One of two places in the whole world where you can see the blue fire – ignited sulphuric gas. Ijen volcano is located in East Java – very close to Bali, which is also the reason why it became the most touristic volcano in the whole Indonesia. It is the experience like nothing else, but be prepared for march of “hikers” tackling the summit every night, especially during high season (June – September). Place of the blue fire is located inside of the crater just next to huge acidic lake. Ijen volcano hike is surreal experience, let’s read how to arrange it on your own.
How to get there
The access point for Ijen is small city of Banyuwangi on the coast of east Java, just minutes from port to Bali. It is the city where you will probably spend a night if you want to do the night hike and see the blue fire. See best accomodation for Ijen volcano hike in next chapter.
From Java you can get there by train, which goes via all major cities – Yogyakarta, Solo, Surabaya,… Check official website of indonesian trains. The price will be about 200k Rp from Yogya. It is good place to meet other travelers and discuss possible merge for car rent to Ijen to save some money.
From Bali you need to take a bus from Ubung bus station north of Denpasar. Like this you don’t have to worry about ferry at all. The bus will board the ferry and cross the sea. After that you just step out in Banyuwangi.
From Banyuwangi you have basically 2 options how to reach “basecamp” Paltuding (parking lot and Ijen volcano hike starting point) here:
- 1st is to rent a motorbike (70k Rp for 24 hours) and just drive there by yourself. It is cheapest alternative and the road is quite straightforward. Only at some parts the road is really steep and small motorbike with 2 people might struggle.
- 2nd option is to rent a car with driver which will bring you there, wait for you and then bring you back. It is bit more expensive, but also more comfortable. We arranged it in our homestay for the price 500k Rp for whole car including the masks and it was 4 of us. Which makes it 125k Rp per person. The best part is that you don’t have to drive on the way back after sleepless night. The car picked us up in our homestay and brought us back there after.
Ijen volcano hike ascent and the blue fire
To combine blue fire with sunrise at the top it is recommended to start the hike around 1am as we did. It means you should leave from Banyuwangi at midnight. This is the plan of most of the tourists and agencies, so be prepared for crowds of people, especially on weekends. On the other hand it means you don’t need the guide, just go with the flow. If you prefer more private experience, start the hike around 8pm. You will miss the sunrise, but at least you won’t have to wait in queue for the road. The Ijen volcano hike takes about 1.5 hour from parking lot till the crater rim and another 40 minutes down the crater.
The entrance fee for foreigners is 100k / 150k Rp – weekdays / weekend. After you pay that and pass the gate the road slowly starts to wind up the hill. Soon it gets steeper and continues in this manner for about 1 hour. It is demanding hike and you will probably have to take few breaks to catch a breath, but nothing impossible to do with at least bit of physical condition. Once you pass the small warung hut, it takes about 20 minutes till the peak.
From there you start to descent down to the crater and the fumes become stronger, so it is wise to wear the mask. Because the road is very narrow you literally go in line like ducks. It takes about 40 minutes to get down to the place where you can watch the fire. The visibility depends a lot on the wind, in our case the blue fire was visible maybe 5% of the time there. But don’t worry, many travelers told us it was possible to see the fire almost all the time on other days. The weather is unpredictable.
Be very carefull down there. If you are trying to get too close and the wind suddenly changes, the fumes becomes so overwhelming that you can barely breathe (even with the mask on), you just feel sharp pain in lungs and your eyes are watering so much that you don’t see anything. Those moments when you feel you will never get out of there if the wind doesn’t change cannot be put into words. Well that’s part of experience.
It is good to go totally down below the vents to the lake because the fumes go up and the air next to the lake is better, so you can take off the mask for a while and breathe normal air. You can also see “liquid sulphur” there, straight after it melts.
Around 4am is the time to go up to see the sunrise. Once the sun lights the acid lake in the crater, you experience totally different view. Well at night you have no view at all, so that’s pretty different than that. After you enjoy enough, just follow the same way back down to the parking lot. We came back there at 7am.
Note that clothes you are going to wear there will smell like sulphur for few weeks and several washing cycles. It might be cold and windy, especially at the top, so bring a warm clothes or at least jacket.
Where to stay
We can totally recommend our homestay. It is nothing fancy, just simple clean room with fan, wifi and breakfast, but the owner is very informative and arranges tours around. Actually we believe this is his main business, because the double-room for 8 euros (120k Rp), cannot make the living. Beside Ijen tour, he also arranges turtle releasing tour in south of Java (Meru Betiri NP). You can use his bicycles for free too.
Another possibility where we also stayed is Cevilla B&B. Same price (120k Rp), clean room, breakfast, shared bathroom, good wifi, free water tap and coffee/tea. Just bit out of reach, but honestly there is nothing to do in Bayuwangi anyway, so good enough. Walking distance of warungs, ATM, bus station.
If you are staying in Banyuwangi for few days, you can rent a scooter and go south (2 hours drive) to pink beach or visit nearby coffee and rubber plantation (30 min drive).
Ijen is another Java’s treasure and very unique place. Beside seeing blue fire you can also experience the worst job on the planet – Ijen sulphur miner. Hiking every day up and down the crater with 80kg of sulphur on the back in the life threating fumes is nightmare for most of us. And for this unbelievable struggle they got only 1000Rp for 1kg of sulphur. Makes you bit more grateful for the life we have.
If you search for other cool places to see in Java, we traveled it with drone and made aerial video there: