Have you ever wanted to climb the volcano, peak into its crater, listen to the rambling Earth and see the flowing lava? As dangerous as it might sound, it can be done safely – you just need to choose the right volcano. Below, you can find the list of the unique volcano hikes around the world created for you by myself and other travel bloggers. Now, just go ahead and organize the exciting trip to see some of the world’s interesting volcanoes.
The list of volcano hikes below covers places in different parts of the planet. Some of them are more known and accessible, some are located more off the beaten path. All offer unforgettable experiences to get close to the center of the Earth.
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Table of content:
- Ijen volcano and Bromo volcano hikes, Java, Indonesia
- Mount Sabyinyo, Uganda
- Mount Nyiragongo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Mount Vesuvius, Italy
- Acatenango, Guatemala
- Tongariro Northern Circuit, New Zealand
- Mt. Fuji, Japan
- Villarrica volcano, Chile
- Mount Yasur, Vanuatu
- Kilauea Iki hike, Big Island Hawaii, USA
- Pacaya Volcano hike, Guatemala
- Sierra Negra and Volcan Chico, Galapagos
- La Soufrière, Guadeloupe
Volcano hikes around the world
IJEN VOLCANO AND BROMO VOLCANO, INDONESIA
Two of the most famous volcano hikes on East Java in Indonesia are Kawah Ijen volcano and Bromo volcano. Easily accessible from the nearby Bali island, they offer a different type of adventure to the typical Bali volcano hikes. You can easily add them to your Indonesia itinerary.
Ijen volcano hike
The Ijen volcano is famous from the Blue Flames sparkling up the darkness at the bottom of the crater. That effect is created by the burning of sulfur gases. It really looks magical. In order to witness that spectacle, you need to start your hike at night, usually, around 2 am or 3 am. The hike up the volcano and then down the crater happens in the darkness.
After admiring the Blue Flames, you can wait for the sunrise inside the crater or climb back up to see it from the top. We decided to stay longer inside the crater and watch the sky turn pink with the yellow sulfur clouds swinging from one side to another. At the bottom of the volcanic crater, there is a turquoise lake. Don’t be fooled by its inviting colour – it’s not possible to swim in it or even touch it. It’s highly acidic. A crater is also a place where you can meet the local miners. Those are the people with one of the hardest jobs in the world – mining sulfur and carrying it on their backs all the way to town.
Bromo volcano hike
Mount Bromo most famous activity is watching the sunrise over the volcanoes in the plateau. The view is truly spectacular, but you shouldn’t limit yourself only to that. I would highly recommend hiking up to the crater of Bromo to hear the rambling of the Earth inside this active volcano. Bromo is one of the easiest active volcanoes to climb and the hike up there involves crossing the Sea of Sand, climbing a set of steps and you are there! In my post about Mount Bromo hike without crowds, you can read about the best way of climbing the volcano yourself to avoid other people.
MT. SABYINYO, UGANDA
Mount Sabyinyo is an extinct volcano located in Uganda, East Africa. The volcano is a part of Virunga Mountains in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park – famous from the rare mountain gorillas. Last year, we visited East Africa, including Masai Mara safari and a charity village in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. During our trip to Uganda, we were planning to go gorilla trekking to see those wonderful mammals. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen circumstances, we couldn’t. Instead, we opted for the Mt. Sabyinyo volcano hike in the same area.
The hike to the top of the volcano is quite a strenuous one. It takes around 7-10 hours for the return trip, that’s why it’s important to leave early. Mt. Sabyinyo has two peaks, the summit is at 3,669 meters and marks the border between Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thanks to that, during one hike you can see all of the three countries. The hike is truly spectacular with the wonderful views onto the surrounding mountains and volcanoes, together with unusual plants and animals that you can encounter on your way.
Another interesting part of the Mount Sabyinyo hike are the wooden ladders set up on the path in order to help with the climb. The hike is steep and the ladders are supposed to make those places easier. However, their stability and sturdiness are questionable and walking on is an adventure in itself. The feel of accomplishment and the breathtaking views from the top mitigate any troubles.
MOUNT NYIRAGONGO, THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Climbing Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was easily the best experience of my life.
The D.R.C is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, but Virunga National Park, in the east of the country, is one of the safest areas to visit. That’s fortunate because, within the park, you’ll find Mount Nyiragongo — a volcano that’s 11,350 feet high and home to the world’s largest lava lake. It’s incredible.
Organizing a trip to Nyiragongo involves booking transportation, accommodation, porters, and security guards through the national park, and at $500 for that plus a permit, the experience is far from inexpensive. The armed staff at Virunga will pick you up at the border with Rwanda and drive you to the base of the volcano, where you’ll be greeted with a sign that’s covered in bullet holes. You’ll meet your porters, chef, and armed guards, then be accompanied by them on your climb to the top — and yes, it is fairly daunting to be surrounded by AK-47s at all times. That’s what it takes to keep tourists safe in such an unstable region.
If that wasn’t daunting enough, the hike is challenging. There are no switchbacks to ease the climb, and for much of the trek, you’ll be stumbling over loose lava rocks. When you throw in the altitude and the ever-present risk of rebel groups hunting you down, you have a recipe for a fairly tough hike.
And yet, it was 100% worth it
When I staggered up to the summit five hours after beginning my five-mile climb, I was faced with one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the world. Lava bubbled and splashed below me, the heat from the magma warmed my now-frozen fingers, and around me, every person in our hiking group was in silent awe.
And the best part of this hike? Getting to camp at the top of the volcano. After our chef whipped up a surprisingly delicious dinner, given our surroundings, I snuggled up around the summit in a blanket and watched the lava lake for hours. I could have sat there all night if I didn’t have the descent to contend with the following morning.
There are a dozen small, bare cabins beside the crater’s edge that you sleep in, and an open-air toilet with possibly the best view in the world. It was hard to sleep when you knew the beauty of what was outside your wall, and everyone in my hiking group confessed to feeling exhausted the following morning.
As always, the descent was tougher than the ascent and my porter somehow managed to transport both my backpack and me safely down the volcano. I hugged him goodbye and tipped him heavily, then jumped back into a Virunga truck with two armed guards, exhilarated by the entire experience.
And — I have to be honest — glad to be safe.
MOUNT VESUVIUS HIKE, ITALY
The legendary volcano Vesuvius, in the south of Naples, is still active and is the only volcano in mainland Europe to have erupted in the last 100 years – which gives a hike up its slopes an extra sense of danger. Vesuvius’s most famous eruption – the one which buried the Roman city of Pompeii in ash and rocks – occurred in AD79, but there have been no fewer than 32 eruptions since, many of them severe. The most recent eruption was in 1944.
Vesuvius and much of the area surrounding it is now a national park. Depending on how far you want to hike, there are numerous trails starting from near the bottom of the volcano. Most visitors wanting to walk up to the summit either drive to one of the car parks on the way up the mountain and begin the climb from there or take a shuttle bus from Ercolano to the start of the final ascent.
Lower down, the slopes of Vesuvius are heavily wooded, before giving way to scrub, lava fields and finally the dusty, pebbly summit. There are a number of interesting hikes at the lower levels, including one which takes walkers along the course of a funicular railway which was destroyed in the 1944 eruption, and another which has been designed for people with limited mobility.
The Vesuvius hike
The hike to Vesuvius’s crater is reasonably easy for most people of average or above fitness, but good shoes and a walking pole are a definite help. The path is wide and very clearly marked, but it’s on dusty, fine gravel all the way to the top so you can end up losing your footing. At the top, you can walk almost all the way around the enormous crater. It’s still visibly smoking in places, and incredibly impressive; Vesuvius used to be much higher than it is now; each eruption has changed the volcano’s shape significantly.
Hiking Vesuvius is best combined with a visit to Pompeii – looking down into the crater really helps you imagine the volume of rock that rained down on those people back in AD79.
ACATENANGO VOLCANO, GUATEMALA
Watching an active volcano was quite high on our bucket list. That’s why we visited Guatemala.
Acatenango is about 40 minutes drive from Antigua. You can camp there and watch Fuego – one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
There are two ways to do it. You can book a tour (as we did) or just do it on your own. We weren’t prepared for the low temperatures (it was -4 C during the night!). We had to rent clothes, sleeping bags, and a tent. It was actually cheaper to book a tour than to hire everything separately and to try to make it on our own.
