Mesmerizing blue flames, bubbling milky turquoise coloured waters and toxic fumes, These are things you will find at Kawah Ijen volcano! Mount Ijen volcano is one of the most unique and unconventional tourist attractions in Indonesia which makes it an incredible adventure for those seeking an experience beyond lazing on the beach in Bali.
Apart from the fact that Kawah Ijen is the largest highly acidic volcanic lake in the world, Why is Ijen so unique?
Well, it hosts one of the only places in the world to see natural blue fire flames! Ijen blue fire draws crowds of thousands at the chance to see this natural phenomenon in freezing temperatures before the crack of dawn.
Want to learn a bit more about this monumental and absolutely exquisite natural wonder in East Java? This Ijen Crater guide provides you with all the resources you need to plan and prep for this incredible adventure in Indonesia.
As always, skip to what you need to know in the Ijen Volcano Table of Contents, because I’m always going to start with the juicy bits, first and logistics second!
TRAVELIST FYI: Ijen is often referred to in a number of ways, Kawah Ijen, Ijen crater, Ijen volcano, lake Ijen, Mount Ijen, Ijen plateau – these are all referring to the same destination.
Making your way to and up Mount Ijen
Beginning your ascent at around 2 am in the morning is all fine and well when you’re rested with an 8-hour sleep behind you, this was not the case for me – I was totally out of my comfort zone.
I was living in tropical Indonesia which meant the extent of my ‘winter’ clothes was a thin jacket and a pair of long exercise tights. Thank goodness I still had my beanie and gloves from the trip to Mount Bromo (we were doing the Mount Bromo Ijen crater tour – 3 days), but I was really battling the cold and lack of sleep when we began.
Why 2 am? Well this is the time you need to leave if you want to see the blue fire Kawah Ijen has to offer!
Is the Kawah Ijen blue fire worth walking up at this ungodly hour for? Well let’s get there first and see…
Myself as an average gym-goer stopped a few times to catch my breath (important to remember this is normal as the air gets thinner when climbing altitude; Mt. Ijen is 2386m above sea level), but the great thing about trekking uphill is that it gets the blood pumping and within the first 10 minutes I was warm!
I was gradually starting to pull off a few clothing layers.
Love East Java Volcanoes?
READ: Mount Bromo Volcano Sunrise hike + 6 reasons you have to visit
INTERESTING OBSERVATION: Another strange thing you’ll encounter on your journey up to crater Ijen is the secondary option of making your way up the hill. There are men with carts that you can pay to pull you up the hill (and when I say pull– I MEAN PHYSICALLY PULL). There are no motorized bikes attached to the cart or animals etc, this is a man or men who will with their own strength pull you up this hill whilst you lay comfortably in a cart.
I have perplexing views on this option. As cruel as it may seem to the average onlooker, one must understand that for these locals, this is a form of income and as labour-intensive as it is, the price tag is inline with the effort. The price of the cart pull can be anything between IDR 600 000 to 1 million (check your exchange rates with XE Currency). We did not take this option but it’s available.
At the halfway mark, there is a little pit-stop shop selling some warm drinks and snack meals. We along with our guide had a little sit down there before we continued to ascend to the blue fire Ijen promised.
Ijen Blue Fire Viewing
Once you reach the summit point of Kawah Ijen, approximately 2386m above sea level, before sunrise you may get the chance to see the Ijen blue flames.
The reason why I say may have the chance to see, is because it’s not consistently there, it depends on the gases that day.
On our trip, we were able to see some small electric blue flames, which was VERY COOL, but there have been reports of people seeing flames a couple of metres high which would really be quite incredible to see.
Despite only seeing the small flames at Ijen mountain, it was still something I had never seen in my life and something to tick off the bucket list, so still pretty extraordinary.
Whilst sitting, surrounded by darkness, since you’ve stopped walking, the cold creeps over you and it starts to get pretty uncomfortable.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: What I would’ve done for a small blanket to wrap around me while we watched the flames! Definitely recommended if you’re one who gets cold easily (which I am not) so for those who really get cold- you’ll need one, but more about that in the what to wear section
Reaching Ijen Crater
TRAVELIST FYI: At the time of our visit to Kawah Ijen, we were not allowed down to see the blue fire Ijen crater up close, this was unfortunate as I was really hoping to go down to the edge of the lake and see the sulphur up close even after sunrise.
