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It can happen. It happens. The tourist arrives with many expectations… he/she wants to see an eruption, a crater, a mountain slope, but the guide must dismantle their enthusiasm. And immediately there is disbelief, anger and a negative review! “They promised me a ride on off-road tracks but instead we took normal asphalted roads!”, “We were supposed to go to the summit craters but instead we stopped at 1900 metres!”, “I thought I was going trekking in the middle of the cold lavas but it was like a picnic !”. Are we sure it’s the guide who’s wrong? Or maybe the expectations were wrong, compared to a tour in a unique natural environment like Mount Etna volcano? Let’s explain well.

“It wasn’t a real jeep”: yes, it was!

The tour invites you to experience the thrill of an off-road vehicle, that is, a vehicle equipped and authorized to tackle any type of territory and any type of climatic accident. This does not exclude the fact that this vehicle can accommodate many people! The off-road vehicle can be a jeep for a few seats but also a shuttle for about ten people capable of tackling both asphalt, dirt or rocky terrain. Thanks to vehicles like this, tourists can reach the summit craters of Etna in large groups, thus optimizing the time of the trip.

jeep ETNA 2“They didn’t take me on the tracks”: they did well!

Anyone who gets into a jeep or an off-road vehicle with the expectation of tackling wild tracks on rough terrain, thus experiencing “the great adventure” and the risk, must always remember that Mount Etna is a protected regional park. The territory of this volcano is certainly made up of rocks, dirt paths and wild slopes but it is also a protected environment due to the particularity of its materials. The cold lava expanses are precious rocks… the plants that grow along the paths are unique flora in the world. Going with a jeep or an off-road vehicle through these territories without a valid reason is wrong, and it causes environmental damage. The jeeps in the Etna park travel on asphalt in order to protect nature. They are authorized to go off-road only in particular cases or for particular uses (for example, blocked roads or the rangers service). If the guide doesn’t “take you Paris-Dakar-ing” among the black lavas … it’s well done!

“It’s not a real trek”: are you sure?

Trekking is not a one-size-fits-all activity. Depending on the locations and levels of difficulty, it is divided into routes accessible to different types of people. So be careful when you book! Ask the guide the level of difficulty of the route and plan with him/her how to go and where to get. If you don’t specify it before, you could find yourself on a standard route… therefore also suitable for children or the elderly. Tackling hard and difficult paths is a particular choice that must be decided in advance.

“They didn’t take me to the craters”: have you checked why?

Sometimes the guides change the program while on the way, or they directly change the itinerary and… no, they don’t take you to the summit craters even if you had booked the tour on the top of Etna. They will surely have explained why, but if you missed the clarification, just ask or check. Sudden alerts are often triggered, linked to the increase in tremor of the volcano – which means a possible eruption is on the way. If there is a risk of eruption, the worst place to be is the summit craters which therefore become dangerous! In that case the guide will not take you to the top, but to a safe panoramic point from which to admire the show. It is not negligence but a favour and a gesture of attention and safety towards the group.

Furthermore, the 3300 m altitude of the summit craters is not ideal to travel in winter, when there is deep snow and above all icy slopes. If you have booked the tour of the summit craters in January or February, always bear in mind that climate risk may compromise the visit. And the guide will do well not to take you up in prohibitive conditions. In that case, settle for an alternative itinerary… and maybe book a new trek to the summit of Etna for August!

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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