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Conquering the Summit: A Guide to Hiking Mount Vesuvius Volcano in Naples, Italy

Updated: Apr 8


We have visited and hiked an inordinate number of volcanos on our travels.

There is something about peering in the mouth of a volcano that makes you feel alive.


When finalizing the itinerary for our trip of a lifetime in Italy, we planned stops to explore both the city of Naples and nearby Pompei, but wanted to find a way to visit the Vesuvius National Park on route between them and hike to the crater of the volcano.



Mount Vesuvius, as seen from Naples, Italy
Mount Vesuvius, as seen from Naples, Italy



Hiking Mount Vesuvius: How to get to Vesuvius National Park


The looming volcano of Mount Vesuvius is located within the Vesuvius National Park (Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio), which lands squarely in between the Naples city center and the city of Pompei, a short thirty minute drive either direction. Currently, there is no easy way to reach the Vesuvius National Park via public transit. The nearest train station is Ercolano Scavi Station, from which a taxi can be hired to drive the remainder of the distance up the volcano to the starting point.


 

 What's the difference between Pompeii and Pompei? Pompeii (with double "i") refers to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and ruins of the ancient Roman city, but Pompei (with single "i") refers to the modern Italian city, within the metropolitan city of Naples, Italy).


To read about visiting the archeological site of Pompeii, read: Visiting Pompeii: Walking The Ancient City.

 



Guests who wish to hike Mount Vesuvius and walk the trail around "il grand cono", can opt to drive themselves and arrive at the Vesuvius National Park by car, to park in the available parking lot area, but this means having to hike an extra thirty minutes (at least) to the main entrance and starting point of the hike for Mount Vesuvius.


Visitors can also opt to book a group tour and arrive at the Vesuvius National Park on a bus, which will drive past the parking lot and directly up to the main entrance, avoiding the extra walk, or visitors can book a private tour with a guide who will also bypass the parking lot and drive up to the main entrance.


 

Note: Regardless of how you choose to arrive at the Vesuvius National Park, you must purchase a ticket in advance (online only), you can no longer purchase a ticket at the gate.

 


The view of Naples City from the crater of Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy
The view of Naples City from the crater of Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy


Renting a car proved too complicated and problematic on this trip of a lifetime to Italy, so we hired a driver to pick us up at our charming Bourbon House B&B in Naples and drive us to our hotel in Pompei, opting to stop at the Vesuvius National Park on the way.


My Day Trip is a car-for-hire service by local drivers, that allows guests to add on a stop at nearby attractions or sites, with the added flexibility to decide how much time they want to allocate to each stop. We booked My Day Trip services a few times on this trip of a lifetime in Italy, and it was great each and every time.


The charming Ciro picked us up at the Bourbon House B&B in Naples and whisked us off in his comfortable Jaguar FX towards the Vesuvius National Park. Within forty-five minutes, we had reached the base of Mount Vesuvius and the entrance to the Vesuvius National Park. Switchback after tight switchback, Ciro rounded the corners with precision, passing the hikers who opted to drive and park along the way.





 

TIP: If you choose to book a group tour or private guide, ensure that the entrance tickets are included in the cost. If not, you will be required to pre-purchase your tickets from the official Vesuvius National Park site and present them prior to beginning the hike.

 

We also used My Day Trip to travel from Pompei back to Naples, stopping at the underrated and unbelievable archeological site of Herculaneum along the way. To learn more about the archeological site of Herculaneum, read: Visiting the Secret Wonders of Herculaneum.



Passing the main entrance to begin the hike to the top of Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy
Passing the main entrance to begin the hike to the top of Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy



Hiking Mount Vesuvius: How to Book a Ticket


Reading reviews of visitors to the Vesuvius National Park who had made the climb, our research indicated that the hike from the main entrance to the craters edge should take approximately thirty to forty-five minutes. So when booking our pick up and drop off with My Day Trip, we opted for a two and a half hour stop at the Vesuvius National Park, to allow us the opportunity to take our time and take as many photos as possible along the hike to the crater of Mount Vesuvius.


Knowing the drive from the Naples city center would take approximately thirty minutes, we booked our tickets to the Vesuvius National Park through Viva Ticket and selected an appropriate date and entrance time window, with padding, allowing for the possibility of traffic on route.


 

TIP: The entrance tickets when purchased through Viva Ticket are e-tickets and appear as a link. Be sure to make note of the link and/or print or download the tickets immediately, as they will not be emailed to you.

 

In order to ensure everyone's safety on the hike and at the crater level, groups of only fifty people are allowed access every ten minutes, which means each ticket purchased has a specific entrance time that is strictly adhered to.  Individuals are given a leeway of thirty minutes prior and ninety minutes after their selected entrance time, but latecomers will not be accepted nor refunded.



