(Almost) everyone knows to avoid an erupting volcano, due to its hot lava, flying debris, and its suffocating ash. But, with volcano tourism being on the rise, it’s time to ask: are volcanoes still safe when they’re not erupting?

Volcanoes typically have four main categories:
  • Erupting (as in erupting RIGHT NOW)
  • Active (has erupted in the past 10,000 years)
  • Dormant (an active volcano that may erupt again)
  • Extinct (hasn’t erupted in over 10,000 years and is unlikely to do so)
The Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii - volcanoes
The Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii

Each categorisation has different levels of risk associated with it. For example, extinct volcanoes have almost no danger, but dormant and active ones aren’t so safe (because, again, they may erupt at any time).

But, in general, it’s true that even minor volcanic activity can cause dangerous earthquakes and mudslides. So yes, even when they’re not erupting, volcanoes are pretty dangerous.

Eyjafjallajökull spews lava and ash in Iceland - volcanoes
Eyjafjallajökull spews lava and ash in Iceland
Here are some safety precautions to take when visiting active/dormant volcanoes:
  • Follow all the rules – any rules you may see are there for a reason. Closed off areas are usually unsafe and risky and could cause serious harm; protective gear can prevent serious injury, and so on.
  • Always book with a registered guide – they will only take you to places deemed safe by the authorities, even if you’re flying above the site, and won’t put tourists in unnecessary danger.
  • Not all hazards can be seen – even areas that look safe at first glance may have lots of unseen hazards. Unstable ground, underground steam vents, holes or cracks in the ground, or toxic gases are just a few of these.
  • Wear appropriate gear – if you’re planning to hike up the volcano wear sturdy shoes and long pants, as well as a hat and sunglasses.

If you’re afraid of a volcano erupting while you’re there, you can read up on some tips to follow here.

As long as you follow these basic precautions, volcano tourism can be fun and exciting (as well as being safe). Here are some of the top volcano tourist destinations around the world.

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