Mt Yasur: “The world’s most accessible volcano”

It took a lot of trips to see a lot of volcanoes before I found the one that delivered.  I drove right up to the crater rim of Masaya in Nicaragua and all I got was some smoke that smelled like a stink-bomb.  For three nights running, I sat up all night on the balcony of the Arenal Observatory Lodge in Costa Rica and only saw a few orange lava bombs roll down its flanks.  I travelled down Ecuador‘s Avenue of the Volcanoes but it rained nonstop in dry season; I got the sound but not the light show.  When staying on Tanna, one of Vanuatu’s outlying islands, I was urged to visit the world’s most accessible active volcano, understandably my expectations were low.

Yasur Volcano: A pick up gives a sense of scale
A pick up gives a sense of scale

First glimpse of Yasur Volcano

The first glimpses of Yasur volcano, I have to say, weren’t anything to write home about.  Seen across a vast ash plain from a distant hilltop lookout, it looked to be inactive and I resigned myself to another failed quest.  As the pick-up truck neared the lower slopes of the volcano, it loomed large and impressive, a huge grey pile of dirt in the midst of lush tropical vegetation.  But, disappointingly, even up close, my suspicions seemed to be confirmed: it was inert.

Yasur Volcano: Smoking mountain
Smoking mountain

Off to post a letter

We skirted round to the far side of Yasur volcano following a rough track hacked out of dense bush, the driver expertly skirting the worst of the ruts and potholes that no one had seen fit to fix.  As we began to climb, the track in the bottom of a deep and narrow gulley, I became aware of a thin white mist seeping from the sides.  These wisps of smoke were the first signs we were on to something approaching activity.  Eventually, the truck reached Yasur’s makeshift car park just short of the “Vanuatu Post” box (collection times dependent on activity levels, I expect).

Yasur Volcano: First sign of eruption
First sign of eruption

The first explosion

Just a few hundred metres short of the summit, we continued on foot up some gravelly steps towards the top.  As I turned my back on Yasur volcano for a souvenir photo, a terrifyingly loud bang lifted me off my feet – but in surprise, not by the force of the explosion.  My guide teased as I recovered my composure and we set off again.

Yasur Volcano: Lava explosions
Lava explosions

Eruptions almost guaranteed

At the Yasur volcano summit, there was action aplenty.  For the next ninety minutes, as the sun set behind a double crater, we were treated to a regular succession of eruptions.  I was told it was like this pretty much every night, though if the eruption of Yasur volcano was graded a three (out of four) people weren’t allowed to the crater rim.  Tonight was a two.  Clouds of charcoal grey ash rose high into the sky, their plumes scattering on the wind to grow the volcano a little more.  The small group of tourists reacted in different ways; a couple of French guys had brought a guitar and played an impromptu concert, a middle-aged woman took fright at the first bang and retreated to the car park.

Yasur Volcano: Dusk on Yasur
Dusk on Yasur

A fireworks display from Mother Nature

As dusk approached, the rocks within these explosions glowed, first orange and then a deep blood red, better than any fireworks display I’d ever seen.  With every boom, my heart beat louder in my chest.  Just one larger lava bomb ejected in just the wrong direction could kill me.  I was rooted to the spot, not out of fear but out of awe.  Night fell.  My guide was insistent now that we should descend.  I turned away from the crater and faced the blackness.  Now I really was scared – I’d forgotten my torch.

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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2 Responses

  1. 5 Best South Pacific Islands To Add To Your NZ Trip | Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] a short hop to the outlying islands. Try Tanna, where you can visit what’s surely one of the world’s most accessible volcanoes, Mount Yasur; or visit islanders who hold the British in such high esteem Prince Philip is considered a god. If […]

  2. Avatar for JuliaHammond

    Yoram Yasur

    Great information! I´m very interested on volcanoes, and this is one of the most beautiful I´ve ever seen. Thank´s for sharing.

    by: Yoram Yasur


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