Hike-in Required
No
Open Year-round
Yes
ADA accessible
Yes
Guided tours
Yes
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One of the most infamous volcanic eruptions in recorded history was the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis, and Stabiae were all destroyed and buried by the eruption. Today, Pompeii is one of the most visited archeological sites in the world, gaining its title as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. When visiting Pompeii, you can spend several hours or several days exploring the 170-acre ancient city, about 35 acres of which are open to the public.

Pompeii was a wealthy resort and port town on the Italian peninsula near the Gulf of Naples. Its first stable settlements date back to the eighth century B.C. The town flourished due to its high agricultural quality and the production and trade of wine and oils. Studies suggest that in ancient times, Pompeii was surrounded by fir tree forests, orchards, and cultivated fields. Today the city ruins lie more than a mile inland, but in ancient times the city overlooked the coast and had its own port. In the early third century B.C., the city walls were reinforced with Sarno stone encircling the city, becoming the basis of the walls we see today. The outer walls of Pompeii stretch for nearly 2 miles and have seven gates of entry. After the outbreak of the Second Punic War (B.C. 218 to 201), a second internal retaining wall was built. The agger and outer facade were raised, resulting in a double parapet with a wider wall-walk.

In the second century B.C., Pompeii aided Rome in its conquests to the east, and as gratitude for their efforts the city was generously rewarded. These riches enabled Pompeii to expand to its limits, including many public and private buildings of architectural quality. In B.C. 90 to 89, Pompeii and the surrounding cities rebelled against Rome and were eventually besieged and conquered by Roman troops. Many of the Samnite families left Pompeii, and their houses were taken over by Roman veterans and refurbished with second-style frescos. Pompeii's public life changed. The amphitheater, covered theater, and new bathhouses were built, ancient sanctuaries and monuments were resurrected, and the forum was embellished with new monumental buildings, especially under the rule of Augustus and Tiberius. Based on household counts, around 20,000 people called Pompeii home at the time of the eruption.

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. was catastrophic. On the afternoon of August 24, the volcano suddenly spewed toxic gas, ash, and molten rock high into the sky, obscuring the sun for three days. The energy from the eruption is estimated to have been 100,000 times stronger than the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed by a series of pyroclastic flows with temperatures as high as 400 degrees Centigrade, wiping out every trace of life. Ash and pumice rained down on Pompeii, completely burying the city.

There were a few early attempts shortly after the eruption to recover some items of value from the site, but the vast majority of the city was untouched until 1748 when the King of Naples initiated exploration. In 1863, the superintendent of the site came up with the strategy of making casts of the victims by pouring plaster into the crevices of ash left when the bodies crystallized after death. These are the famous casts that can still be seen today.

To visit Pompeii, you can either arrive by car or train to the Pompeii Sacavia train station. The Circumvesuviana Train runs from Naples to Sorento and has a stop near the entrance of Pompeii. While riding the train, be very aware of pickpockets, as they tend to frequent this train and prey on tourists. Just be vigilant and aware of your surroundings, and you will be fine. As soon as you leave the train station, there are locals outside a small shop trying to sell you entrance tickets to Pompeii. This is not the official ticket office, and prices are inflated.

When buying tickets from the official box office, be sure to pick up a map of the site as well as the free guidebook, A Guide to the Pompeii Excavations. This guide book has about 150 pages of details from many of the sites within Pompeii; this is very helpful, especially when exploring on your own. The site is very large and can easily take an entire day to see. There are also options to rent audio guides or tour guides for an additional cost. The site opens at 9:00 a.m. year round and closes at 5:30 p.m. from November 1 to March 31 and 7:30 p.m. April 1 to October 31. The site can get very busy during peak tourist season, so it is best to visit mid-week or during the offseason to avoid the crowds.    

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

Park entrance fee

Pros

Large archaeological site with many ruins.

Cons

Can be busy during peak tourist season.

Pets allowed

Not Allowed

Features

ADA accessible
Vault toilet
Historically significant
Family friendly
Flushing toilets
Geologically significant
Guided tours
Potable water
Amphitheater

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

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