At the entrance to the Acatenango Volcano Park, we realized it wasn’t going to be an easy hike. The path is full of dust, stones, pebbles, and sand. You can’t walk easily there. Everything slides under your shoes and it’s very steep. We climbed through the uneven surface for 5 hours. You can’t imagine how many times we wanted to quit.
The final view
Almost at the end of our trek, we’ve heard the roar. It was like a thunderstorm or a jet engine. We could actually feel it under our feet. That’s when our guide said: „Fuego welcomes you”.We couldn’t see it yet, but we knew already that the trekking was worth the effort.
Next what I know is that we were sitting next to the fire, drinking hot chocolate, late at night and couldn’t stop watching. Fuego erupted every 10 minutes, half of the time with the lava. It was mesmerizing! Sunrise was to die for as well. Lava is not visible during the day, but you can still see the fumes.
Acatenango was the first volcano that we hiked and we fell in love straight away.
TONGARIRO NORTHERN CIRCUIT, NEW ZEALAND
The 45 km Tongariro Northern circuit is one of the ‘Great Walks of New Zealand’ and easily one of the most magical hikes we’ve walked anywhere in the world. This incredible walk takes you round three volcanoes – one of which was Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Mount Ngauruhoe).
It is an incredibly diverse hike as you’ll walk through lush green forest, open heathland and through sections that look like the surface of the moon. The volcanoes will be a constant companion, moving in and out of the cloud at the whim of the alpine weather.
The Tongariro Northern Circuit is also home to one of the greatest places we’ve ever stayed. Oturere hut may be basic, but the sunrise view over Mount Ngauruhoe is out of this world!
The other star of the walk is undoubtedly the electric blue and emerald volcanic lakes that shimmer in between the steaming sulfur vents. You can take in the whole scene from the top of Red Crater after scrambling up the most challenging section of track which is made of loose scree.
Hike the circuit
The circuit is generally walked in three days but can be done in as little as two or as many as four. You’ll get the chance to experience the best of the Tongariro National Park taking in the most famous day walk in New Zealand, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, as well as other much quieter areas of the park.
Taking on the Tongariro Northern Circuit is one of the greatest adventures that New Zealand has to offer. The track is most safely walked during the ‘Great Walks’ season which runs between 19th October and 30th April.
MT. FUJI, JAPAN
If you’re heading to Japan, don’t miss the opportunity to hike Mt. Fuji.
Known as Fujisan (富士山) in Japanese, this active volcano is Japan’s most famous peak. At 3776 meters, Mt. Fuji is Japan’s tallest mountain and attracts hundreds of thousands of locals and tourists during the hiking season. Mt. Fuji is one of Japan’s three holy mountains and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mt. Fuji has four major hiking routes: Yoshida, Subashiri, Gotemba, and Fujinomiya. These routes start midway up the mountain at the fifth station. You can also climb from the foot of the mountain using one of four additional routes.
Mt. Fuji stands about 100 kilometers west of Tokyo in Yamanashi Prefecture. From the city, you can access the mountain by bus. As of March 2019, you can get there by the new JR Fuji Excursion train line. Hiking season is from the end of June to the beginning of September. Go on a weekday to avoid crowds. Living and working in Tokyo, we went on a weekend and we had to wait in line at the top to finish the ascent.
Off-season hiking is possible, but should only be attempted by advanced climbers as winter conditions are vicious. The best time to reach the peak is in the early hours of the morning to see the sunrise.
You can accomplish this by one of two ways. You can start hiking the night before and climb your way through the night, or you can go up the day before and rest at one of the station huts. Keep in mind that you will need reservations to stay at the huts.
Preparation for the hike
While hiking Mt. Fuji won’t take you days, you should be well-prepared. On this hike, you’ll see fast elevation gain, unpredictable weather, and steep inclines. Bring warm winter layers, food, and drinks. Take breaks to acclimate. When we went, I had trouble adjusting to the elevation and was so cold at the top my husband offered me his winter coat.
If you visit during the off-season, you can still enjoy the volcano’s iconic views. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Fuji from the center of Tokyo. Alternatively, you can take a day trip to Kawaguchiko to see it up close, or visit Hakone to enjoy the view from your private onsen.
