Vanuatu Volcano, Mt. Yasur
Mount Yasur on Tanna Island in East Tanna is Tanna island’s biggest attraction, and one of Vanuatu’s must-do’s.
It is an active volcano rated at Level 2 “Major Unrest”.
(See below for full scale).
It is said that it is the closest you can get to an active volcano.
Mount Yasur lies at 361 m (1,184ft) above sea-level and has a nearly circular dome summit of 400m in diameter.
It has been erupting for several hundred years continuously, but most of the time a tour to the summit of the volcano is deemed as safe. It erupts several times in one hour.
At only 100,000 years old, it is deemed to be a fairly young volcano.
Despite its high activity, it’s relatively accessible. However, you do have to go on a guided tour.
There are also other activities available at Mount Yasur including camping at the base of the volcano on the lava plain.
(See below for more activities)
There are daily flights to and from Port Villa/Tanna island. The flight takes approximately 45 minutes.
The domestic terminal at Port Villa in Vanuatu is basic, but once you arrive in Tanna island there is a new level of basic.
There is no security or arrivals gate, and the luggage collection area is simply a window through which a man delivers your luggage fresh off the plane.
From the airport direct to the airport is about 1 - 1.5hrs. It is recommended to stay in Tanna for anything between 2-5 days. A solid 4 nights will give you enough time to enjoy the slow island life and beautiful sights, but if you’re short on time 2 nights would suffice.
What is it like to visit an active volcano?
There’s no real way to describe visiting the volcano itself. You simply have to go and experience it.
However, I will talk you through how the process works to going from firm ground to being at the summit of an active volcano with a classification of “Major Unrest”.
First, you should hire a vehicle to take you to the entrance point to the Mount Yasur volcano area.
This is a large, modern building with good facilities. Every driver will know where it is and how to get there, although it might be expensive to get here depending on where you are staying due to high petrol costs.
The driver will wait for you at the entrance to the main volcano area until you are finished with your visit.
Once you arrive at the Mount Yasur volcano entrance, you will pay the entrance fee, get your ticket, and sign a disclaimer. You will then wait around in the waiting area complete with bar, toilets, and Mount Yasur museum.
Here, you can also decide on doing different activities which also include mountain biking, ash boarding, and camping at the base of Mount Yasur.
You will be placed into a group of various other foreigners.
On your walk up to the reception area, there is a path lined in plaques showing different country names. Grab a plaque that represents your country (I chose ‘Europe’ instead of ‘England’) and carry this up with you. This will be used later to let your volcano guides know where you are from, but will not be taken to the top of the volcano.
Once you are all here, the safety briefing then begins in the Mount Yasur reception grounds. This safety briefing is in both French and English and takes around 10 minutes. Then there is a special welcome from the village with traditional dances, which you can join in on.
There will also be an entry acceptance ceremony. The head of the village must grant permission for you to visit Mount Yasur.
This will be conducted by one of the group members. You will go and present him with a horn and ask permission. Permission is requested in both English and the local dialect (one of the volcano guides will translate for you). Once permission is granted, the head of the village should bless your group and visit to the volcano.
He does this by going to prepare some Kava (traditional non-alcoholic drink in many pacific islands including Vanuatu) and drinking it. He does this in private to show respect, but once it has been done he will shout and from then on you know that your visit has been accepted and blessed, and you may proceed.
On your ticket, you will have been given a vehicle number. Board the vehicle (there will be any amount from 1-5) and start the ascent to the top of the volcano with your fellow travellers. This takes around 10/15 minutes.
When you get off, it is another 10-minute steep climb up some stairs to the summit of Mount Yasur.
You will stop here for a picture opportunity, and the volcano guides will gather to decide which point of the volcano to visit. This is largely based on where is the safest point. There are points 6-9.
Once the volcano guides have decided which point to visit, you will begin to make your way there as a group. From this point, you will remain for around 1-2 hours.
On the sunset tour, you watch the sunset from this point, then stay another 20 minutes after it gets pitch-black to get those killer lava shots.
After the visit is over, you will begin the descent down the steps, back to your vehicle, and back to the reception area.
At the reception area they will have some snacks and plates of fruit. You can also purchase soft drinks and locally brewed beer here.
