Mount Vesuvius is famous as the volcano that erupted in Roman times (AD 79) and buried Pompeii.
Mount Vesuvius is one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes. The volcano has an eruption cycle of about 20 years, but the last eruption was in 1944.
It not at all unsafe to visit Mount Vesuvius but before you go you should be prepared. This is not Disneyland, vehicles do not go to the top but will drop you off at an altitude of around 1000m.
The trail to the top climbs just under another 200m. For most people in reasonable condition its no problem but if you are not 100% fit or have a medical problem you may want to take advice.
The most common mistake by tourists is simply not to come prepared. Many turn up in t-shirts not realising it is a lot colder at this altitude than on the coast. You may need rain gear, you may need a hat, sun screen and lots of water – just be prepared.
Mount Vesuvius National Park
Since 1995 the volcano has been a National Park.
Gone is the funicular railway and commercial exploitation, in its place nature trails, preservation of fauna and local culture is the focus. Of the nine trails, trail number 5 is the one most tourists take from the car park (for which there is a fee) to the cone of the crater.
The road ends about 250m in height from the edge of the cater, but only tour coaches and public buses are allowed to the roads end. If you arrive by car, the main car park is about another 100m further down, so extra climbing is required up to the entrance.
At roads end there is an official ticket desk/building and a shanty town of bars, restaurants and tourist tat before you get to the entrance to the track up to the crater. Note, best assume there will be no toilets available during your entire visit!
After paying for your ticket, and going through the ticket barrier it is a 15-20 minute grind up a wide gravel path. The path is not steep, steep, but it’s relentless and you’ll need a test or three along the way, only if you are totally out of shape will it be an issue. There are a procession of people of all ages and sizes. Fit seniors skip up the hill leaving out of shape teenagers in their wake and small children seem to have little problem.
Once you’ve got the worst of the climb behind you and almost at the crater edge there is a hut, where if you want, you can wait for a scheduled tour by a volcanology guide, this free and is part of the admission ticket. It’s only a short tour of 10 minutes or so but gives a good overview of what you are seeing. The tour is available in several languages including English.
Unless the volcano is shrouded in cloud do expect great views however far you venture up. The views across the Bay of Naples are great, until Sorrento, Capri, Ischia, Procida, Naples and Salerno. Don’t expect bubbling lava lakes or anything like that, it’s a moon like landscape and sulphur gases are about as much as you should expect with regards action.
Once the guide has left you, the path continues and circles at the edge of the crater to the other side. The path gradually narrows and there are a few staircases to negotiate before you come to the end.
Getting to Mount Vesuvius by public transport
A lot of visitors visit to Mount Vesuvius is by tour buses that go direct to the car park at 1,000m. For independent minded travellers the trip is going to be two stage. First a trip on Circumvesuviana train from Naples or Sorrento to either Ercolano Scavi or Pompeii train station then a bus of one sort or another.
In Naples the Circumvesuviana trains run from two stations including the main Central (Garibaldi) Station.
From Naples journey times is about 20 minutes to Ercolano Scavi and 40 minutes to Pompeii.
From Sorrento journey times is about 50 minutes to Ercolano Scavi and 30 minutes to Pompeii.
Trains are cheap and crowded, the ticket offices do not take credit cards, cash only.
Ercolano Scavi to Mount Vesuvius
Ercolano Scavi is the closest station to Mount Vesuvius access. When you spill out of the train station there is normally a collection of taxi’s and mini-buses that will take you to Mount Vesuvius.
Reviews on things like TripAdvisor have been very mixed, the main problem being around the logistics of the return leg.
Vesuvio Express Ercolano
There is a more formal shuttle bus service called Vesuvio Express that advertises on its web site that it runs every 40 minutes from Ercolano Station.
Pompeii to Mount Vesuvius
Although Pompeii is further from Mount Vesuvius the the bus options up to Mount Vesuvius are more mainstream tourist with firm timetables, established tour companies and advance purchase ticketing.
The main tour company from Pompeii, you will find both as you exit Pompeii Circumvesuviana Station.
Busvia del Vesuvio
The purpose designed vehicles of Busvia del Vesuvio, are certainly the most professional and the proposition being offered is also the best described in advance.
Departures run hourly from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in 23 seat, air-conditioned vehicles.
The trip length is 2.5 hours and you can make reservations in advance on their web site.
EavBus/ Sita Public Bus
The local bus company, EavBus and Sita operate a timetabled bus service between Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. The same buses are used on this route as any other public bus service in and around Pompeii.
The bus service runs crudely every 50 minutes through the day.
The bus stop is on the Piazza Anfiteatro, immediately outside the main entrance to Pompeii ruins. Note, this is not the entrance by the Pompeii Circumvesuviana Station but is within the town centre of Pompeii, a good 15 minute walk from Pompeii Circumvesuviana Station.
The touts that roam the streets pushing tours to Mount Vesuvius may tell you the public bus only runs at the height of the summer season very infrequently – don’t believe them.
You pay the driver as you board just like any public bus service and you buy Mount Vesuvius tickets when you arrive.
The buses might not be in pristine condition and the driver provides no commentary but this option is certainly the cheapest and gives you full flexibility on how much time you spend on Mount Vesuvius.