There must have been over 100 people in the bottom of Ijen crater with me. They had come here in the dead of night to see one of the natural highlights of Indonesia; the blue flames of Ijen. You could glimpse it when the wind changed direction. The blue flames glimmered through the thick sulphur smoke. Torches caught the thick columns of sulphur smoke as they rose out of the vents. It looked like a view from another world.
The Ijen crater tour has been on my Indonesian bucket list for a long time. The last time I joined an Ijen tour it was the early morning and I never got to see the blue flames. I was so glad that I had decided to make the trip a second time. Here’s a guide to the Ijen Volcano Tour so you can plan the trip for yourself. Let’s get started.
Where to Stay
There are no hotels close to Ijen crater. The nearest towns to Ijen are Bondowoso and Banyuwangi. Both times I visited Ijen I stayed in the port of Banyuwangi. The town is a convenient place to stay. There are a lot of hotels to choose from. Banyuwangi is also the port that links Java to Bali, so after visiting Ijen you can return to your hotel, have a shower, pack your bags and take the boat to Bali or alternatively take the train from Banyuwangi to Surabaya.
Banyuwangi to Ijen
You will have to wake up early to join the midnight tour of Ijen. It’s a one hour drive from Banyuwangi to Ijen. Although the roads are easy to follow, I would recommend hiring a car with a private driver to take you on your tour of Ijen. Make sure to bring some warm clothes, especially a windbreaker, as it’s cold on the top of Ijen.
1) If you are coming from Bali to Ijen make sure to change the time on your watch before you go to sleep at your hotel. Java is one hour behind Bali time.
2) The smell of the sulphur gas in Ijen volcano is really strong. Make sure to bring a piece of cloth that you can wrap around your mouth for when you enter the crater.
3) Sounds obvious but bring a flashlight for the climb up Ijen volcano.
Tour of Ijen
You will arrive at the bottom of Ijen crater at 12:40. Before climbing Ijen you’ll need to buy a ticket to enter the park. It costs Rp 100,000 per person (for foreigner. And it is Rp 150,000 on the weekend) to climb Ijen volcano. You can buy the ticket from the office at the entrance of the car park.
The first part of the Ijen crater tour is the climb. There are two sections to the climb. The first part is the ascent. The path is not too steep, but it is a long climb. Once you get near the top of the volcano the path loops around the rim of Ijen crater. It takes between 1-2 hours to climb the volcano depending on how fit you are. You don’t really need a tour guide to climb Ijen. The path is easy to follow and there will be lots of other tourists climbing at the same time as you.
When you arrive at the top of Ijen volcano you will be met by locals who are renting gas masks. The gas masks are for the climb into the crater. Although they will tell you that you need to rent a mask to enter the crater you don’t. A piece of cloth around your mouth should be enough, however if you have asthma or breathing difficulties I’d recommend renting a mask.
Entering Ijen Crater
From the top of Ijen crater you can see the blue flames, the Crater Lake and the sulphurous smoke. To enter the crater you need to follow the path as it loops around the rim of Ijen volcano. On the far side the path winds steeply down towards the Crater Lake.
It takes about 20 minutes to get to the bottom of the crater. The path is steep and slippery. In many places it is just large enough for one person. Depending on which way the wind is blowing plumes of sulphur smoke can cross the path making it difficult to breath.
It will be about 2 am once you get to the bottom of the crater. The scene at the bottom is really special. The clouds of sulphur, crowds of people, lake and the stars above your head make the setting unforgettable. After the long climb, both up and into the crater, it’s nice to just sit down and relax in the crater and just appreciate the view.
When I visited I spent about 2 hours sitting in the crater. It didn’t feel like a long time. The crater is sheltered from the wind, so you don’t feel too cold and the view is really amazing. Plus if you are feeling sociable there are lots of interesting people that you can meet and talk to.
If you don’t want to stay so long in the crater you can leave your hotel later so that you arrive in the crater at 3 am. This is a popular option for a lot of tourists who join an Ijen crater tour. The issue with leaving Bayuwangi to Ijen later is that the path into the crater can be crowded with people when you arrive. This means that the trek into the crater can take up to 40 minutes and when you finally arrive it’s more difficult to find a place to sit with a good view of the blue flames.
Sunrise at Ijen
Sunrise at Ijen crater happens at around 5 am. The best place to see the sunrise is from the top of the crater as the sun rises behind you. The journey back to the top of the crater takes a lot longer than the journey down. Part of the reason of course is that it’s uphill. The bigger factor was that the path down gets very crowded and so you get human traffic jams as people go uphill for sunrise and those who arrive late want to get down into Ijen Crater Lake to see the blue fire.
If you set off from the bottom of Ijen crater at 4 am you will arrive at the top of the crater at around 4:40 am. Waiting for sunrise at the top of the crater can feel like a long time. The top of the crater is not sheltered and you will start to feel quite cold as you wait for the sun to rise over the horizon.
When the sun does rise over Ijen it happens very quickly. In just 10 minutes the sky turns from a light grey and the colors of the landscape start to appear. You can see the turquoise of the Crater Lake, the texture and brown color of the ridges and the green of the hills and flood plain surrounding Ijen crater. I spent at least an hour at the top of the crater after sunrise walking around and taking photos of the area. It was a really nice way to end the Ijen volcano tour.
The last part of the tour is the walk back down the hill. It took me about 30 minutes to reach the bottom. After so much walking I was surprised just how tired I felt. My muscles really ached as I walked down Ijen volcano and I was happy when I finally reached the car park for the drive back to the hotel.
I really enjoyed the Ijen crater tour. The Midnight Ijen Tour a lot more interesting than the Ijen day tour. Seeing the blue flames and sunrise over Ijen Volcano is really quite special. Although it’s a long night and it can be cold I would recommend the Ijen tour to anybody visiting East Java for the first time. It’s a really unforgettable experience.
Book the Ijen Midnight Tour
If you’re interested in joining the Ijen Midnight Tour I can give you a hand. I’ve partnered with a local travel agency to offer shared tours to Ijen.
Included in the Tour:
- Pick up from your hotel at midnight
- Shared transport to and from Ijen
- Experienced local driver
- Drop off at your hotel at the end of the tour
Interested in joining the tour? Press the button below to find out more.
Have you ever visited Ijen volcano? Did you see the blue flames? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!