What Happens When You Camp On The Rim Of The World's Largest Lava Lake

Tripoto

Mount Nyiragongo

View from a rest stop during the trek to the mountain's summit

Photo of Mount Nyiragongo, North-Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo by Caitlin Graaf

Small, basic summit huts are situated directly next to the rim of the volcano

Photo of Mount Nyiragongo, North-Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo by Caitlin Graaf

A Congolese porter carries a gear pack during the summit trek

Photo of Mount Nyiragongo, North-Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo by Caitlin Graaf

This precariously placed loo-with-a-view is a short "abseil" down from the summit huts

Photo of Mount Nyiragongo, North-Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo by Caitlin Graaf

Lava bubbling and boiling in the Nyiragongo lava lake, visible from the summit

Photo of Mount Nyiragongo, North-Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo by Caitlin Graaf

Summit huts on the edge of the steep final climb to the volcano rim

Photo of Mount Nyiragongo, North-Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo by Caitlin Graaf

A view of informal settlements and Virunga National Park from Mount Nyiragongo

Photo of Mount Nyiragongo, North-Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo by Caitlin Graaf

The lava is constantly churning, making strange patterns as it moves

Photo of Mount Nyiragongo, North-Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo by Caitlin Graaf

The lava lake at Mount Nyiragongo

Photo of Mount Nyiragongo, North-Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo by Caitlin Graaf

Camping on the rim of a volcano, gazing down over the world’s largest lava lake is bucket list worthy for even the most intrepid travelers.

Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is an active stratovolcano in the Virunga Mountain range.

The volcano's elevation is 11,385 ft and most recent eruption was in early 2016. However, the last serious eruption occurred in 2002 causing extensive damage to the nearby city of Goma and forcing 400,000 people to be evacuated into Rwanda.

View from a rest stop during the trek to the mountain's summit

Photo of What Happens When You Camp On The Rim Of The World's Largest Lava Lake by Caitlin Graaf

How to Book

You can book a (relatively) safe guided hiking and camping excursion to the summit Mount Nyiragongo through Virunga National Park.

The park authority will allow you to purchase your permit, as well as accommodation in the summit huts for the evening.

Small, basic summit huts are situated directly next to the rim of the volcano

Photo of What Happens When You Camp On The Rim Of The World's Largest Lava Lake by Caitlin Graaf

The cost is $300 per international adult.

Travelers can also choose to add a packed meal plan (for $75) as well as appropriately sized gear (for another $25 on top of the meal plan). Both of these options come highly recommended!

A Congolese porter carries a gear pack during the summit trek

Photo of What Happens When You Camp On The Rim Of The World's Largest Lava Lake by Caitlin Graaf

By adding the meal plan and gear, a Congolese cook will join you on the hike with a pack including water, snacks (a good idea!), dinner and breakfast, tea and coffee for the summit, as well as gear - which includes a sleeping bag and blanket and waterproof and fleece layers. This frees you up to carry a small pack for your camera and essentials or nothing at all.

Check here to book the Nyiragongo Volcano trek!

Climbing the Volcano

Lava bubbling and boiling in the Nyiragongo lava lake, visible from the summit

Photo of What Happens When You Camp On The Rim Of The World's Largest Lava Lake by Caitlin Graaf

The Nyiragongo lava lake is an undeniable bucket list item - but the trek is spectacular from beginning to end.

At the base of the volcano, you walk through vegetation and forest pathways. Soon, however you reach clearly defined, hardened lava flows, which make the trails for the majority of your climb.

Over the 3-5 hour hike, you rest at a handful of formal stop sites. The views from these sites are phenomenal, providing a birds eye view of rural farm land to the west and Goma city and Lake Kivu to the east.

A view of informal settlements and Virunga National Park from Mount Nyiragongo

Photo of What Happens When You Camp On The Rim Of The World's Largest Lava Lake by Caitlin Graaf

Once you reach the final leg, the hike gets difficult. The terrain becomes very steep and difficult to navigate. But, the red glow from the lava below is good incentive to forge ahead!

Reaching the summit will be one of the most magical travel experiences of your life!

Generally, the hike reaches the top just before sunset. This will give you a chance to get settled in your hut and add some layers before the sun goes down and the mesmerizing, churning lava lights up.

The lava is constantly churning, making strange patterns as it moves

Photo of What Happens When You Camp On The Rim Of The World's Largest Lava Lake by Caitlin Graaf

At night, you'll go to sleep to the sound of churning lava. Early in the morning you'll wake up to have breakfast, pack, and begin your descent (eat a good breakfast! The way down is NOT easy).

Travel Tips

Here are some good-to-know tips for the hike:

1) Brings lots of water! People often go through 5-8 bottles

2) Temperatures at the summit can reach freezing (0 degrees Celsius), and rain can be common. Pack layers so that you stay comfortable and dry as you reach the top of the mountain.

3) The facilities are basic.

This precariously placed loo-with-a-view is a short "abseil" down from the summit huts

Photo of What Happens When You Camp On The Rim Of The World's Largest Lava Lake by Caitlin Graaf

4) If you don't hire the packed meal and gear there is no bedding or cooking equipment in the summit huts - you will have to bring your own.

5) Dusting up on your French will serve you well as many of the rangers and guides speak limited English.

6) Weather at the summit changes quickly! If cloud cover obscures your view of the lake, hold tight. Wind will most likely blow over soon.

7) Altitude does effect some climbers. Be aware and take as many breaks as you need!

Summit huts on the edge of the steep final climb to the volcano rim

Photo of What Happens When You Camp On The Rim Of The World's Largest Lava Lake by Caitlin Graaf

The summit trek is no easy hike, but it is certainly worth it! Find more information on how to visit Mount Nyiragongo and Virunga National Park by visiting the park's website.

Keen to read up on expert travel content from destination experts around the world? Check out more at Stamp Travel.

1 Comment(s)
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I did this hike in september 2015 and it was truely amazing! Thanks for making me relive it!
Sun 07 23 17, 22:16 · Reply · Report