For an update on ash, lava, steam and smoke, visit a volcano. These five destinations provide a multifaceted opportunity to get outside and learn more about planet Earth.
1. Mount Visuvius, Italy
Located just 16 miles southeast of Naples, Pompeii is a popular destination and one of the most visited archeological sites on the planet. When Mount Vesuvius erupted in the year A.D. 79 A.D. the lava flow covered the flourishing Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum as well as the surrounding area. The ruins, accessible to the public since the mid-18th century and now a UNESCO World Heritage site, tell a compelling story of what life was like during opulent times. Hikers can ascend to the top of the inactive volcano for a grand view of the landscape. To understand the history, walking tours and other guided opportunities are available.
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2. Arenal Observatory Lodge, Costa Rica
Wake to a chorus of tropical wildlife in the only lodge located inside the Arenal Volcano National Park, on this volcanic wonder. The majestic and perfectly shaped centerpiece of a rich rainforest setting can be observed from most guest rooms, the dining room and an expansive deck. Horseback riding, biking and hiking trails wind through old lava fields and soft jungle trails where howling monkeys, slithering snakes, butterflies and colorful birds beckon visitors. The lodge serves as a great base camp from which to access river rafting, zip lines, hanging bridges and hot springs. The last eruption of Arenal took place in 2010. Austin Lehman Adventures offers family tours to the region.
Contact: www.austinlehman.com; www.arenalobservatorylodge.com
3. Mount St. Helens, Washington
On March 20, 1980, an earthquake of 4.2 magnitude reawakened this volcano, leading to the May 18 collapse and eruption. Today, families visiting the National Volcanic Monument, about 50 miles northeast of Portland, can learn more about the geologic and biologic history of the volcanic peaks that dominate the Cascade Range though interpretive talks, walks and theater presentations. Hiking, biking and helicopter tours also provide an expansive view of the region's recovery.
4. Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Accessible only by float plane or boat, this remote park is located on the Alaskan Peninsula near Kodiak Island. Spanning nearly 5 million acres, the protected region is the site of the Novarupta volcano's 1912 eruption, considered to be the 20th century's most powerful and heard as far away as Juneau. Today, visitors come to observe the dense population of brown bears and to fish for trophy rainbow trout, salmon and Dolly Varden trout that run in Katmai's streams and rivers. During the summer months, meals and lodging are available at Brooks Lodge, a popular spot for bear viewing. The National Park Service also staffs a visitor center and offers interpretive programs.
Contact: nps.gov/katm/index.htm; www.TravelAlaska.com
5. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
The historic Volcano House offers families the opportunity to wake to a magnificent sunrise over one of the world's most active volcanoes. The only lodging option within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island, the hotel rests on the rim of Kilauea caldera with a view toward Halemaumau crater. Learn about recent volcanic activity, the region's biological diversity and Hawaiian culture through driving and walking tours as well as the Junior Ranger program. Ask about helicopter and boat tours.
Contact: nps.gov/havo/index.htm; www.Gohawaii.com
(Lynn O'Rourke Hayes (www.LOHayes.com) is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook, or via FamilyTravel.com)