Ijen was one of the first places I visited during my Indonesia road trip. It’s the largest working sulfur mine in Indonesia and had been on my Indonesia bucket list for a very long time. I was really excited to get the chance to finally visit Ijen and enter the crater. Let me share my experience with you now so you can learn how to visit Ijen for yourself, what to expect and how to arrange everything. Let’s get started.
How to Get to Ijen
There are two ways to get to Ijen crater. One route is from Banyuwangi, which is by the coast. The other route is from Bondowoso, which is in the highlands. If you are taking an Ijen tour from Surabaya you will stay the night close to Bondowoso and from there go directly to Ijen. If you are taking an Ijen tour from Bali you will stay the night in Banyuwangi.
Banyuwangi to Ijen
Ijen is a one-hour drive from Banyuwangi. The journey to Ijen is really nice. The roads wind slowly upwards through steep wooded hills. It’s a great drive, though you are unlikely to see very much on the way if you are going to see the blue flames.
Bondowoso to Ijen
Bondowoso city is a 90-minute drive from Ijen. If you are visiting Ijen though you will stay the night at one of the hotels outside of the city. The highlands around Bondowoso are covered in tea plantations. The temperature is also really fresh, which makes a nice change.
There are two daily tours operating at Ijen. The first and most popular tour of the day is the Ijen sunrise tour. A few tourists (such as myself) will visit Ijen during the day, though this is not usually part of an organised tour (you can read about my experience here). The second tour of the day is the Ijen sunset tour. The tours themselves each last approximately 6 hours (from the time you leave your hotel to the point you are dropped off at your destination).
It’s a long hike to the top of Ijen and you need to be reasonably fit to make the journey to the top. When I visited I arrived at the visitor centre around 9am. It took me an hour to reach the summit of the volcano. The first section of the climb, from the base to the peak, is steep. This part is tiring. When you reach the peak of Ijen the path loops around the top of the crater. This part of the hike is a lot more relaxing and it is a great opportunity to take in the views of the surrounding countryside (you can really see for miles). When you finally reach the peak you’ll experience the highlights of Ijen for yourself.
Ijen Blue Flame
One of the highlights of visiting Ijen is the blue flames. These flames are caused by sulphuric gas that ignites as it leaves vents surrounding the volcano at 600 degrees. Make sure to bring some warm clothes with you for the blue flames. The top of the crater is really high (like more than 2,000 meters) and it’s exposed.
In the centre of Ijen crater is a large turquoise lake. The colour is bright, almost like a photo of a still tropical sea after someone has played around with Photoshop. It looks slightly unreal, especially as it’s surrounded by the bright yellow sulphur that comes out of the vents.
The bright turquoise colour of the water is actually the result of all of this sulphur in the water. It’s heavily acidic, but from the top of the crater it looks really amazing. Especially in the early morning when the lake is in shadow as the sun rises. Unfortunately I never had the chance to see Ijen in the morning, but I did get to visit the bottom of the crater.
Entering the Crater
Ijen is a working sulfur mine. The sulfur is mined from within the crater. It used to be possible to enter the crater with the miners. When I visited I was invited by a local miner to go to the crater floor. The track leading down into the crater is steep and slippery. The path winds down into the crater. There are ladders to climb down. Huge clouds of white sulfur vapour blow across the path. The sulfur stings your eyes and catches in your throat. I held a wet piece of cloth to my nose to keep myself from coughing too much.
When you get to the bottom of the crater everything is calm. You don’t smell the sulphur, because the smoke all goes up in the air. This is the best bit of the descent and you will feel like you could stay at the bottom for 20 minutes or more (just to get away from the smell). When you are at the bottom you get a close up view of the turquoise lake and the lumps of glistening yellow sulphur. It’s a scene completely different to anything you are likely to have experienced before.
The Ijen tour is something you should experience if you are in East Java. One of my favourite things about Ijen is just how much there is to see in one day. The climb to the top of the crater is amazing. It’s not too hard, the air is cool and there are great views over the surrounding countryside. From the top of the crater you get to see the turquoise lake and the sulphur that comes pouring out of the ground. It’s something you should experience for yourself.
To make this trip possible I’ve teamed up with a trusted local travel agency to offer cheap shared tours and private car rentals.
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 before? What did you think about the volcano? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.