The Ijen Crater is an active volcano located at the Southern end of Java, Indonesia. It is well known for its milky blue crater lake and unique blue fire. Most visitors begin their trek at Kawah Ijen very early in the morning. Typically starting round 1:30 AM to see the Ijen crater blue fire and make it to the top viewpoint for sunrise. The trek to the Ijen Crater is the most difficult in Java, more challenging than Mount Bromo or the Tumpak Sewu Waterfall.
Mount Ijen is still an active mining crater for sulfur. 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 back up to the top.
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How to Get to the Ijen Crater in Java
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.
Our 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.
There are many different tour companies that offer combined 2-day tours to visit Mount Bromo and the Mount Ijen. These tours can range anywhere from 500K to over 1 million IDR per person depending on the type of tour you desire.
Our 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 the Ijen Crater
1. Entrance fee at Kawah Ijen
100K IDR ($7 USD) per person on the weekdays and 150K IDR ($10.50 USD) on the weekend.
2. Hours of Opening
The entrance to the Ijen Crater is open from 1AM to 12 PM. The crater is also closed every first Friday of the month.
3. Gas Mask rentals at the Ijen Crater
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.
4. What to Wear at Kawah Ijen
It is cold, like really cold at Mount Ijen. 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. My shoes had zero traction and I was slipping the whole way down which was pretty frustrating.
5. What to Bring to the Ijen Crater Hike
A flashlight or headlamp is vital in doing this climb to the Ijen crater blue fire and to the crater lake. 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. Luckily, 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 Kawah Ijen 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 Ijen Crater 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.
There 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 will 100% NOT have toilet paper, like most places in SE Asia. Therefore, it’s best to bring your own.
While 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 quite a few. However, we decided to not fly ours as my hands were so cold I could barely move my fingers. We also 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!
Ijen Crater Tour or Do It Yourself
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.
At 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 Ijen Crater Blue Fire and Crater Lake
Since the Ijen Crater blue fire can only be seen in complete darkness you will need to arrive at the main entrance of Kawah Ijen 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.
There 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 blue fire can only be seen in two places in the world, here and Iceland. The blue flame 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. The real beauty of the Ijen crater lake is from the sunrise spot anyways.
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. While we were happy that we got to see the ijen crater blue fire, we also would have been fine no witnessing it.
I think 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!
How to Get to the Sunrise Point at the Kawah Ijen Crater Lake
After seeing the blue fire, climb back up to where you started. From there, you will continue a short ways down the original path and then turn left.
From that point, climb for another 30 minutes or so. Here you will not find a well marked trail. However, if you just follow it along the edge of the Kawah Ijen crater you will know you’re heading in the right direction.
Since you’re doing the Ijen Crater hike 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 Kawah Ijen crater lake. This is the most acidic and largest crater lake in the world.
After the sunrise you can head back down to the main entrance. This will take you around 1.5 hours and the dusty path is very slippery with many small rocks. Take it slow and be careful. You will probably be tired from the ascend to the top 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.
There 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).
Obviously 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.
GRAB 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 Ijen Crater
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.
We 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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WHAT CAMERA GEAR DO I USE?
- Main Camera: Sony A7III
- Wide angle lens: Sony G Master 16-35mm f/2.8
- Zoom lens: Sony 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3
- Secondary Camera: Canon 6D Mark II
- Canon wide angle lens: Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L
- Underwater camera: Leica X-U
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- Camera Bag: Polar Pro Drone Trekker
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