Highlights and Main Attractions of Mount Nyiragongo

Undoubtedly one of the main attractions in Virunga National Park is the ominous figure of Mount Nyiragongo. The sloping sides of this active stratovolcano allow hikers to reach its peak in under a day, offering spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and forests. After a climb of almost 5,000 ft, you’ll be glad to see the summit shelters perched along the crater rim, not least because temperatures up here can drop below 0°C during the rainy season. Make sure not to sleep through the whole night though, as Nyiragongo’s bubbling lava lake – thought to be the world’s largest – turns the volcano’s interior into a seething cauldron of fire and smoke as the day’s light fades. 

Viewed from the top, this natural light show makes for an awe-inspiring sight. 

Raincoats and cold-weather gear are essential for those planning on making the trek, and the change in altitude means visitors prone to Acute Mountain Sickness should consult their doctor before planning a trip.

Where is Mount Nyiragongo?

A Deadly Neighbour

On your trek to the top of Nyiragongo, you may come across a yawning fissure cut into the side of the volcano, as if a team of passing prospectors had raised their picks and cut into the rock in search of fortune. But these scars aren’t evidence of human exploitation; they’re the remains of Nyiragongo’s most recent act of destruction that it rained down upon the people who live in its shadow. 15 years ago, a stream of fast-moving lava burst forth not from the top of the volcano, but from its side, eventually reaching the nearby city of Goma – population 1 million – and forcing hundreds of thousands of residents to evacuate.

To walk the slopes of Nyiragongo is to indulge in both natural wonder and morbid curiosity. Beneath your feet rests an untold amount of liquid hot magma, bubbling up from the earth’s core to one day erupt into the open air. But most of the time this peak sits still, plumes drifting from its top, ambiguous smoke signals that both warn the wary adventurer and call to the intrepid. To stand upon its rim and look first into the earth’s boiling furnace, then across the swathes of green that make up Virunga National Park, is undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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