Top 6 Most Volcanic Countries

8 January 2018

With the ongoing volcanic eruption of Mount Agung in Bali causing panic and sporadic travel difficulties across the region, volcanoes are back on the world's radar. With increasing amounts of technology dedicated to monitoring volcanoes early warnings of activity can be given, but unfortunately, eruptions are ultimately unpredictable, and deaths are not uncommon. This week ExpatFinder takes a look at the six most volcanic countries in the world, and where to avoid if you don’t want to run the risk being involved in your own real-life disaster movie.



1 – United States (173)

Although the United States (US) might not be the first country in the world you think of when it comes to volcanoes, it has the most. Of their 173 geologically active volcanoes, 54 have been found to have a threat level of ‘high’ or worse. Mount St. Helens in Washington is probably the most well-known volcano in the US after its cataclysmic eruption in 1980 when 57 people died, and 520 million tons of volcanic material was ejected. Those wanting to avoid any potential volcanic threat should steer clear of the west coast, and particularly Hawaii, which is known for its stunning volcanic landscapes and constant eruptions.


2 – Russia (166)

Russia has plenty of active volcanoes, but the majority found in the far eastern region where the population is relatively small when compared to the European side of the country. The east of Russia is where the Eurasian, North American, and Pacific tectonic plates meet, forming part of the famous ring of fire, which contains 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes. Although many of these peaks have a history of deadly eruptions, they are also used for good, with geothermal power plants being built to harness the explosive energy stored underground.


3 – Indonesia (139)

With the Indonesian islands sharing a total of 139 active volcanoes, Mount Agung is only one small part of the problem this nation faces when it comes to natural disasters. With such a significant number of potential issues spread throughout the archipelago, the nation’s Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Centre are stretched thin and only able to do so much monitoring of each peak. In fact, Indonesia holds the records for both the biggest and second biggest eruptions in modern times, those of Tambora (1815) and Krakatoa (1883). Mount Agung’s eruption in 1963 killed more than 1,000 people, and its previous explosions were also thought to be incredibly destructive, which is why there is so much attention at the moment.


4 – Japan (112)

With volcanic peaks spread all over the country, Japan accounts for around 10% of active volcanoes in the world. It is also home to one of the most famous and photographed volcanoes in the world, Mount Fuji, which is around 100 kilometres southwest of Tokyo. The masses of lava on Japan’s tallest peak naturally filter the snow and rain which land on the mountain, producing Fuji mineral water. Unfortunately for Japan, it sits on a four-way join of the Eurasian, North America, Filipino, and Pacific tectonic plates, on the westernmost point of the ring of fire. As the Pacific plate pushes under the North American plate, and Filipino plate, which then, in turn, drive under the Eurasian plate, Japan is also significantly affected by large and often devastating earthquakes and tsunamis.


5 – Chile (104)

Chile has the second largest chain of volcanoes in the world after Indonesia, with around 2,000 in total stretched along the Andes mountain range in the eastern reaches of the ring of fire. Thankfully the vast majority of these are either long dormant or extinct, with only 104 currently thought to be active. However, the Chaiten volcano in the south of Chile is the perfect example of how unpredictable these fiery mountains can be, when it erupted in 2009, after lying dormant for more 9,000 years. 


6 – Ethiopia (57)

Ethiopia is by no means famous for its volcanic activity but is host to Erta Ale (also known as the Gateway to Hell), one of the only volcanoes in the world which has a continually boiling lake of lava. The north east of the country is lined with volcanoes, as the Arabian and African tectonic plates pull apart, creating a string of volcanoes and depressions with natural hot spring and vividly coloured landscapes. Fearful expats shouldn’t cross Ethiopia off of their list of potential destinations though, as the fiery mountains are far away from the major cities.