VILLARRICA VOLCANO, CHILE
On my solo travel trip through South America, I befriended many solo travelers from around the world who also volunteered with the English Open Doors program in Chile, like me, and taught English. Alison, a chirpy Canadian girl, was one of those traveler friends with whom I end up exploring Pucón, a city full of adventure in Chile. While we were gallivanting in the city backdropped by the imposing volcano Villarrica, she decided that we were going to hike up to the top of the 3000-meter high active volcano that had erupted less than a year ago.
That was an overambitious trek for someone like me who loves strolling around the city and its markets and talk to locals to understand the culture, but I didn’t want to be a spoilsport, so I said yes. I hike and walk around a lot, but at my own pace. So when we had to wake up at 3 am to get ready for the hike, I questioned myself that why had I signed up for the day-long trek up the beast.
When the guides came to the hostel and explained about the heavy trekking shoes, the backpack that we had to carry and whose weight could only be justified if it was filled with stones and gave detailed instructions about how we had to use the gears inside the bag, I pinched myself to make sure that I was part of that plan. And then ten of us were driven from the hostel to the volcano.
An hour later when we reached the base of the Volcano Villarica, I looked up. The sight was surreal indeed. The sky had just started waking up from her slumber, moon and stars still shined like diamonds in the blue morning sky, and the icy mountain stood in front of us broad-breasted. I could not comprehend whether it was calling us or mocking us as I was, along with the others, soon trudging up in my heavy shoes.
The way to the top
The next few hours were filled with wonder and extreme strain as we walked up the treacherous rocky terrain which had lava deposited all over it. Then, at some point, the rocks gave way to ice on which we walked diagonally to make sure we didn’t slip, for the wind was strong.
A few short breaks, a couple of falls, a few instances of giving up, a lot of mumbling, and five hours later, we were at the top. The view was gorgeous from the summit. While Alison and I were admiring the world under our feet, our guides told us that we had to trek down as the active volcano Villarrica fumes sulfur into the air constantly, and even though you wear masks, you cannot stay for too long.
Someone shouted that he saw a bit of lava spluttering from the mouth of the crater, but I was too busy celebrating my journey to the top of a volcano which is one of the toughest to climb.
If you are visiting Pucon, hike this beauty. Volcano Villarrica will look intimidating at the beginning of the trek, or maybe throughout, but when you are at the top and can’t feel your legs, you will believe that you can do anything.
How is that for a day?
MOUNT YASUR, VANUATU
Mount Yasur, an active volcano on Tanna Island in Vanuatu, is known to be the world’s most accessible volcano. A 4WD ride takes visitors near the summit, and it’s only a ten-minute walk to stand next to the impressive crater.
The lava and the explosions are just a few meters away, and projectiles fly over watchers’ head. With no fence and no protection, it’s as close as you can safely be from the center of the Earth. Although everybody agrees it’s fascinating, many visitors complain their guide rushed them and adventurers wished they could experience the place differently.
At only 361 meters above sea level, Mount Yasur has a gentle slope that looks fun to tackle. No sign indicates it’s forbidden to hike up. Online research even pulls out a jungle trail, but it’s not for tourists. Lands always belong to somebody in Vanuatu and permission to enter is needed. A couple reported hiking one side of the volcano and getting caught by guards at the top, who treated them like brigands and requested a fine in addition to the tour fees. So it does seem that the access to the summit is limited to those joining the tour.
The best way to explore
Hence, the best way to experience Tanna Volcano for longer and more intimately is to walk around the desolated ash plain at the base. It is undoubtedly not as impressive as the top of the craters, but you will still feel small and vulnerable in front of the power of Nature.
Now and then, Mount Yasur would make the ground, and your entire body vibrates with its loud roar. The stones projected by the eruptions and now sprinkled everywhere on the ground remind you that you are next to a mighty mountain. The dark smoke going up from the volcano, the black soil made from the ashes and the small canyon created by the river are incredibly photogenic. You’ll have all the time you want to stop, feel the volcano and take the perfect shot. Altogether, the landscape looks unreal.
