Cycling on an Active Volcano – Mountain Bike Guide to Mount Etna

It does not happen every day to go mountain biking on an active volcano, well in the island of Sicily, in Italy there is one of the most active volcanoes of the world, the beautiful Mout Etna. This mighty giant rises from the Mediterranean sea’s depth and his peak reach an altitude of 3340 meters. On the last ten years has become one of the most exciting places in Europe to enjoy MTB tours. Nowadays the Mountain bike world cup every year stops on the flanks of Mount Etna to host one of the stages. If you like mountain biking keep on reading, we will show you the top 5 MTB trails on Mount Etna.

While in Sicily, we relied on Sicily Active a local tour operator specializing in outdoor adventures with muscular and electric MTB. We stayed in Taormina, the ideal town to enjoy the east coast of Sicily and a Motta Camastra a tiny Village in the beautiful Alcantara valley.


1. At the feet of the Southeast Crater

Starting from an altitude of 1800 meters on the south side of Mount Etna from “Rifugio Sapienza” from the Funivia dell’Etna (Etna cableway), we find a terrific trail. This twelve kilometres long black sand large winding road goes to an altitude of 3000 thousand meters, with a total positive gain of 1200 mt.  The crossing of the lava desert with a view on the Mediterranean sea is phenomenal, and once at the feet of one of the four active craters, the view is of rare and wild beauty. The climb is tough but an electric MTB can make life easier.

2. Altomontana Trail

This 42 kilometres trail with a 900 metres positive gain goes from the south side Rifugio Sapienza to the north side on the mountain Chalet “Clan Dei Ragazzi, and it stretches to an average altitude of 1700mt. Cycling along this trail will show many different volcano landscapes, and you’ll get to visit the west slopes hardly visited by tourists. Do not underestimate the volcanic nature of the ground; some stretches are quite technical and require some Mountain biking experience. An electric MTb will make your life easier.

3. From Etna to the Sea

This excursion is a new entry on the mountain bike tours available on Mount Etna. The guys at Sicily Active come up with this original idea to follow the Downhill the beautiful road on the north side of Mount Etna that goes from 1500 metres to the sandy beach of Giardini Naxos. The total length of this trail is 50 km. and there is no much uphill. This tour is accessible to everybody with a medium level of fitness, and winds through Castiglione di Sicilia a beautiful mountain village before stopping  at the Alcantara Gorge, a canyon of undisputed charm. With this mountain bike excursion, you get to see, Mount Etna, the Alcantara Gorge and the sandy beach of Giardini Naxos.

4. The Lava Desert and the birch forest

When we first heard about a mountain bike tour in Sicily winding through a birch forest, we were quite puzzled, since birches are a typical botanic species of northern latitudes. This 25 km. long mountain bike tour with a positive gain of just 400 meters wind through one of the less expected landscapes of Mount Etna’s north side, the enchanting birch forest. This tour starts at piano Provenzana not far from the north-east crater, and winds through a pine/birch forest and a lava desert. The itinerary includes a stop to visit a lava cave. The stretch of this MTB tour that goes through the lava desert is quite technical, but the bicycles can be pushed rather than ridden.. The tour finish at the mountain refugee of “Clan dei Ragazzi.”

5. The Stump jump and the Downhill

Mount Etna offers two adrenaline downhill single trails on the northside, that wind through the pine forest and old lava flow. We have to strongly advise that even though you ride full suspension MTB and wear all the proper protective gear, this single trail can be dangerous unless the speed is reduced. When we experienced this crazy Downhill, a local guy broke the frame of his Mountain bike; luckily, it did not report any serious injury. One of the trails starts at the beginning of the hiking trail 701 for “Serracozzo” not far from “Rifugio Citelli” while the stump jump’s single trail starts from Piano Provenzano the ski-lift station on the north side of Mount Etna.

Where we stayed

The area around Mount Etna has many towns and villages that offer a large range of accommodations. During our ten-day on the est coast of Sicily, we slept in two towns close to Mount Etna that offered some other things to do after our mountain bike Tours. For the first five days, we stayed in the enchanting town of Taormina, while the second part of our journey we went to a very small village in the Alcantara Valley; Motta Camastra.

The trendy Taormina

Taormina is a truly beautiful town perched on a rocky hill, overlooking the stunning Marine park of Isola Bella, and the turquoise waters of the “Blue Cave”. From the main square of Taormina, the view on Mount Etna and Giardini Naxos’s bay is one of the most beautiful we saw during our vacation. The main road of Taormina “Corso Umberto” is lively and it has a typical Mediterranean atmosphere. The choice for restaurants and wine bars is unlimited, a single room in one of the many B&B can be found from $ 60 per night.

Motta Camastra and The Alcantara Valley

The second part of our ten-day cycling holiday in Sicily, we decided to choose a small mountain village in the beautiful Alcantara valley. After five days in the trendy and lively Taormina, we wanted to experience the Sicilian’s rural lifestyle. We moved to Motta Camastra a tiny village counting just nine hundred dwellers. Motta Camastra does not have a supermarket, but just a small corner shop, no hotels and kids at school from the age of six to ten share the same classroom. The bucolic atmosphere of Motta Camastra and the breathtaking view on the green Alcantara Valley bewitched us from the first moment we set foot in this lovely mountain village. Saying that the choice for restaurants is limited in Motta Camastra is a Euphemism.

There is just one “restaurant” run by Francesca and Carmelo, a lovely and welcoming couple that made us taste some delicious traditional food. We will never forget Francesca’s maccheroni, this is a typical homemade pasta served with a tomato sauce and sausage.