A Stromboli Volcano night tour excursion is an incredible experience and an absolute must do for family travel.
The Aeolian Islands
Before booking Sicily as a destination I had briefly looked at the Aeolian islands. While there are many stunning airbnb properties on the islands it didn’t look all that suitable for kids.
The beaches were small and rocky and there wasn’t a lot to do. We’ll definitely head there for a romantic break once the kids don’t want us anymore! Reluctantly I moved on and settled on the town of Balestrate in the north west of Sicily near Palermo.
Yet something about the Aeolian Islands stuck with me and once in Sicily I started to research day trips to the area and discovered the Stromboli Volcano night tour.
We had originally intended to visit Mount Etna but this was a lot more complicated than first thought. Read the full low down on the different ways to visit Mount Etna here. I was also fighting a mild ear infection and climbing to 3000 meters didn’t seem like a good idea!
Having visited Mount Vesuvius and taught the kids about all about volcanoes and earthquakes we really wanted to see a live volcano and the Stromboli volcano night tour gave us that opportunity.
There are lots of tour operators offering a Stromboli Volcano night tour. We used Triscovery (scroll to the end for more info). I liked their website and the booking experience was very easy, they also had a chat facility on their website which allowed me to ask questions such as ‘will I get seasick’!
Setting off to Stromboli
The chat operator advised that the following day was very calm seas so I quickly booked and the next morning we headed out very early to start the 3 hour drive to meet the boat in Mezzina, which was a large motor yacht with around 200 people on board.
Due to parking difficulties (scroll down to the end of the post for parking advice) we were one of the last on board which meant we had to sit on the bottom level. This was OK as we all wanted to relax and catch up on some sleep from the early start but ideally you’d want to get a seat higher up the boat or by the window so that you can see more.
This first part of the journey was around 1.5 hours. The sea was calm and the boat was fast, I can imagine the ride may not be too comfortable in rough seas so do check the weather before you book. The guide told us all about Vulcano as we passed it, the information is given in 4 different languages, Italian, English, French and German.
Our first stop
Our first stop was the island of Panaera. This is a small, incredibly beautiful very greek looking island with several shops and restaurants. If you want to head to the beach head left when you arrive at the harbour and then head inland at the top of the hill and then left again at the next fork. Don’t follow the herd like we did which only takes you to the rocks!
We never made it to the beach but we did meet a friendly fisherman that gave the kids sea urchins to hold!
We then headed on to Stomboli via the tiny island Baziluzzo. It was here that we caught our first glimpse of Sciara del Fuoco meaning “stream of fire” which is a huge area from almost the peak of the volcano right down to sea level in which lava streams down the cone and into the sea.
We would return here after sunset to see if we would be fortunate enough to see the volcano in action.
Two kilometers further to the northeast we briefly visited Strombolicchio which is the remaining above water portion of the original volcano structure.
We then disembarked on Stromboli itself. I was surprised to find many boats, bars, restaurants and a couple of hotels. You can stay on the island and trek up to the top to see the volcano craters and bubbling lava up close, children have to be 10 years or above which ruled this option out for us.
On Stomboli island we had a couple of hours to explore. The kids were enthralled by the black sand beach enjoyed building their own mini volcanos on the shore line. The water drops off very steeply so be aware if you have young children who can’t swim. A man was also stung by a jelly fish while we were there which quickly ended our swimming!
We decided to explore some of the fishing boats and other parts of the beach when suddenly an air ambulance came into land. The kids got to stand on the edge of the helipad area as the helicopter took off which was a great added bonus to our trip for them. Not so good for the person who needed the air ambulance but I understand it was only a minor injury and sprains and strains are a common occurance among those hiking Stromboli.
The Main Event
Then it was time for the main event the night tour part of the Stomboli Volcano night tour! Make sure you are at the front of the line to get back on the boat as you want a good view to see Stomboli in all it’s glory, unfortunately everyone else is thinking the same. A scrum line formed around 20 mins before the boat came into dock. There was a lot of pushing and shoving – Europeans aren’t exactly known for queueing in an orderly fashion! Luckily we managed to make it as one of the first on board and set up on the top deck.
Dusk was upon us as we headed towards to the western side of Stromboli and the blood red sun dipped into the sea setting it on fire, with reflections of deep pinks and oranges. Almost as a preview to the fiery display we were hoping to see from Stromboli. Simultaneously on the opposite side of the boat a full moon began to rise into view deepening the shadows of the impressive volcano silhouette.
Patience is required when waiting for Mother Nature to perform. As we all waited with phone cameras at the ready our guide repeatedly reminded us about the fantastic day we had enjoyed, the stunning sunset still setting the horizon ablaze and the beguiling full moon rising into place. It seemed he was preparing us for the disappointment of a no show and as the clouds hugged tightly to the top of Stromboli it looked as if all was lost the clouds.
Then suddenly what looked like an orange firework shot into the night sky and parted the clouds. The show had started. The darkness was dotted with camera flashes from the boats below and the hikers way up high on the summit as everyone tried to capture the spectacle before us. Of course no photo could ever do it justice.
Every 5-10 minutes for the following hour Stromboli opened to dramatically rain fire, ash and lava down onto the rock face. At one point the silvery moon, lava fountain and the longest shooting star I’ve ever seen all appeared at once creating a total sensory overload and stunned silence from all those watching below.
The Magic of Family Travel
As the boat raced across the inky black ocean to take us back to reality I hugged the kids close. We recounted our favourite bits of the evening’s almost other worldly experience in the hope that by speaking it aloud we could commit every last detail to memory.
The kids have seen more in the last couple of months than they have in their whole lives and more than I’ve seen in most of mine too! That is the true magic of family travel.