Volcanoes are some of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders on Earth. Even the inactive ones capture the imagination.
Asia, part of the geologically active “Ring of Fire” around the rim of the Pacific Ocean, is a prime destination for travelers who want to get up close and personal with volcanoes. Here are five you should put on your to-see list:
1. Mount Bromo, Indonesia
For round-the-clock volcanic action and stunning vistas, East Java’s Mount Bromo is hard to top in Indonesia or anywhere in the world, really. The 2,329-meter mammoth reliably spews sulphuric smoke and is often partly engulfed in swirling mist, making it a prime photo-op spot.
Mount Bromo is the youngest addition to the massive Tengger volcanic complex that dates back 820,000 years. From Mount Bromo, visitors can get a good view of Java’s tallest mountain Mount Semeru, a highly active volcano that is said to belch out large plumes of volcanic smoke every 20 minutes.
But while Mount Bromo is one of East Java’s most visited spots and is relatively accessible (45-minute walking distance or an easy jeep ride from the nearby village of Cemoro Lawang), it’s by no means a safe bet – two tourists were killed by rocks from an explosion in 2004.
2. Hallasan, South Korea
Mount Hallasan, the tallest mountain in South Korea, towers some 1,950 meters above sea level at the volcanic cluster of Jejudo.
Apart from gawping at the 4,000 animal and 1,800 plant species that thrive on Hallasan throughout the year, be sure to check out the crater lake Baekrokkdam at the top. The gorgeous site, which literally translates as “Hundred Deer Lake”, inspired a folklore about fairies descending from the sky to play with white deer. Many tourists flock to Hallasan during spring time to catch the azaleas in bloom on the mountain face.
Hallasan is also a relatively easy climb, with a well-marked 10km climbing course that can be completed within a day.
3. Mount Aso, Japan
It’s named the biggest caldera in the world, gave a prefecture its nickname, and it has its own shrine. The mighty Mount Aso is easily the most instantly recognized landmark and moneymaker in the Kumamoto prefecture of Kyushu in Japan.
Thee 24-km wide Mount Aso’s main attraction is the steaming cyan crater lake of Mount Nakadake. A cable car network easily takes visitors up the volcano, where there’s a complex crammed with souvenir and snack outlets, and there are neatly paved roads right up the edge of the crater. Aso is also home to a string of hot spring resorts.
4. Mount Pinatubo, Philippines
Mount Pinatubo didn’t only recover admirably from its catastrophic explosion in 1991, it’s cashed in on the disaster as a prime extreme sports location.
In 1991, Mount Pinatubo made headlines for producing the second-largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century, which caused the world temperature to drop by 0.5 C, the death of more than 800 people and some $250 million in property losses.
Almost two decades on, the cities in the Philippines surrounding Mount Pinatubo are feeding off tourism generated by the legendary eruption.
Angeles City offers extreme trekking and off-road driving packages off Pinatubo’s lahar flows, which are giant mudflows of volcanic materials. The city also offers parachuting, skydiving and aerial tours.
5. Mount Fuji, Japan
It’s impossible to write about Asia’s top volcanoes without mentioning Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji, or Fuji-san, is a national icon for its pretty looks and its height (at 3,776 meters, it is Japan’s tallest mountain.)
Besides being an obvious spot to take postcard shots to send home, Mount Fuji also offers extreme sports for adrenaline seekers. Every summer some 200,000 people scale up the Mount Fuji in a four-to-eight-hour climb. There are also paragliding bases and schools at the fifth station Gotemba parking lot.
Visitors who are unlucky enough to visit Mount Fuji during its infamous cloudy spells may want to head over to the picturesque Hakone to the east of Mount Fuji, and the Fuji Five Lakes, which are north of the volcano.
Editor’s note: This article was previously published in 2010. It was reformatted and republished in 2017.