Force and forced evacuations at a nearby airbase.
Is it safe to hike Mount Vesuvius?
Scientists say it’s merely a question of when and not if Mount Vesuvius will erupt again. Vesuvius last blew its top in 1944 and the longer it lies dormant, the greater the risk of a major eruption.
Given the imminent danger that Mount Vesuvius poses, you’d be perfectly normal to wonder whether hiking Mount Vesuvius is safe. Climbing Mount Vesuvius is perfectly safe so long as certain precautions are taken and you are adequately prepared.
You can also climb to the rim safely with the knowledge that expert volcanologists are keeping a very close eye on things. measuring and the composition of gases from fumaroles among other things.
Sensors around the volcano keep tabs on any movements or changes in seismic activity, magnetic field variations, and ground deformation are transmitted to the Vesuvius Observatory and analyzed 24 hours a day.
Evacuation plans will be activated at the first sign of trouble and this careful monitoring should make it possible to give at least a two-week warning prior to the next eruption.
The Main Trail for Hiking Mount Vesuvius
The main hiking trail on Mount Vesuvius is known as “The Great Cono” (Il Gran Cono) or “Path N. 5”. It is the most popular and commonly used route to reach the rim of the crater at the top.
The trail begins near the ticket office and parking area at an altitude of approximately 1,000 meters (3,280 feet). From here, the winding path up to the crater rim is about 900 meters.
The trail then continues along the rim for another 850 meters until you reach La Capannuccia – a small bar/cafe that sells refreshments. This is the cul-de-sac of the trail.
At the moment it’s not possible to walk all the way around the crater rim due to safety concerns so you have to take the same path back on your way down. Thus, the total distance of the trail is about 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles). The total elevation gained is about 170 meters (558 feet).
As you walk around the crater rim, you can peek over into the steaming abyss far below to admire the black ash and jagged red rock of Vesuvius. The opportunity to stand on the edge of the crater and stare into the heart of the volcano is an unforgettable and uniquely special experience!
While Vesuvius is closely monitored around the clock, I can tell you there’s an undeniable thrill in knowing the volcano beneath your feet is very much alive.
Occasional plumes of smoke can be seen, an ominous reminder that it’s only a matter of time before Vesuvius erupts again. The omnipresent smell of sulfur reminds you that there’s still much activity beneath the crater’s surface.
Naturally, as you ascend along the trail, you will be treated to peerless panoramic views of the surrounding Italian countryside, the Tyrrhenian Sea, and on clear days, the distant islands of Capri, Ischia, and Procida. The higher you climb, the more sublime the views become.
Is Mount Vesuvius a difficult hike?
The hike up Vesuvius is not too extreme and should be relatively easy for people in good shape or who are seasoned hikers. However, the winding gravelly path does involve some steep sections and uneven terrain. In certain places, there are several wooden staircases to negotiate.
Due to the somewhat strenuous nature of the climb, the hike up the Vesuvius crater is not recommended for people with complex cardiovascular and respiratory issues.
How long does it take to hike up Mount Vesuvius?
The walk up to the end point of the trail takes about 25-40 minutes depending on your fitness level. In total, the whole hike up and down Mount Vesuvius takes around 90-120 minutes on average.
This allows you plenty of time to snap photos, catch your breath, enjoy the views, and have a quick refreshment at the top.
Other Trails for Hiking Mount Vesuvius
There are a total of ten other trails that lead to the summit of Vesuvius, providing various options for hikers with different preferences and fitness levels. It’s important to note that the availability and condition of the other Vesuvius trails may vary depending on the season and any ongoing maintenance work.
Mount Vesuvius Opening Hours
The Mount Vesuvius crater is open daily year-round but the opening hours vary depending on the season and specific circumstances. The opening hours of the Mt. Vesuvius crater are –
- January, February, November & December: 09:00-15:00
- March & October: 09:00-16:00
- April, May, June & September: 09:00-17:00
- July & August: 09:00-18:00
In the event of inclement weather, volcanic activity, or other safety concerns, access to the Vesuvius crater may be temporarily restricted or completely closed.
Mount Vesuvius Tickets
Normal tickets to Mount Vesuvius cost 10 EUR and concessions are available.
Tickets need to be booked in advance and can only be bought online. It’s not possible to buy a ticket at the ticket office.
You have to choose a time slot for your visit and it’s important that you arrive on time. Book well in advance if visiting Vesuvius during the high season.
You can purchase your tickets via the official website here.
Alternatively, you can combine your entry ticket with a 90-minute guided tour for only a small surcharge.
How to get to Mount Vesuvius
By public transport from Naples or Sorrento
If you’re set on using public transport to reach Mount Vesuvius from Naples or Sorrento, the best way is to take a train to Ercolano, followed by a tourist shuttle bus.
You can choose from two main train services, the Circumvesuviana and the Campania Express. However, the Campania Express only runs four times a day from mid-March to the end of October and is only marginally faster.
Circumvesuviana trains run from Napoli Porta Nolana Station and Napoli Piazza Garibaldi Station (Napoli Central Station) in the direction of Sorrento and vice versa every 30 minutes. You can check the Circumvesuviana train schedule here.
Keep in mind that the Circumvesuviana trains are a bit scruffy, often crowded, have no luggage storage area, no guaranteed seats, and no air conditioning.
Please be mindful of your belongings on the platform as the Circumvesuviana train route is notorious for pickpocketing and petty theft.
Tickets for the Circumvesuviana can be bought from the ticket counter, a tobacconist (look for the red T), or the Go EAV app. A one-way ticket from Naples costs 2.40 EUR while a one-way ticket from Sorrento costs 3.10 EUR.
