Before we talk about traveling to or near the “Ring of Fire,” we need to understand what the ring of fire is. National Geographic says “the ring of fire is home to 75% of the world’s active volcanoes and 90% of its earthquakes.”
The ring of fire also known as the “Circum – Pacific Belt” is comprised of over 25,000 miles (~40,000 km) of volcanoes and seismically active areas that outline the Pacific Ocean. The Ring of Fire is home to the world’s deepest trench, the Marina Trench located east of Guam and approximately 7 miles deep, created when one tectonic plate was pushed underneath another. The abundance of volcanoes and earthquakes around the ring of fire is due to the movement of tectonic plates in the area. Around much of the Ring of Fire, tectonic plates overlap at convergent (coming closer together) boundaries called “subduction zones.” This means when two plates meet, the plate that is underneath is pushed down, or subducted, by the plate above. When a rock is subducted, it melts and becomes magma (hot fluid or semifluid material below or within the earth’s crust from which lava and other igneous rock are formed once cooled). A large amount of magma close to Earth’s surface creates the perfect conditions for volcanic activity.
The ring of fire stretches from New Zealand northward along the coast of eastern Asia to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. From there, it heads south along the western coast of North and South America. Countries at greatest risk of Ring of Fire related earthquakes are the US Pacific coast, Chile, Japan, and the Pacific Islands. Other countries along Ring of Fire fault lines are Mexico, Antarctica, Russia, Canada, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Guatemala, Peru, Taiwan, and the Philippines.
IMG: Mayon Volcano, Albay, Luzon, Philippines. Ray in Manila. Flickr. Creative Commons.
For the thrill seekers out there, who like to live life on the edge or who are volcano enthusiasts, Ring of Fire travel is just what you need. There is something about volcanoes that brings out the childlike wonder and excitement of even the most seasoned travelers. It is nearly impossible not to be excited when you see the fiery red magma pouring out of the cone especially at night when the colors are more vivid.
You can safely visit many volcanoes as a day trip option in the Caribbean and Hawaii as a trek or as a helicopter ride. The Philippines has 37 volcanoes, 18 of them active. Mount Mayon in Legaspi, South Luzon, is one of the more famous ones, along with Mount Pinatubo in central Luzon. Japan has many volcanoes, which equates to a major eruption approximately every 20 years or so. Mount Fuji is an obvious and busy destination, but a hike through the Kirishima National Park allows you to stroll through 15km of lunar landscape, volcanic lakes, hot springs, and waterfalls. In Indonesia, the mountains’ eruptions traditionally were perceived as a sign of anger from the gods. Gunung Bromo, on Java, has an annual festival when offerings are thrown into the crater to pacify the gods.
IMG: Mount Bromo. Víctor Iniesta. Flickr. Creative Commons.
Mount Etna, in Italy, is Europe’s largest active volcano. Tourist visits to the crater are considered a “must do” when visiting Sicily. Mt. Vesuvius, the only active volcano in mainland Europe is potentially the most dangerous, as the surrounding area is densely populated. Iceland sits on top of the mid-Atlantic rift, and 11% of the country is made up of lava fields. Active volcanoes include Eldfell on the Isle of Heimaey, Surtsey, Grimsvötn, and Krafla.
IMG: Eldfell. Peter Daniel. Flickr. Creative Commons.
As you can see, there is no shortage of opportunities for adventure travelers looking to visit volcanoes and other tourist destinations along the ring of fire. From Asia to Europe, to the Americas the Ring of Fire touches nearly every part of the world and is linked to many top tourist destinations. The thing to know before you go is what to do if there is a volcanic eruption or an earthquake. Familiarize yourself in advance of travel about safety procedures and emergency services in the country (countries) you intend to visit. Share your travel itinerary and tour company contact information with loved ones back home so you and they can be in touch. The most important thing is to travel with a reputable and experienced tour company, so you leave nothing to chance. Do you research in advance so you can make the most of your incredible journey and you can create amazing memories that will last a lifetime.