Kawah Ijen in Java: How to Visit Without a Tour

Kawah Ijen is an active volcano located at the Southern end of Java . It is well known for its milky blue crater lake and blue fire. Most visitors begin their trek very early in the morning, around 1:30 AM to see the blue fire and make it to the top for sunrise. This trek is the most difficult in Java, more challenging than Mount Bromo or the Tumpak Sewu Waterfall.

This is also a mining crater for sulfur and along the way you will see many men hard at work. Once they have collected enough sulfur they will carry the heavy baskets all the way up to the top.

INCLUDED IN THIS BLOG POST:

  • How to get to Kawah Ijen
  • What to Expect at Kawah Ijen
  • Tour or no Tour at the crater
  • How to get to the blue fire and crater lake
  • How to get to the sunrise spot
  • How to get to Java from Bali
  • Where to stay near Kawah Ijen

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How to visit the Ijen Crater in Java without a tour


How to Get to Kawah Ijen


The easiest way to reach Kawah Ijen is by using a car. This can be arranged by your hotel or a local taxi. There is also the option to get a motorbike transfer but since it is very cold and damp in the mornings we chose to get the car.

The entrance to Kawah Ijen in Java, IndonesiaOur homestay arranged the transportation for us and it included pick up at 12:30AM, the wait time of 6 hours while we hiked the crater and the return to our hotel. For the price of 450K IDR ($32 USD) it also included our gas mask rental, flashlights and our transportation to the train station which was another 45 min drive. 

The milky blue waters of the Ijen Crater in JavaThere are many different tour companies that offer combined 2-day tours to visit Mount Bromo and the Ijen Crater. These tours can range anywhere from 500K to over 1 million IDR per person depending on the type of tour you desire. 

map of the path to take to get to the Ijen Crater in JavaOur homestay also provided the option of taking a tour guide for our hike and that fee would have been 300K IDR ( $21 USD) per person and included only the transport to and from the homestay and a guide during the trekking. 


What to Expect at Kawah Ijen


Fees:

Entrance fee

100K IDR ($7 USD) per person on the weekdays and 150K IDR ($10.50 USD) on the weekend. 

Hours of Opening

The entrance to Kawah Ijen is open from 1AM to 12 PM. The crater is also closed every first Friday of the month.

Gas Mask rentals

You can rent a gas mask at the entrance for around 40K-50K IDR (~$3.50 USD) if your hotel or homestay doesn’t have any. 

The sulfur at the Ijen Crater that the workers mine for in Java

What to Wear:

It is cold, like really cold. The temperature is around 0-10°C in the early morning. Wear layers so that you can easily shed them when you build heat from the uphill climb. 

Wear proper shoes. This trek should absolutely not be done in flip flops or sandals of any sort. Closed toed shoes are necessary and preferably ones with a bit of traction. Mine shoes had zero traction and I was slipping the whole way down which was pretty frustrating. 

Girl dressed in layers watching the sun rise over the Ijen Crater in Java, Indonesia

What to Bring:

A flashlight or headlamp is vital in doing this climb. You will most likely be starting your trek sometime around 1:30-2 AM (if you want to see the blue fire) and it will be completely dark. The trail is well marked in the beginning.

However, once you reach the downhill climb for the blue fire and to get close to the crater lake you will be doing a lot of rock climbing. Here the trail also gets a little less easy to follow at some spots but just follow the other people.

You will absolutely want to bring a gas mask with you. The closer you get to the blue fire and the crater lake the stronger the sulfuric gas will become. It is dangerous to inhale and honestly a scarf around your nose and mouth just won’t cut it.

A sulfer miner carrying baskets full of sulfur up from the bottom of the crater in Kawah IjenThere might also be a point where your eyes tear up a bit but that sensation should pass after a few minutes. For the majority of the climb you won’t need to wear the gas mask but it’s better to have one with you. As I mentioned before you can rent one from the entrance or your guesthouse.

There are three toilet spots along the way. One at the main entrance, one about 2 kilometers in (at the snack shop) and one right before you descend down to the blue fire. Bring toilet paper! These bathrooms with 100% NOT have toilet paper so like most places in SE Asia it’s best to bring your own. 

The path to get to the Crater Lake in IjenWhile there is a snack stand at the main entrance and 2 kilometers in, it is best to just bring your own snacks with you. They also sell drinks and small bottles of water for 6K IDR ($0.46 USD) 

Photography Tip: Drones are allowed to be flown at the sunrise spot and we saw a few being flown. We decided to not fly ours as my hands were so cold and we saw footage from someone else and didn’t think it was worth it due to the cloud and smoke coverage. But if you have a drone I’d bring it just in case you get an amazing sunrise and a clear view!


Tour or No Tour at Kawah Ijen


This is a completely personal decision. We chose to do the hike with no guide since we had heard from others that it is completely doable on your own.

The trail is pretty straight forward and there will be many people along the way who you can follow. You will also encounter many locals who will happily point you in the right direction. 

Sunrise at the Ijen Crater in Java, IndonesiaAt many points along the trail you will come across locals offering taxi services. They do this by pushing you up and down the mountain in a wheel barrow style seat. l don’t know the cost of this is but it seems like a lot of hard labor for them so I wouldn’t recommend it.

We saw many people hiring these rides and it just felt a bit uncomfortable to see. With that being said, these guys are not guides so they will only provide the transport services to the top and back down. 


