Nyiragongo Volcano Trek: The Most Dangerous Hike in the World

The Nyiragongo Volcano in Virunga National Park looms large over the city of Goma in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It is often called the world’s most dangerous volcano, and the smoke that billows out its top is a constant reminder of the world’s largest lava lake that rests on its crater floor.

*This post may contain affiliate links, as a result, we may receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) on any bookings/purchases you make through the links in this post. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Read our full disclosure

We couldn’t miss an opportunity to hike to the Nyiragongo Volcano during our visit to the DRC in 2017. Our experience in Central Africa ended up being as exhilarating and unique as you can imagine.

Sleeping beside an active volcano is definitely an activity that makes you appreciate the power of nature more than anything!

Watching the Nyiragongo Volcanos
Watching the Nyiragongo Volcanos
Traveling Soon? Here is a list of our favourite travel providers and accessories to help get you ready for your upcoming trip!
  • Book Your Accommodation HERE
  • Search for Great Tours HERE
  • Get a Car Rental HERE
  • Buy Travel Insurance HERE
  • See our Favourite Camera Bag HERE
  • Grab a Reusable Water Bottle HERE or a Filtration Straw HERE
  • Order an eSim HERE

Nyiragongo Volcano Facts

The volcanic activity in Mount Nyiragongo has been known to be erratic and has caused some devastating damage to the densely populated areas around the volcano over the years.

Since 1882, there have been upwards of 34 eruptions. During some of those instances, some of the activity continued for well over a year. 

The major eruption of 2002 was a wake-up call to the people of Goma. The fast-moving lava flows claimed the lives of over a hundred people, and the volcanic eruption resulted in the destruction of countless homes when fissures opened up on the side of the volcano. Through these fissures, the active lava lake drained in less than an hour, and Goma was inundated. 

Hiking along the Nyiragongo Volcanos
Hiking along the Nyiragongo Volcano

Fun Fact: In 1977 The Walls Around The Lava Lake Cracked And Lava sCame Pouring Down

The Volcano’s Slopes At 97 km (60 miles) An Hour.

Nyiragongo Volcano is considered to be one of the most active volcanoes, erupting on an average of every 30 years. When there isn’t an impending eruption, adventurous hikers can climb 3.5km (2 miles) to get a look at the lava lake at the summit crater.

Near the volcano, gas can seep from the ground, causing carbon dioxide toxicity in people, especially with a lack of airflow in some areas. This can be very deadly to those around the gas seeps, and unfortunately, there has been an increasing amount of victims in recent years.

Hiking along the Nyiragongo Volcanos
Nyiragongo Volcano lava

Did You Know That The World Has Only 4 Permanent Lava Lakes And Nyiragongo Volcano Is The Most Active And Largest Out Of All Of Them

Since then, the town has been educated on the deadly effects of the volcano, and a team of scientists at the Goma Volcano Observatory monitor the volcano for seismic activity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At the time of the eruption, many people did not understand the way lava could slice through the countryside, and many even ran towards it out of curiosity.

Despite all this, in recent years, Nyiragongo Volcano has become a top attraction for visitors to the troubled nation. Overnight hiking safaris take visitors to peek into Nyjiaragongo’s impressive crater lake, where you can see the lava bubbling.

Nyiragongo Volcano Trek

Nyiragongo Volcano Trek is a 2-day hike that takes place inside the Virunga National ParkAfrica’s first national park and home to 7,900 square km of vast biodiversity

We certainly wouldn’t call Nyiragongo Volcano Trek a walk in the park. The trek is 8 km, with some 1000m in elevation change and climbing Mount Nyiragongo takes around 5-6 hours to complete, with 4 breaks to catch your breath and refuel along the way. 

The path winds through beautiful green rainforests at the base of the volcano, then past blackened trees and other landscapes formed by lava flow. Much of the path is made up of lava rubble left over from past eruptions, and the final half-hour is a scramble to the top.

The views at the top are spectacular, but the volcano’s most impressive sighting happens right around sunset when hot lava gurgling at the bottom of the caldera becomes that much more visible. 

Since the Nyiragongo Volcano Trek usually does not include a meal package, most hikers bring their own supplies for meals along the way. We opted to hire a local cook to carry and prepare our food for us. It was a great way to offer additional income to a local and allowed us to focus on the hike and the views themselves.

There is a communal tin cabin for cooking where we enjoyed our simple but filling meal around a campfire to warm up since the temperatures at the summit of the volcano were much lower than its base.

After dinner, we spent some time enjoying the views of the glowing red Nyiragongo lava lake and hit the sack exhausted after a long day of hiking. The following morning, we had a 3-hour descent along the same route that took us back down to the volcano’s base. As far as safety goes, walking down was much easier than climbing Nyiragongo.

Hiking along the Nyiragongo Volcanos
Our group hiking up to the volcano
Nyiragongo Volcano Crater
Nyiragongo Volcano Crater
Nyiragongo Volcano
Nyiragongo Volcano

Accommodation & Facilities At Nyiragongo Volcano

Accommodation for the night was incredibly simple. A tin hut with a mattress on the floor was the only thing on offer. A good sleeping bag and some warm clothes were essential for staying warm overnight.

Bathroom facilities were limited to “the bush,” along with a small wooden stall on the edge of the cliff.

Simple accommodation on the Nyiragongo Volcano Trek
Simple accommodation on the Nyiragongo Volcano Trek

How To Book The Nyiragongo Volcano Trek

Permits must be purchased for $300 USD from a tour operator or from Virunga National Park before going. The cost of the permit does not include camping gear, food, or any other supplies.

Africa DRC Nyiragongo Volcano 6114

Is Nyiragongo Volcano Trek Safe?