From the Hike: You can see the drop off area through the foliage
From the Hike: You can see the drop off area through the foliage, Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy


If you're not travelling in between locations, staying in Naples and would rather not have to calculate travel time, you can also book all inclusive full day tours and half day tours from Naples, which includes entrance fees and round trip transportation.


The level where the main entrance to Vesuvius National Park is located, has a very small (and tight) area for cars and buses to park, which is why no vehicles are allowed to stay for longer than it takes for guests to disembark. The rocky driveway is made even tighter by the presence of three souvenir stands selling trinkets to tourists.



UNIQUE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE: See Mount Vesuvius from both a hiking and biking perspective on a Mount Vesuvius E-Bike Tour. Climb up to the crater of Mount Vesuvius, first via e-bike, then on foot, for a unique view.


There is only one other building in the vicinity, a small variety store/café that allows patrons use of their small shaded patio and only bathroom, if they purchase something. Note: There are no other restrooms available in the area or on the hike.


Ciro dropped us off in the carpark and quickly headed back down the winding path, set to return in a few hours to pick us up. We enjoyed a small bag of chips and a delicious espresso on the shaded patio, while we waited for our entrance window.



Hiking Mount Vesuvius Sign, Naples, Italy
Hiking Mount Vesuvius Sign, Naples, Italy


When it was time, we lined up at the entrance and waited to show our tickets to the guard at the gate, prepping ourselves for what lay ahead. At this point, it was just after 11am and we would be hiking during the hottest part of the day. Had we the option to arrive earlier (or later) , we would have done so, but this was our only opportunity given the travel time between locations.


As we crossed the entrance building to Vesuvius Nation Park and officially began the hike to the crater of Mount Vesuvius, we quickly reached the large welcome sign. The hiking path welcomed us on the right, a spectacular view of the landscape called to us on the left.




Hiking Mount Vesuvius: What to Wear for the Hike


The incline of the hiking path up to the crater of Mount Vesuvius is deceivingly steep, and the rocky terrain is sometimes slippery underfoot. The small volcanic rocks are loose in sections, so proper footing is crucial if you want to avoid slipping.



Hikers on route to the Vesuvius crater
Hikers on route to the crater of Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy


The hikers who joined us on the hike up to the crater of Mount Vesuvius were of all ages, sizes and fitness levels, everyone walking at their own pace. The hiking path is wide and it is easy to give others the room they require, or to pass a hiker who is moving slower.


Some hikers wore proper hiking boots, some wore flip flops, but most wore sneakers. Choosing the right footwear for the hike depends on what you're comfortable with, but we would recommend a good pair of sneakers with some grip.


If it is a sunny day during the spring or summer months, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat is a must. Ideally hikers should wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing made of breathable cottons and linens. Some hikers chose to wear shorts and tank tops, while others preferred to cover their shoulders with long sleeves. The key is to be comfortable and wear clothing that will not add to your body overheating from the temperature or the physical activity.




Standing at a switchback curve, looking back at the climb
On the Hike: Standing at a switchback curve, looking back, Mount Vesuvius, Naples



Hiking Mount Vesuvius: What to Expect on the Hike


You do not need to be in peak physical condition to hike to the crater of Mount Vesuvius. Hikers ranged in age from toddlers to seniors, each walking at their own pace. The key is to take your time and bring with you the tools you need. Some hikers used walking sticks, some had ski poles, some carried umbrellas to block the sun.


The hiking path to the crater of Mount Vesuvius is quite wide and relatively flat, but there is no easy area to stop if you need a rest on the incline. The hiking path stretched across a steady incline, but leveled off at each switchback. Most hikers were able to continuously hike each stretch and rest only when it leveled off, but for some the heat and the incline was too much and they stopped to rest mid climb.


Along the path, wooden posts with connecting ropes serve as a barrier to the cliffs edge. Some hikers (including myself) used the posts to lean on when they needed a rest, or to help propel themselves forward. There is no shade along the hiking path, regardless of the time of day, hikers are always in direct sun.




Reinforced unstable section of Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy
On the Hike: Reinforced unstable section of Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy


Along the way, like many others, we took the rest stops and switchbacks as opportunities to take photos of the path and scenery. We snapped photos of the path ahead, the path behind, the panoramic landscape and the view beyond the cliffs edge. The view is breathtaking, but it was also fascinating (and a little frightening) to capture areas of the hike where the Vesuvius National Park has added reinforcements.


We are both in average physical shape and taking our time and taking rest breaks for a few moments at each switchback, it took us about forty-five minutes to reach the top level. At the top of the last challenging hill was perched a little shop, where hikers can purchase snacks, souvenirs and drinks (including alcohol).


The shop provides breathtaking views from the top and much needed shade from the hot sun. There are also local "guides" offering an informative walk to hikers who were so interested (at a cost). When we completed this part of the hike, the guides were resting in the shade and enjoying a cigarette, none were actively looking for tourists to guide along the craters edge of Vesuvius.



