12 Hot New Volcano Vacations

There's something inherently fascinating about volcanoes. At times, these vents in the earth's crust spew molten rock, ash and hot gases thousands of feet in the air in one of Mother Nature's most incredible displays of power. [slideshow:761]

While these natural features can destroy surrounding cities in one terrifying eruption, they can just as easily boost an area's economy through the growing field of volcano tourism. After all, when volcanoes are less active or dormant, they still have a serious draw (just look at Iceland!).

Click here to see some of the coolest volcano vacations around the world.

Tourists can see huge clouds of steam form as rivers of lava flow into the cool Pacific Ocean; soak in healing springs whose waters were heated in the bowels of a volcano; explore underground lava tubes; or hike to the top of the caldera for the best view of the surrounding landscape.

And while volcanoes have claimed thousands of lives in the past, thanks to technology designed to predict volcanic activity and increased attention to planning in case of an eruption, visiting these natural features is now safer than ever.

Click here to see where you can get up close and personal with volcanoes.

Still, make sure to follow your tour guide's precautions on the trip and to be aware of local safety guidelines. When rules seem lax (hello—roasting marshmallows over an open lava bed?), use your best judgment. This way, you can make the most of your volcano vacation.