You should then make your way back to your original vehicle so they can transport you back to your accommodation.
Mount Yasur tours are available three times throughout the day;
Day Tour: 9:00am - 1:00pm (Min 4 participants)
Sunset Tour: 16:30pm - 19:00pm
Sunrise Tour: 3:30am - 6:00am
Note: as of 25th February 2020 the sunrise tours have been temporarily postponed due to high activity from the Mount Yasur volcano.
The volcano is currently rated Level 2 and safe to visit (read more on safety below), but due to increased activity during the morning hours tours are currently not running for sunset Mount Yasur visits.
The Sunset tour is the most popular tour, and recommended for the best view of the volcano. You will be able to see the volcano in both daylight and in darkness. The sight of the sun setting behind the volcano is truly beautiful, and after the sun sets you will be able to see the lava exploding from the volcano in complete darkness.
The guides with you will have torches to guide you back.
The day time tour may have less participants, but it is hot during the day and the sun can be strong.
You should prepare good shoes for a visit to Mount Yasur. Flip-flops are not appropriate, but rather training shoes or hiking boots.
Depending on the time of day you go, it can get cold at the top of the volcano (!) as the sun goes down. You may want to bring a jacket with you.
Masks and goggles may be provided, but it is best to bring your own. Masks and goggles are not required as part of the visit to Mount Yasur, but highly recommended.
If you have no goggles, you can bring sunglasses to block out at least some of the volcanic dust. If you want to get close to the volcano and stand at the edge undisturbed, you should definitely wear a mask for safety reasons.
If you have no mask, then you will find yourself having to turn away a lot of times or stand further away which will affect the experience you have.
You can also prepare some suncream and insect repellent for the time you spend at the bottom of the volcano.
You be provided with a bottle of water, but it is also best to bring your own.
Remember to bring cash. Mount Yasur isn’t cheap (see below) and you will have to pay on the spot.
You get a safety briefing as part of the guided tour package to visit Mount Yasur. You will have a group of guides with you the whole time.
Some find the visit to Mount Yasur scary, some find Mount Yasur captivating.
Either way, you can rest assured you will be in safe hands during your visit to the volcano.
Mount Yasur is constantly monitored for unusual activity, and any tours deemed unsafe will be cancelled.
The volcano is currently categorised as a Level 2 volcano, out of a scale of 6. (As of March 2020).
This is deemed to be safe to visit. It is closely monitored by the Vanuatu Geo-Hazards Observatory.
You will be provided with safety helmets and safety clothing for your visit to Mount Yasur.
Visiting Mount Yasur also requires a bit of common sense. There are no railings in most of the areas at Mount Yasur so you have to use your own brain not to go too near to the crater. There are lots of rocks around and it can be slippy.
Really, it’s a big drop from which you will probably not be returning.
Don’t get too close.
Visiting Mount Yasur may not be the cheapest thing you do.
But it’s going to be worth it.
Before your Vanuatu trip, make sure to budget for a trip to Mount Yasur. You’ll want to go and not waste the opportunity.
Mount Yasur Costs:
1st Visit - 9750 VUV (approx. 80 USD)
2nd Visit - 6500 VUV
3rd Visit - FREE
Note: These visits should be taken on the same “trip” technically. So you can’t come back in a few years and say you’ve already been once. Although you could try to talk to the friendly staff to try to work something out!
If you are still wondering whether a visit to Mount Yasur is worth it or not, maybe you haven’t read this post properly.
True, visiting an active volcano may not be for everybody. Many find the experience terrifying and prefer to spend the time enjoying the snorkelling and diving spots of Tanna island, or view the volcano from the magical hot springs located at the foot of the volcano.
But if you like adventure, have a passion for travel, and love witnessing the power of mother nature - visiting Mount Yasur is something you absolutely cannot miss out on.
There are two main popular areas to stay on Tanna Island.
One area is situated near to the airport and the beach. This is ideal for those who love snorkelling, diving, and white sands.
The second area is over an hour from the airport on the other side of the island - and the other side of the volcano.
It takes about 2 hours to travel between these two areas.
If you have time, I would recommend staying a couple of nights in both of these areas. If you can only afford 2 nights on Tanna - stay on the other side near the volcano.
