An East Java highlight, the Ijen Crater (Kawah Ijen) towers above the Ijen Plateau. A highly acidic crater lake yields sulfur for local miners, while burning gases emit an eerie blue glow at night. Views of Java’s most perfect volcanoes, including Mount Merapi and Mount Raung, make the summit worth bagging.
Visitors usually climb Iljen Crater, set between Banyuwangi and Bondowoso, before dawn to see the celebrated Ijen blue fire ("blueflame"). The straightforward route eliminates the need for guides, although transport is problematic. Tickets for foreigners cost up to 10 times the price of tickets for Indonesian nationals.
Ijen tours from Bali typically include a night spent in transit, in order to wake up for the summit climb. Ijen tours coming from within Java may include accommodation near the Ijen Crater or the Ijen Plateau. Unless you have your own wheels, an organized tour to Ijen volcano is generally the easiest option. Some Java tour packages include a Bromo tour, and one or more of Malang, Surabaya, and Yogyakarta.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Fumes from the lake can be highly irritating to eyes, nose, and throat—even worse when they’re absorbed into mist. The ranger station sells masks, but they’re of dubious effectiveness.
- Besides the blue fire of Ijen Crater, the cool, coffee-growing landscapes of the Ijen Plateau are a highlight for many travelers.
- Between the early start and the toxic gases, this is not a tour for families with small children.
How to Get There
You’ll need your own transport, a private driver, or an organized tour to reach Ijen Crater. The nearest town is Banyuwangi, which is also the arrival point for ferries from north Bali’s Gilimanuk port. Coming from East and Central Java, your jump-off point is the town of Bondowoso, on the other side of the Ijen Plateau. Given the complexities, most opt to reach Mount Ijen with a tour package.
When to Get There
Climbers typically set out around 4am during the dry season (roughly March to October) and as early as 1am during the rainy season (roughly November to March). Be aware that the crater is occasionally closed due to toxic gases.
The Sulfur Miners of Ijen
As you hike the path to Ijen Crater, you’ll meet sulfur miners coming down, heavily laden with yellow slabs of pure sulfur. They do a grueling and dangerous job, condensing sulfur from clouds of poisonous gas, for very, very little money. Consider buying their little carvings as you return from your Ijen Crater tour.