By Eloise from My Favourite Escapes
Follow her on Facebook.
KILAUEA IKI HIKE, BIG ISLAND HAWAII, USA
On a family trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, we visited Volcanoes National Park, home to the infamous Kilauea volcano. We were actually there just a few weeks before the 2018 eruption when there was no sign of increased activity yet.
There are several volcano hikes in Hawaii to choose from, depending on the visited island. Some of the most popular ones include Maui volcano hike, Oahu volcano hike, and Kilauea Iki.
With no hiking experience but a fresh sense of adventure, evoked by the Big Island’s wild soul, we opted for a rather challenging hike: The Kilauea Iki trail.
The Hawaiian word iki means small and the Kilauea Iki is actually the main volcano’s side crater. The trail, which is 4 miles long, first takes you through the lush rainforest along the crater rim. The path starts out easy as you make your way through the lush rainforest all along the crater rim, which is dotted with spectacular viewpoints. But as the trail starts to wind down towards the crater and the even path changes into slippery and rocky steps, the hike gets challenging.
The changing landscape
It’s amazing how much the landscape changes at this point. Standing at the edge of the crater floor, amidst the sharp lava rocks in red and purple, you see nothing but an endless black solidified lava lake ahead. It’s a surreal landscape… and it’s full of life! Cracks, steam vents and the heat that you can feel when laying your hands on the crater floor. What an epic experience! When you’ve taken it all in, then you make your way up again to the lush, green rainforest.
The Kilauea Iki trail is one of the amazing Hawaii Volcanoes National Park hikes that shows you the essence of the place. We completed the trail in about 3 hours with an 8 and a 6-year-old in tow and, as I mentioned, we had no previous hiking experience. So, even though it does get pretty challenging at some point it’s definitely doable, even for beginners.
PACAYA VOLCANO HIKE, GUATEMALA
With an elevation of just 8,373ft, Volcán Pacaya is the shortest and subsequently the easiest hike of Guatemala’s 3 active volcanoes. But please, take the word “easy” with a pinch of salt – I mean, it is a volcano after all! When researching the hike, I repeatedly found reviews by people saying their idea of exercise was walking from the sofa to the fridge yet they managed the hike just fine, and thought “Oh hell yeah, these are my people and I CAN DO THIS!”
It turns out that while hiking Pacaya Volcano doesn’t require you to be at Usain Bolt-level of fitness, it certainly isn’t a walk in the park.
Situated just outside the beautiful city of Antigua, adventure seekers may be disappointed to learn that unfortunately, it’s not possible to hike the volcano without a guide. But really, this is for your own safety – I’m just going to repeat that it is a live volcano. And volcanoes, like most creations of Earth, can be wildly unpredictable and deadly.
Instead, a hike up Pacaya Volcano can easily be arranged either through your accommodation or via one of the many tour companies dotted around the city. Alternatively, you can make your own way to the Welcome Centre in the village of San Francisco de Sales at the base of the volcano and hire a guide from there. It’s here, at the base that you’ll find a bunch of local kids renting out giant wooden sticks for a few Quetzals each. Heed my advice and RENT THE DAMN STICK. You won’t regret it, I promise you that!
This may come as news to you if you’ve never hiked a volcano before (especially an active one!), but it’s not the same as a mountain. The floor isn’t solid, there aren’t conveniently placed benches for you to sit and eat your peanuts, and most of the time the ground is running away beneath your feet. Although hiking Volcán Pacaya only takes 1.5-2.5 hours max., it really does put a lot of strain on your body, especially the knees. So yeah, rent the stick!
Impressions from the hike
The hike begins quite easy. It’s steep, but there’s a clear pathway and the ground is nice and compact. There are even trees and bushes for you to lean on, should you so wish. As you walk on you’ll find it’s starting to feel like you’re dragging your feet through a pit of polystyrene balls. The ground is covered in dust, dirt and, of course, volcanic ash. It’s hard but keep going because standing in the clouds admiring the views of the surrounding area and neighboring volcanoes (included the monster Volcán de Fuego) will be SO worth it!
Depending on the level of activity from the volcano, your guide may even make a pit stop to help you roast some marshmallows over the piping hot ground. Another thing that depends on the level of activity is how high you are able to hike. There have been ongoing eruptions from Pacaya for the last few years now, so some hikes will be able to venture a little further up than others.