How to Get to the Blue Fire and Crater Lake


Since the blue fire can only be seen in complete darkness you will need to arrive at the main entrance of Ijen Crater no later than 2 AM. It would be best to arrive around 1:30 AM to give yourself more time just in case you need to stop for breaks. Once you enter at the main gate you will steadily climb uphill for about 2 kilometers.

Views from the path leading to the Ijen Crater in JavaThere are a few spots that are steeper than others and be careful with the slippery ground. You will know you’ve reached 2 km when you see a small cafe and toilets. At this point go to your left just before the cafe and continue upwards. Hike for about another kilometer where you will see a warning sign indicating you are at the right spot.

Here the path will become a lot rockier. You will have to do quite a bit of climbing to get down the to the bottom. The distance from the top down to the blue fire is 800 meters. During our climb down we took a few wrong turns but quickly corrected our mistakes and were back on the path. 

The path leading to the blue fire and sunrise spot at the Ijen Crater in Java

The blue fire can only be seen in two places in the world, here and Iceland. The blue fire is ignited sulfuric gas that is caused by extreme temperatures of over 600°C.

Once you’ve witnessed the blue fire you can descend just a bit further and walk to the edge of the lake. We missed it, started to hike back up, then came back down to see it and were super disappointed. In the complete darkness you won’t see anything and the real beauty of the lake is from the sunrise spot anyways. 

The blue fire at the Ijen Crater in Java, Indonesia

Now I know what you’re thinking, was seeing the blue fire really worth the extra climb and waking up at midnight? It’s a tough question to answer because we were happy that we got to see it but we also feel that if we missed out of witnessing the blue fire it would have been fine.

I say that if you’re super exhausted and want to sleep a little bit longer then don’t stress about it. But if you’re super pumped about watching it glow then by all means hit the road at midnight!

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A Complete Guide to Mount Ijen in Java, Indonesia


How to Get to the Sunrise Point


After you’ve seen the blue fire and climbed back up to where you started you will continue a short ways down the original path and then turn left.

Start climbing up from there for about another 30 minutes. Here you will not find a well marked trail but if you just follow it along the edge of the crater you will know you’re heading in the right direction.

The unmarked path that leads to the sunrise spot to see the Ijen Crater in Java, IndonesiaSince you’re doing this in the dark a good way to know you are on the right path is to (very carefully) glance over the edge and look for all the flashlights down below. Those will be all the people heading to the blue fire. The lake will be just to the right of those people. 

Continue on as far as you’d like and then wait for the sun to rise. You will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the volcano and milky blue waters of the crater lake. This is the most acidic and largest crater lake in the world.

Girl standing in front of the Ijen Crater Lake at sunrise in Java, Indonesia After the sunrise you can head back down to the main entrance. This will take you around 1.5 hours and the ground is very slippery with many small rocks. Take it slow and be careful since you will probably already be tired from the ascend and lack of sleep.


How to get to Java from Bali


There are many ways to reach Java from Bali. The most common way is to get to the Gilimanuk Ferry Terminal and take the hour long boat journey. Depending on where you are staying in Bali you can either take a taxi, GRAB or public bus to the Gilimanuk Terminal. 

The milky blue water of the crater lake at Kawah Ijen in Java, IndonesiaThere are 2 main bus stations in Bali that reach the Gilimanuk Terminal: Ubung and Mengwi. We asked around and found that the Mengwi Bus Station has more buses that travel up to GIlimanuk so we decided to go there. You can use tiket.com to look for time schedules or book your bus and train tickets online.

Since we didn’t have a bus ticket booked we just showed up and asked around. At the bus station we were told to wait by the road and stop any bus that was passing by and confirm they were going to Gilimanuk.

A strange concept to us but it worked.

We boarded a small, local bus and paid 60K IDR ($4.25 USD) per person for our 4 hour journey to Gilimanuk. A GRAB from Canggu would have costed us 765K IDR ($54 USD). 

Barren looking trees at the Ijen Crater in JavaObviously the type of transportation you decide to choose should be a personal preference. The GRAB is much more expensive but will be a comfy, A/C ride whereas the bus was small, cramped and had no A/C. 

Once we arrived at the ferry terminal we purchased our one way ticket for 6.5K IDR ($0.45 USD) per person and boarded the ferry that would go to Java. The ferry will arrive at the Ketapang Harbor in East Java. From there you can get a taxi to take you to your hotel. 

Guy standing at the edge of the Ijen Crater in Java, IndonesiaGRAB taxi is available in Java but there are many “red zones”. Therefore if you take a GRAB from the ferry port you will have to walk 15 minutes to a petrol station where they can pick you up.

However, we did this but because there was a taxi at the station the GRAB driver refused to take us and told us to take the taxi. Luckily, the taxi driver honored the same price as the GRAB. I would recommend looking up the GRAB price on your phone and then showing it to the taxi driver and they should give you the same fee. 


Where to stay near Kawah Ijen


Most visitors chose to stay in Banyuwangi as that is where the ferry port, bus station and train station are located. There are many options for homestay’s or hotels so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a place to stay.

The path at Kawah Ijen that leads to the craterWe chose to stay about 45 minutes out of Banyuwangi at Hadi Homestay. This way we would be a bit closer to the Ijen Crater for our early drive the next morning.

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How to visit Kawah Ijen without a guide

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