How to Get From Catania to Mt. Etna: Sicily's Stratovolcano
A Mini Sicily Transportation Guide to Mt. Etna's Base & Refugio
Time to head to Sicily! Catania is one of the biggest cities in Sicily. It is an ancient port city on the east coast and boasts ruins, beautiful architecture, and is a popular travel hub. Many adventure enthusiasts come to Catania to enjoy the beauty and fun Mt. Etna.
Etna attracts thousands of visitors every year. It is a popular hiking, biking, and skiing destination. Visit in the summer for the first two activities, or plan a winter trip and ski down a volcano in Sicily!
But it is mildly inconvenient to get from Catania to Mt. Etna, so we're here to share our experience and help your trip go smoothly. And if you have time to spend the day exploring Catania, check out the top free things to do in Catania here.
The AST Bus From Catania to Mt. Etna
You will most likely be arriving in Catania's main train station, Catania Centrale. This is a great starting point to begin your journey from Catania to Mt. Etna as the AST buses leave from here. From Catania Centrale, head to the AST office just down the street.
Here you will buy bus tickets and the bus will leave from the parking area just out front of the train station. We were able to buy tickets from the cafe on the corner (Nafe), but this might not always be the case.
When in doubt, ask the ticket counter staff inside Catania Centrale. Generally, they will help you or point you in the right direction.
There is usually one bus in the morning, around 8:15 am, that leaves from Catania to Mt. Etna. Here's the tricky part: once they have filled up the bus, there are no more tickets available, so you have to be early. If you can, buy your tickets the day before.
The bus will leave from Catania Centrale and stop in Nicolosi along the way. It's about a 45-minute ride to Nicolosi. Once in Nicolosi, you will take a half-hour break to grab food and a cappuccino. I recommend getting granite and brioche, a Sicilian staple.
From Nicolosi, the bus will drive about another 45 minutes to Refugio Sapienza, the main lodge/tour area on Mt. Etna. The entire trip up takes about 2 hours, so you should arrive at 10:15 am.
Once at Refugio Sapienza, you will have several hours to enjoy Mt. Etna in the way you choose. But don't miss the bus back down to Catania. It will most likely leave at 4 pm, and you don't want to be stranded on a volcano.
Activity Options on Etna From Refugio Sapienza
There are several options for activities when you arrive at Refugio Sapienza. They vary in price, so it depends on how much you want to spend and how active you want to be.
You can stay near Refugio Sapienza if you don't wish to go further. It is still pretty, and there are some craters nearby that you can walk around. The bus is worth taking from Catania to Mt. Etna even if you stay at the refugio.
This first option is free, but it is physically the most taxing. You can continue up Etna by hiking from Refugio Sapienza. It is over a 1.5-mile hike and will take an average of 3 hours roundtrip. Please note that you are only allowed up to 2800m if you are on foot, and always remember plenty of water.
2) Cable Car
There is a cable car you can pay for that will carry you further up Mt. Etna. It costs around $32 per person to take the cable car up. This is a more relaxing way to enjoy Etna but costs much more. The cable car will take you up to an altitude of 2500m.
3) Jeep Tour
This option will take you up to 2900m, and it costs around $73 per person. While it is more expensive, it allows you to see more of Etna and it includes a guided tour.
4) Guided Tour
You can book a completely guided tour from Refugio Sapienza with various tour companies. The price will vary depending on the company, but plan to spend more than $75 per person. A guided tour will take you up to an altitude of 3320m.
Mountain Biking on Mt. Etna
To mix things up, you can book a mountain biking tour on Mt. Etna to experience a thrilling, extremely fun adventure. This isn't included with the activities above because you actually don't take the bus to Refugio Sapienza.
From Catania, take the bus up to Nicolosi. You will stay here instead of getting back on the bus, just make sure the driver knows. There are several great restaurants and coffee shops, as well as nearby hikes in Nicolosi.
I recommend staying at this super cute Airbnb located about an 8-minute walk from the main square where the bus will drop you off. It's big enough to sleep 10 people.
Spend a couple of nights in Nicolosi and enjoy a truly local feel of Sicily. When you have a full day available, put on your most athletic clothing, and book the best mountain biking tour on Mt. Etna.
There are several tour options available if you message the guide, but you most likely won't be going to the top of Mt. Etna. However, this is the best way to explore the volcano in my opinion.
You get to see various areas of the volcano including craters, a lava tunnel, old lava flows, and more, all while experiencing the thrill of mountain biking!
You now know how to get from Catania to Mt. Etna so you can plan and book your own trip. This is a must-visit place for nature lovers and thrill-seekers alike.
You can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, or even skiing on a volcano if you visit in the winter. While the bus ride up from Catania can be a bit iffy, it is so worth it. You don't want to miss out on this gorgeous natural beauty of Italy.
Have I convinced you to plan a trip to Mt. Etna yet? If you are visiting Sicily, you must add this volcano and one of these fun activities to your list. What adventure will you be planning on Sicily's volcano? Share with a friend you'd love to go with and plan your trip from Catania to Mt. Etna!