The Ijen crater, or called Kawah Ijen is one of the most awesome and surreal places I’ve ever been to in my entire life. I have always been very fond of hiking but never have I thought that I would try and climb up to a volcano just to see this magnificent crater of Mother Nature. What makes Ijen crater that intriguing is that it has this gigantic acidic lake that is turquoise in colour. To my amazement, this acidic lake is the largest in the world. The lake is measured to be near 950m wide and is rich in it’s sulphur deposits which are being quarried daily by locals.
The Ijen volcano complex is a group of stratovolcanoes, located in East Java. The nearest airport to reach Ijen is Surabaya but because we were on our honeymoon and we happened to be in Bali, we had to head up north to Gilimanuk Harbour. There, we took an hour’s ride ferry across to Java island. At Banyuwangi, I have booked a small hotel for us to spend the night so that we wouldn’t be too weary when we have to conquer this volcano. The hotel is called Ketapang Indah Hotel and for the price I paid for, it looked pretty good.
The hotel was located very near to East Java’s harbour and the place looked quite decent. I was expecting something like an inn with damp towels, but it turned out to be better than Tune Hotel, Kuta. The place looked like a small resort and the staff there were very friendly as well. However, we couldn’t spend too much time exploring the hotel, because we had to leave for Ijen at 1am. So right after settling in, we quickly forced ourselves to bed. What’s great about this hotel is that because they knew we were leaving early in the morning, they had some breakfast packed for us to bring along our trip. It was very thoughtful and gave us some extra energy for our most anticipated journey.
In order to get to the foot of Ijen, we had to hire a 4WD driver. The trip to get there took roughly an hour plus. The road was bumpy and the jeep was rather uncomfortable to be honest. Once we have reached the foot, the weather was very cold and also it was pitch dark. What amazed me most was the sight that the stars were the brightest during the night. It was the first time I’ve ever seen so many stars in my life. It was a huge blanket of them and it was so beautiful I couldn’t take my eyes off them. As our driver and his friends prepared our torch lights, we began our hike.
Before heading to Ijen, here are some things everyone should prepare beforehand:
- Proper hiking shoes
- Torch Lights (strong enough for you to see the way)
- Surgical Masks or any masks (to block off sulphur fumes)
- Jackets & Long Johns what have you (the temperature before the sun rise goes down to 2° C- 10° C)
- Bug Spray (just in case)
Standing at approximately 2800m tall, it was one of the most challenging hikes I’ve ever encountered. Not only were the roads very rocky, we were hiking in total darkness with only a torch light each in our hands. The track starts off wide and flat but then gradually rises into some steep sections. As we climbed higher, the smell of sulphur fumes were getting stronger and stronger. We put on our masks and continued heading upwards. B had a fragile knee, so we took quite some stops during our climb. She was having some troubles hiking up the mountain but through endless cheers and encouragement from me and the team, we managed to get her through her pain and fears and she managed to reach the peak to see how awesome the Ijen crater was.
After about approx 2.5 hours of intensive hiking. We finally reached a point where we could look down into the crater and see these magical looking blue flames coming out of the crater. The fire was so beautiful but it was rather deep. In order to get down into the crater, you had to again descend another 200 meters. It’s not an easy hike into the crater I can tell you and it is advised that you have to be extremely careful. The blue flames were extraordinary and it was out of this world. We caught a glimpse of the fire for a while then continued up the peak through a flat road to take a look at the beautiful sunrise. Once the sun was rising, everything was clear and the temperature started to rise.
The crater lake was so beautiful. One of the most magnificent things I’ve ever seen in my life. Once I was able see the lake, I forgot how tired and cold I was. I immediately capture some shots of the beautiful lake. The colour of the crater lake slowly changes to it’s turquoise colour and it was extremely breathtaking. It was an eye-gasm.
After a while, we could see some of the sulphur labourers carrying baskets of sulphur blocks using the right hand woven baskets for this. I had read that these miners could carry about 100kg of sulphur blocks in one go. However, despite the extreme conditions and hardwork, they are only able to make about Rp.58,000 per day. To them, that’s quite fast money. They often work up here 3 to 4 times a week. The sulfur dioxide gas at the mine site is so strong that it makes breathing even with a gas mask extremely difficult. The miners who work there every day use only a wet rag to breath through. Imagine how much work they have to go through every single day.
As we began to head back down, one of the miners offered B a beautiful mini sulphur block. It looked like it came from it’s original form. Sort of like a liquid shaped solid block. At first she hesitated thinking that the miner wanted to sell it to her, but our driver told us that he wanted to give it to her as a gift and it was more polite to accept it. B was so excited and carried her mini sulphur block down the mountain.
This adventure turned out to be something extremely memorable. The experience is likewise something that is hard to describe but I assure you it’s one of the best. B managed to climb up to the peak and it definitely made me really proud of her. She almost gave up halfway, but because it was too dangerous to leave her alone, we kept going and going. Once you have set your mind to it, nothing is impossible. She has proved to us that she, a native big city girl, can conquer this 3km volcano and come back a very proud and happy girl. Many people questioned me, why do so such an extreme activity during your honeymoon? Well I’d tell them who cares. As long as we enjoyed what we did and we are very proud of ourselves for waking in the middle of the night and conquering one of the most beautiful places on earth.
February 8, 2014
Hi Ben, do you need to get any kinds of permit to climb Kawah Ijen? Look at your photos and blog make me wanted to go there during my visit to bali this year. Thanks!
February 9, 2014
Hi Min Shien, Long time no see! Well, you don’t need a permit to climb Kawah Ijen. For your info, Kawah Ijen is in Java Island and not Bali. My advise is that if you’re going to Bali for only a short few days, then it’s better you stay and visit the sights in Bali because going to Java from Bali will waste a lot of your time. If you like hiking like me, then you can try Mount Batur instead. The sunrise there is beautiful too.
February 17, 2014
Thanks Ben! Will look into Mount Batur for sure.
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