Ijen | Hiking to the Volcano Crater & the Blue Fire
Ijen volcano has a sulphuric crater and is one of East Java’s prized attractions. The main draw to a visit to Ijen is the blue flame which is produced by the sulphuric fumes. Although the flame burns throughout the day, night time is the only way to experience this unique phenomenon. Visitors come here in the middle of the night to witness the fire and later on hike to the sunrise viewpoint.
Ijen has the largest acidic lake in the world. The lake is a beautiful turquoise milky color and is surrounded by a rough environment. Anywhere along the crater’s rim will offer an amazing view and an opportunity for great pictures over the crater and the lake.
Do you need a Guide to hike Ijen?
Hiking up to Ijen is hard and challenging but you won’t need a guide. The trail is well marked and you won’t have any problem reaching the peak.
However you might want to consider a guide on your way down to the mine as it is on rough terrain, uneven paths and loose rocks. Here we met a guide which asked for 400k IDR (24.95$) to take us down to the blue fire which we refused and proceeded on our own.
Although we still think it is doable without a guide if you are unsure, taking a guide will be a good option. In this case it is best to find a guide before you start the hike to Ijen. The guide will help you through any difficult parts of the trek and if he speaks English (which most guides do) he will provide interesting information about Ijen.
We started the hike as soon as the gate opened and after reaching the peak we had some help identifying the entrance down into the crater. Once down at the mine we were only a couple of people there. On our way up (we did not stay for a long time as the fumes were very strong and our eyes were burning) streams of people were coming down the rocky terrain and to the blue fire.
Getting to Ijen from Banyuwangi at night by Bike
Visiting Ijen requires a start late at night and by 12:00 am you will need to be on your way. Banyuwangi which is a town used as a base is an hour drive to the foot of Ijen. The route will lead through remote, pitch black streets within dense jungle. If doing the journey by scooter be careful and surely wear multiple layers as it will increasingly get colder.
The route to Ijen is undisturbed by light and openings in the towering trees offer a spectacular view of the stars. On clear days the Milky Way can also be seen.
The foot of Ijen is where the ticket booth and parking area are located. Warungs are in the parking area and serve hot drinks and light snacks. Small fires are lit outside the warungs which make for a comfortable break sipping on a hot drink, especially if like us you come by scooter.
** We rented the scooter from our accommodation at 75k IDR per day (5.35$).
Hiking up Ijen and then Down into the Crater
The gate opens at 1:00 am and the entrance fee is 100k IDR per person (7.15$). The trek to the peak might take 2 to 2 ½ hours (depending on your fitness level) and once you reach the peak it is another 30 minutes down into the crater for the blue fire. While on your way down be sure not to obstruct the miners path. The miners will be carrying a load of sulphuric rocks which weighs around 60 kg.
Once you get closer to the mine you will need to put on the gas mask and although it does help it isn’t 100 percent foolproof. We hired the gas masks from our accommodation at 25k IDR per mask (1.80$).
The sulphur mine is where you will see the workers stacking up rocks of sulphur in their baskets. The blue flame is seen burning above the mine along with huge clouds of sulphur. At times sulphur fumes engulf the mine leaving everyone in complete blindness. In this case just stay put until the fumes decrease.
Sunrise Spot and the View over Ijen Crater and the Lake
Ijen’s sunrise viewpoint is a towering panorama over the clouds. A local guide provided us with directions to the sunrise spot. Once you come up from the blue flame you will need to hike up a hill and walk along the rim of the crater. At the viewpoint the sun is hidden after a hill.
Once the day has brightened up the colossal turquoise toxic lake and its rough surroundings can be finally seen. Most of the crater’s rim can be reached and allows for a more unique experience. Moving away from the crowd the path gets more and more difficult and at some points might be dangerous. If in doubt just don’t venture too far out. Also, given the high altitude wind will be another issue to take account for. At the time of our visit, the wind was very strong and we opted to stay and take photos of the sulphur lake from a spot on the way back from the sunrise viewpoint.
Where to Stay in Banyuwangi
Banyuwangi is a regency close to Ijen and it is often used as a base to get to Ijen. A train station links Banyuwangi with other major cities in Java and therefore make it very easy to reach. Karangasem is the closest train station to Ijen. Just across the street from the station are a choice of guesthouses.
We stayed in a double room at Karangasem Dormitory. The rooms are very basic but have a fan, include breakfast and only cost 4 USD for a double room.
Must add that the owner is super helpful and has a lot of knowledge regarding Ijen as he used to work as a guide.
Karangasem Dormitory offers packaged tours to Ijen which are reasonably priced. Scooters, headlamps, gas masks can all be rented out from this accommodation.
Having your accommodation close to the train station is the easiest way for getting in and out of Banyuwangi.
If considering having your accommodation near the train station and other than at Karangasem Dormitory, do check the reviews first. A few of the properties have a really good review rating but once you read the reviews you’ll notice that they are odd and just made up.
Equipment Required for Hiking to Ijen & Sunrise Viewpoint
Ijen is a highland area and cold therefore if coming by scooter you’ll feel that double. Wear multiple layers, trousers, jacket and if you are using a scooter, gloves would be a good idea.
Headlamp: the trek will be pitch black so you’ll need some kind of lighting. Although we saw who used mobile phone torch, this wouldn’t be a good idea. Firstly the trek takes around 2 hours so you would kill the battery. Second, it is best to have both hands free while trekking down the rough terrain of the crater.
Gas mask: sulphur is toxic and inhaling the fumes isn’t a pleasant sensation. Once you get down to the mine and at times have clouds of sulphur around, you’ll be pleased to have a filtered mask.
Water and snacks: once entering the park the activity will take at least 6 hours. Take some snacks with you like nuts or dried fruit and a large bottle of water. We also took a can of coffee.
Gas masks, headlamps and jackets can be rented out before entering the park.
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