White beaches and coral reefs can be found all over the world.
But where else can you stay 30 minutes away from an active volcano, with views (and sounds!) of it spurting out lava every 10 minutes?
The drive to this side of the island is reason enough to stay there.
(I do have more reasons, though.)
The drive takes you firstly through the small city centre on unexpectedly well-paved roads and paths, then quickly through the wild rainforest and roads lined with palm trees and other overgrown jungle plants.
It’s a bumpy drive, but sitting on the back of a truck provides the best experiences. (Whilst exercising caution!)
It won’t take long before you start climbing the hills of the rugged island. You will reach a peak where you can look down on the volcano you’re about to drive to about 30 minutes into the drive. You’re pretty high at this point. If you’re unlucky, you’ll drive into the clouds and won’t be able to see anything. If you’re lucky, you’ll have an astonishingly clear view right into the volcano.
If you can’t see the volcano - no worries.
You’re about to drive back down and right up to the volcano.
The only way to get around the volcano to the other side of the island is by driving RIGHT up to the volcano. And I mean right up to it.
After the nice tarmac roads leading into more rugged gravel “roads”, you will suddenly appear out of the lush green foliage to… no road.
You’re at the volcano.
And this is where the road leads to get to the other side.
Only, there is no road.
It’s just the base of the volcano, paved only with black volcanic ash.
A vast terrain of black dust surrounded on one side by luscious green hills, and the other by a massive volcano spurting out black dust.
Put on a good song and enjoy this view. Try to put your phone away (don’t worry, you’ll be driving across this at least one more time for your pictures). If you’re on the back of the truck, remember to put your sunglasses on and close your mouth.
Otherwise, you will have a mouthful of volcano.
Once you have crossed this bizarre “road”, you will continue further into what can only be described as a mud kind of make-shift path.
You’re in a real rural area now. And about to head upwards.
(Hang on tight if you’re at the back)
The path then leads through very tough roads and takes another 15-30 minutes to get to where you’re staying, depending on where you decide to stay.
Some accommodation is located at the foot of the volcano, and some are more remote.
If you decide to stay in the volcano area, staying at Volcano Island Paradise is definitely recommended.
Volcano Island Paradise is located just a 20-minute drive from the volcano, but you will be situated in a remote village accessible only through one very bumpy road.
It’s an uphill drive from the volcano on a road of rocks and mud, so be prepared for a bumpy ride and hold on tight.
Once you arrive, however, you will be rewarded with stunning views of the volcano right in front of you.
The accommodation is situated to the side of a village with what appears to have more chickens than inhabitants and is surrounded in luscious green foliage. There are various styles of accommodation but it is all very basic in small huts.
You will have a private bathroom and shower built from bamboo and will be staying in the same area as the family that lives there and runs the place. They have 6 lovely children, and the wife cooks great food!
Breakfast is provided, but lunch and dinner are at an extra cost. You can let the owner know you wish to have meals at the accommodation and he will make sure to pick up meat and veg for you when he picks you up from the airport. Alternatively, you can bring your own food. Meals are basic but tasty!
There is not much to do in the surrounding area other than go for a walk around the local village or simply hang out in the social dining area. Alternatively, you can organise a tour to the local hot springs (recommended!) and of course, organise a tour to the volcano.
All of these are at an extra cost, and you should prepare enough money to cover your entire time here since there are no ATMs around - and you’ll want to do some activities!
The electricity is limited and powered by solar panels.
There is no WiFi, but you will receive a signal if you have bought a SIM card.
It’s not for the faint-hearted, but very rewarding!
Going to sleep with the view of the volcano lit up red at the top, and waking up to the sounds of Mount Yasur erupting every 10 minutes are sights and sounds you will never forget.
If you are lucky, your accommodation will look straight out at the volcano.
Volcano Island Paradise is approx. 1.5 hrs from the airport. They provide an airport pick-up service for 5000 VUV (approx. 42 USD).
You can book through booking.com, or can contact the owner directly:
EMAIL - email@example.com/ +6787717460
If you do decide to stay in the beach area, there are plenty of hotels and hostels that will organise a volcano trip no problem.