There’s a lot of talks online that the Pacaya Volcano hike is overrated, but honestly? It’s one of the best hikes I’ve ever done, and the closest I’ve ever been to Heaven. I would recommend it to absolutely anybody! But don’t wear flip-flops…
By Rhiannon from Wales to Wherever.
Follow her by @walestowherever on all social media.
SIERRA NEGRA AND VOLCAN CHICO, GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
For most of us, the Galapagos Islands conjure up images of giant tortoises and playful sea lions.
What is perhaps even more interesting than the wildlife that calls these magnificent islands home, is the diversity of the landscape.
In order to preserve the islands and its inhabitants, this archipelago is carefully monitored to strike
a balance between tourism and conservation. As a result, there are many attractions that are impossible to visit without a certified guide.
Isabela’s most active volcano Sierra Negra had erupted just months prior to my visit so I was dubious about whether I would get the opportunity to hike it. Luckily for me, the volcanic activity had died down and the day tours were back on. The wonderful thing about the hike to Sierra Negra is that it provides an alternative way of seeing the Galapagos. During a visit to these islands, a large portion of your time will be dedicated to diving, snorkelling and exploring isolated beaches. This volcano hike was good to get away from the harbour and head to an area which is predominately wild and external of human influence.
The volcano hike
After a drizzly walk through the clouds, we made it to Sierra Negra’s caldera which is a whopping 10 kilometers wide. Looking out over the barren hole in front of me made me feel small in a way that few other trips have succeeded in doing.
After taking in the vastness of the crater, we continued the hike up to Volcán Chico. Originally thought to be a small volcano in its own right, Chico has since been recognized as a parasitic cone formed by a fissure on the edge of Sierra Negra. Here the terrain posed much more of a challenge and was characterized by dark volcanic rock and steep descents. This was quite a contrast to the greenery that had marked the first half of the trail.
Although I am not usually a fan of organized tours, our guide showed us how to date the lava flows by their colour which was fascinating. As we trekked over volcanic rock up to the highest point, we were able to look out over the coast and even spot some of the surrounding islands. Despite being the largest landmass of the archipelago, Isabela has only a few permanent inhabitants and whole swaths of the land are completely untouched. Looking out over the stark terrain made me realize just how far from our roots we have really come.
LA SOUFRIERE VOLCANO, GUADELOUPE
I should confess right at the start that I can’t really claim this is the best volcano hike in the world. It’s actually the only volcano hike I’ve ever done. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly recommend it, especially for anyone reading this who really isn’t much of a hiker. You don’t have to train for this hike, and you can do it within a day.
La Soufrière rises in the middle of the western “wing” of Guadeloupe, called Basse-Terre, and the Parc Nationale de la Guadeloupe (National Park of Guadeloupe), with the volcano at its center, fills a large proportion of the interior of Basse-Terre. The volcano is covered with lush rainforest vegetation, except in the parts that were damaged in 1976, when it last erupted.
The climb up La Soufrière involves three parts and should take less than two hours. I took longer. From the parking lot at Les Bains Jaunes (950 meters elevation), the first part of the trail takes you on a gradual climb through a rainforest. This part is rated as easy, though I still got out of breath with the uphill walk.
The second part, rated as difficult, is a rocky, muddy trail – steeper now – up the damaged side of the volcano. Here is where you can get some spectacular views when you stop to catch your breath. Sometimes you’ll be in the clouds, but the wind moves them along quickly and you’ll get moments of gorgeous views.
The third part of the trail also rated as difficult, takes just ten minutes or so, but involves a bit of scrambling with hands and feet up some rocks. The climb back down should take about an hour, but again, I took longer. At the top (1467 meters elevation), besides some amazing views over the island and the sea all around, you will get to walk into the crater and take a look down into a still-somewhat-active volcano. Mostly you’ll just see and hear steam escaping, and you’ll smell sulfur, but it’s a weird experience to witness a volcano from close up and to stand inside its crater.
Would you like to do any of those volcano hikes? Or maybe you could add another one to the list? Let me know in the comments!
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