The fact is, you are hiking along an active volcano, so there is a danger factor there. The volcano is, of course, monitored daily, and if there is any sign of eruption or danger, all treks are stopped. However, with it being mother nature, sometimes it is hard to predict.

Even though a lot of research has been done on the activity of volcanoes, there is still much to learn. Even though it is unlikely, there is a slight chance that an eruption can happen that was not predicted by scientists.

Travel to the Congo has always been flagged as a high-risk country due to its political unrest being a danger to tourists. In May of 2018, the political unrest moved into the Virunga National Park, where 2 British tourists who were set to do the Nyiragongo Volcano Trek were abducted by local militia.

Due To This Incident, Virunga National Park Has Been Closed Until Further Notice In 2019. 

During the park’s tourism closer, they are taking the matter very seriously. Outside special intelligence forces have been brought in to audit the park situation and to assess what course of action should be taken to increase the security for tourists. Making sure the park is safe for visitors and rangers is the number one priority.

Safety has been restored, and Virunga National Park reopened for visitors to experience its beauty.

Simple accommodation huts along the Nyiragongo Voclano Trek
Simple accommodation huts along the Nyiragongo Volcano Trek

Africa Congo DRC Virunga Nyiragongo Volcano 0021

Our Safety On Nyiragongo Volcano Trek

Even though we were walking alongside a volcano and staring at a huge lake of boiling hot lava in a country with some crazy political unrest, WE FELT 100% SAFE. Throughout our visit never did we feel we were in danger or that any conflict was going to ensue around us.

A large part of us feeling safe can be attributed to our guide and rangers. They put our security as a top priority and with their wealth of knowledge on the park and about the activity of Nyiragongo Volcano, we knew we were in good hands.

Seeing Nyiragongo Volcano up close was definitely a big check off our bucket list and something we will never forget. It is sad to see the park close. However, it must be done in order to access the security situation of the park. We are so happy that security has been restored and the park reopened for others to experience.

If you are the adventurous type and can’t wait to do the Nyiragongo Volcano Trek, why not try a mountain gorilla trek while you are in Congo. It is well worth it!

Hiking along the Nyiragongo Voclano Trek
Made it to the top
Hiking along the Nyiragongo Voclano Trek
Hiking along the Nyiragongo Volcano Trek

More Amazing Things To See In Virunga National Park

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to various landscapes, climates, and habitats. Covering an area of 790,000 hectares, the park encompasses mountains, savannas, lava plains, and tropical rainforests. Virunga is the natural habitat of more animal species than any other protected area in the world!

Mountain Gorilla Trek

The park’s forests are home to about one-third of the world’s mountain gorillas, and Virunga offers visitors an opportunity to see these amazing creatures on a Mountain Gorilla Trek. These excursions are guided by Virunga Rangers and local pisteurs who monitor the park’s gorillas, with safeguards in place to protect the gorillas and visitors. 

This trek can easily be completed in a day, and the hiking takes between one to two hours each way, depending on the location of the gorillas and the difficulty of the terrain. From a safe distance, you’ll be able to quietly observe gorilla families in their beautiful habitat.

As mountain gorillas are susceptible to human illnesses, visitors are required to take special precautions during the trek. Current protocol requires that visitors wear masks when in the presence of the gorillas, and to avoid the trek entirely if they are feeling ill. Expect to take a rapid COVID test before entering the park.

Permits are required for the Mountain Gorilla Trek, and cost around $400 USD. If you’re considering adding this excursion to your itinerary, consider going with a package that offers accommodation, the mountain gorilla trek, the volcano trek, and one night on Mount Nyiragongo.

Bwindi National Park mountain trekking
Bwindi National Park mountain trekking in Virunga

Visit Lake Kivu

Part of Virunga National Park, Lake Kivu lies on the border between the DRC and Rwanda. This beautiful lake is nestled in the Great Rift Valley and covers an area of 2,700 square km. The lake is surrounded by charming fishing villages, and there are plenty of opportunities for water activities, cultural experiences, or just relaxing at the water’s edge.

As Lake Kivu is located in an active tectonic zone, there is a combination of geologic processes that make the lake potentially dangerous. Tectonic movement beneath the lake creates hot springs that feed hot water, carbon dioxide, and methane into the lake’s bottom layers. Lake Kivu is monitored regularly for levels of gas concentration, and measures are being taken to release harmful gases from the water.

There are no crocodiles or hippopotami that live in the lake, making water activities safer for visitors. Plenty of operators in the area offer fishing tours, and you can arrange a full-day trip that combines a boat tour with island hopping and a visit to a nearby coffee farm.

Lake Kivu, view from a hotel in Giseniy
Lake Kivu, view from a hotel in Giseniy

Do You Think You Would Be Up For The Challenge Of The Nyiragongo Volcano Trek?

READ NEXT: How to Plan a Responsible Safari in the Serengeti

3 thoughts on “Nyiragongo Volcano Trek: The Most Dangerous Hike in the World”

  1. Oksana and Max ST John,

    Despite being one of the dangerous volcanoes, you made a wonderful trek to Nyiragongo in DRC. Away from the security concerns, the trek is worth all the risks. Such a nice place in Africa.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Tanzania Trip Details

Enter your name and email to get our Tanzania Safari Trip brochure with more details about this trip in your inbox.

Join our 2025 Group Trips Pre-sale List

Be the first to know about NEW Trips
and SPECIAL Offers!

Have 5 minutes to share more info?
Fill out the Pre-Sale trip survey HERE

Reignite the Feminine Retreat

Love the idea of a women-only retreat in September 2024?

Help me decide where we should go! 

Our women-only gatherings will be limited to 8-10 people, so leave your details below to add yourself to the waitlist.

We'll email you first to share all the details of the trip.