Image by Tom Pfeiffer / VolcanoDiscovery Getty Images
Peering down into the rumbling, exploding lava storm of Mt Yasur is a sight you won't soon forget. The active volcano is so accessible that 4WD vehicles can get to within 150m of the crater rim. There are many tours up to see the old man, and although you can walk up without a guide (around 45 minutes from the entrance), or join a vehicle going up, it's still best to go with a guide.
Be sure to heed local warnings and take care around the crater rim – there are no safety rails or barriers. At the time of research a new visitor centre was under construction at the entrance to the volcano road.
Although the ash plain to the west is desolate, the trip up to the crater from the entry gate on the southern slopes is through lush tree ferns and jungle. Along the path to the crater rim, there are whiffs of sulphur and whooshing, roaring sounds. Ahead is the silhouette of people on the rim, bright orange fireworks periodically exploding behind them. Walk around to the west side of the central crater (furthest from the car park), which offers the best view into three smaller vents that take turns to spit rockets of red-molten rock and smoke. All is relatively calm until the ground trembles and the inevitable fountain of fiery magma shoots up with a deafening roar and spreads against the sky, sending huge boulders somersaulting back down into the broiling hole in the earth. Wait five minutes and it all happens again.
Some visitors find Yasur terrifying; others captivating. Photographers are beside themselves at the opportunity to capture nature at its most furious from such a vantage point. A sturdy tripod is essential for the best shots. The best times to visit Yasur are just before sunrise and for an hour or two after sunset. Absolute darkness is the ultimate thrill.
The level of activity within Yasur fluctuates between dangerous and relatively calm, but when it’s hot, it’s hot. It’s often more active after the wet season; check www.geohazards.gov.vu and locals for the latest alert level. If the volcano is reaching activity levels three and four, entry to it won't be permitted. Take good walking shoes and a torch (flashlight), and bring a postcard to post at Volcano Post (www.vanuatupost.vu), the world’s only postbox on top of a volcano. Vanuatu Post sells special 'singed' postcards for 200VT.