A couple enjoys a drink at the top of Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy
A couple enjoys a drink at the top of Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy


We took the opportunity to purchase two bottles of cold water and enjoyed the cool shade for a few minutes before continuing past the little shop and along the hiking path at the cliffs edge.





From the shop, the hiking path continues along the cliffs edge and to the mouth of the crater. On this path, there is much less of an incline but the terrain continues to be just as rocky as the hike up to the top. The view from every angle is simply indescribable.


Just a few steps from the shop, hikers find themselves on a narrow path at the edge of the crater of Mount Vesuvius. To the right, a breathtaking view of the city below, from an astonishing 4,000 feet above. To the left the mouth of one of the most famous volcanoes in the world.


Most hikers appeared to lean on the wooden barrier, peer inside the crater, take a photo (or a selfie), then continue along the walking path.





We stood there for what seemed to be hours, examining the different layers visible within the crater of Mount Vesuvius and discussing how small the crater seemed compared to how large it was in reality. Take your time and enjoy the view for as long as you can.


 

Note: We only link to products and services that we have either used or would use, all opinions expressed are our own. Some may be affiliate links, with which we may receive a small commission for purchases made.

 


Peering into the crater of Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy
Peering into the crater of Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy


Pulling ourselves away from the mesmerizing view of the crater of Mount Vesuvius, we continued along the hiking path around cliffs edge. The walking path narrows, at some points rising into an incline and then descending. At points there are small steps. It is a much easier walk than the climb to the top, but be careful and watch your step.


Further along the walking path, there is an opportunity to climb up to a higher level, with the help of some seemingly unstable stairs. Be sure to stop at every new viewpoint and enjoy a different perspective. We walked along the cliffs edge, as far around as we were allowed, stopping at the final lookout. At that point, though there is a path beyond, a small hut stands with a sign warning hikers not to travel beyond.


From that point, hikers must turn around and retrace their steps along the edge of the crater, passed the shop and back down the inclined hiking paths and switchbacks.



Walking around the crater, up and over the rocky terrain
Walking around the crater, up and over the rocky terrain


The hike down the inclined path was admittingly much easier, but not much faster. albeit much easier on the muscles and joints, the hiking path is at an incline and the rocky terrain can be very slippery due to the loose material. We highly recommend hikers descend slowly and watch where they are stepping.


Some hikers attempted to walk quickly (or run) down the hiking path, and we witnessed many losing their balance, slipping and/or falling. We were in a hurry to get back to the main entrance of the Vesuvius National Park, where our driver Ciro was waiting for us, but in no hurry to injure ourselves.



LUXURY TRAVEL TIP: If you want to experience la dolce vita, take your time and book a two-day luxurious tour that will include visits to the Amalfi coast, Positano and Ravello on day one, and Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius and a Vesuvius winery on day two.


After we left Vesuvius National Park, Ciro suggested we visit a nearby winery for a delicious lunch and wine tasting. To read more about that experience, read: Wine Tasting at Cantina del Vesuvio Winery in Naples, Italy: An Honest Review.




Hiking Mount Vesuvius: What NOT to do on the Hike


Along the hiking path up to the crater of Mount Vesuvius, and especially along the cliffs edge walking path, there are signs advising hikers not to climb or pass beyond specific points.



Do Not Pass Sign, Mount Vesuvius
Do Not Pass Sign, Mount Vesuvius

A few days prior to our visit to the Vesuvius National Park, an American tourist and his family did not purchase tickets prior to their visit and found themselves disappointed at the entrance to the hike up to the crater of Mount Vesuvius.


Instead of leaving, they chose to bypass the signs and climbed a restricted area. eventually finding themselves standing at the edge of the mouth of the crater.


Attempting to take a selfie from the edge of the crater of Mount Vesuvius, the young American dropped his phone and watched it slide into the gaping hole before him.




Not wanting to leave his precious cell phone behind, he then (you guessed it) bent forward and reached into the crater of Mount Vesuvius, attempting to retrieve it. He then (of course) slipped into the crater himself and slid down deeper and deeper.





Tour guides and hikers along the hiking path witnessed the ordeal and ran to his aide, rescuing the American tourist before he fell even deeper. He was taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital for medical attention, escaping with only scrapes and bruises, and was later charged. You can read the full story here.




The breathtaking view from the top, Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy
The breathtaking view from the top, Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy


Is the Hiking to the Crater of Mount Vesuvius worth it?


In a word, yes! Hiking to the crater of Mount Vesuvius is worth any pain or exhaustion you may feel (during) and afterwards. Be sure to wear proper footwear, light clothing and a hat, so you are protected from the elements. Most importantly, be sure to take your time, bring plenty of water (or money to buy bottles from the shop) and your camera to capture the phenomenal views.


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