The train journey between Naples and Ercolano usually takes 15-20 minutes while the train journey between Sorrento and Ercolano usually takes 50-55 minutes. Disembark at the stop Ercolano Scavi. Exit the station and make your way to the Vesuvio Express office just outside the station.
The Vesuvio Express departs every 40 minutes starting at 09:30 and costs 10 EUR for a return trip. The bus takes about 20 minutes to reach the gates of Mount Vesuvius i.e. the start of the main hiking trail.
You can also purchase a combo ticket (Vesuvio Express + Vesuvius Crater).
By guided tour
By far the easiest way to get to Mount Vesuvius from Naples or Sorrento is with a tour. This takes all the hassle out of having to deal with different modes of public transport and buying tickets. It will also save you some time. Two of the best ones are:
- All-inclusive half-day Mount Vesuvius Tour from Naples
- Mount Vesuvius Tour with Lunch & Wine Tasting from Sorrento
Many travelers opt for sightseeing the ruins of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius in one day, even Jacky and I did that. There are two ways to get from Pompeii to Vesuvius – by public bus or with a guided tour.
The public EAV bus runs from Pompeii Scavi Circumvesuviana station to Mount Vesuvius once every hour. The journey takes about 50 minutes. Tickets cost 2.70 EUR.
The most convenient way to see Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius together is by signing up for a guided tour.
Though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend visiting Vesuvius by car unless you are a very assured driver, reaching the volcano by car is pretty straightforward with the main drawback being the limited parking on-site.
You have to book your parking space in advance here and it costs 6 EUR per car.
Remember that the official parking area is located 1.8 km (1.1 miles) from the start of the main trail. You can either walk up or take the small shuttle bus which costs 1 EUR per person each way.
I have also seen people parking on the side of the road that leads up to the summit of Vesuvius. This is free but do so at your own risk.
When is the best time for hiking Mount Vesuvius?
Choosing the best time to climb Mount Vesuvius can significantly enhance your visit. I personally think that spring (April-May) and autumn (September-October) is the best time to visit as these periods tend to have milder temperatures and fewer crowds.
The summer months (June-August) provide guaranteed sun, but it can get quite uncomfortably hot during peak hours. In this period, early morning hikes are recommended to avoid the scorching midday sun and high humidity. Summer is also the peak tourist season, so expect the trails to be busier.
Hiking in the winter months and off-peak season (November – March) is less common due to colder temperatures, shorter daylight hours, and potential weather-related closures. On the flip side, the trails are less busy.
What to wear and bring when hiking Mount Vesuvius?
When hiking Mount Vesuvius, proper apparel and equipment are essential to prevent and minimize accidents.
The terrain on Mount Vesuvius can be uneven, rocky, and potentially slippery, so it’s essential to have footwear that provides stability and protects your feet.
Your feet are your greatest assets on this hike, so wear appropriate footwear, such as sturdy hiking shoes or boots, that protect your ankles and provide good traction. I would also recommend using hiking socks for additional comfort and blister prevention.
Comfortable sneakers will also do but as the site is very dusty avoid flip-flops, or even worse, heels. Yikes!
What you choose to wear depends largely on the time of the year of your visit. Temperatures on Mount Vesuvius can vary greatly and it is a lot colder at the summit than on the coast.
Dressing in layers allows you to adjust your clothing according to the changing weather. A lightweight, water-resistant jacket is a good idea, even in the warmer months. Add insulating layers for warmth during winter.
Choose comfortable pants or shorts made from breathable and quick-drying materials. You can also opt for pants that can convert into shorts if you prefer versatility.
A wide-brimmed hat or a cap and sunscreen with a high SPF are a must for protection against the sun during warmer months as there is virtually no shade along the trail. Additionally, consider wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s glare.
If you are hiking in cooler temperatures, lightweight gloves and a beanie can provide warmth and may also prove handy.
Consider taking bug repellent to prevent mosquito or insect bites, particularly during the summer months.
Trekking poles are a good idea as they protect your knees from the impact of walking downhill and aid balance and stability on uneven trails.
Water and Food
Bring approx. 1-2 liters of water and energy-boosting Snacks. While you can get some drinks and snacks at the shacks along the way it is a good idea to gear up.
If you’re hiking in the hotter months, I would advise taking an electrolyte drink like Gatorade or tablets to replenish the salts lost through perspiration.
Are there bathrooms at Mount Vesuvius?
At the start of the main hiking trail of Mount Vesuvius, there is a small toilet behind the café near the entrance. To use it, you’ll have only if you buy something there first.
The toilet isn’t very clean, has no water, and often has no paper. Thus, hand sanitizing gel, toilet paper, or wipes are a must-have in your backpack. This is the last chance to use a conventional restroom before starting your Vesuvius ascent, so it’s a good idea to take advantage.
Further Reading For Your Campania Visit
That summarizes our comprehensive guide to hiking Mount Vesuvius. However, we reckon you’ll find the following resources useful for planning your trip to the Campania region!
Further Reading For Your Campania Visit
→ Uncover the 27 best things to do in Naples!
→ Find out how to spend one perfect day in Naples!
→ Check out our list of 12 best pizzerias in Naples!
→ Find out the 10 Best Neapolitan Pastries You Must Try in Naples!
→ Discover the 7 Best Gelato Shops in Naples!
→ Read our comprehensive guide to visiting Caserta Royal Palace!
→ Check out our comprehensive guide to visiting Procida!
→ Find out everything you need to know about how to visit Pompeii!
→ Check out our in-depth guide about how to visit Herculaneum!
More Information About Italy
Now, what do you think? Is hiking Mount Vesuvius on your bucket list? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!