Despite not being able to venture down to the lake’s edge, the experience was still a good one. After viewing the Ijen blue flame whilst shivering in the darkness, it was time to venture further to find some warmth.
Littered around the crater edge were some dead-looking shrubs but there was also some guides who make made some makeshift little fire pits.
OH MY GOSH, I WAS SAVED!
I sat there literally for as long as I could getting my torso, hands and legs (consequently my tights as well) as close to the warmth-generating saviour.
TRAVELIST TIP: Be sure to check with your tour guide and company before the trip if it is safe to venture down to the Ijen crater lake during your trip
Sunrise: Ijen in full view
Again, I needed to be torn away from the warmth to a cliff which was the Kawah Ijen sunrise viewpoint. Despite, needing to cuddle hard in the dark icy abyss, watching the sunrise creep above the mountains was absolutely stunning.
It was really beautiful but also a HUGE surprise to see what the surroundings really looked like.
We had been upon this crater ledge for the last 3 hours but had pretty much no idea what actually surrounded us.
Looking for a majestic waterfall?
READ: Madakaripura Waterfall – An Indonesian Natural Wonder
I was shocked, just behind us was the most beautiful lake I had ever seen.
The colour of lake Ijen was something that honestly looked like some sort of concoction of magical potion.
The large mass of milky, turquoise, mermaid green-blue was mesmerizing. It was truly unlike anything I had ever seen in my life.
I was just still so shocked that the whole time we had been up there in the darkness, this magical volcanic Kawah Ijen lake had just been sitting there waiting for us to behold once the sun had risen.
I was quite spell bound. You could sit and stare for hours.
On the sides of the Kawah Ijen lake Indonesia, you could also see the burning sulphur and smoke billowing upwards. Luckily for us, the wind direction was actually not blowing towards us, so there was no real need to wear gas masks whilst standing on the crater rim.
The Kawah Ijen crater lake rim was lined with a number of dead trees.
They were beautiful. The burnt wood skeletons all twisted and curled looking like something from a Harry Potter novel, I loved it.
Taking pictures of the trees was far more interesting than taking pictures of myself.
TRAVELIST TIP: Photography can be tricky with the light on Kawah Ijen. Most of the pictures you will get during these hours will be half lit due to the sunrise, regardless of this, if you’re interested in the landscape then that’s all that should matter. If you’ve got mad photo editing skills, then you definitely won’t have a problem, editing the light issues.
Although the sun had risen, I was actually still freezing.
I was really struggling with the cold here for some reason, It felt significantly colder than Mount Bromo or Mount Penanjakan.
I felt very unconformable having to take off gloves to take photos and did not actually want to spend as much time as Id like being up there because I was so cold.
Ijen crater lake has a diameter of approximately 1 km and is about 200 meters deep. The water in the Kawah Ijen acid lake is very warm, about 35℃. You can touch the water, however, its not recommended and prolonged contact with water will cause skin irritation.
The lake has an acidity level of 0.5 (VERY ACIDIC!) The acidic crater lake’s shores and embankments are a natural deposit of sulfur is the home of sulfur mining, which has been mined and extracted by the sulfur miners for the last 700 years.
The colour of the acid lake is caused by the acidity of the water, which is a mixture of hydrochloric and sulfuric acids and other dissolved metals. The colour of the lake is dependent on the volcanic activity below, the lake can change its colour from turquoise to green and even gray on occasions
Under the depths of the lake, there is volcano magma, Thankfully, as the lake is very deep with dense water, magma remains locked at the bottom. When the volcano erupts, lava does not surface, we only experience increased methane gas.
This was truly an adventure that I would’ve never thought of taking if it wasn’t for it being part of a combined tour, I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to see this incredible natural wonder in Indonesia.
Now onto the nitty-gritty details. If you’re looking for how to exactly plan this trip to Kawah Ijen Banyuwangi, below is a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about visiting and planning a trip to Ijen.
Where is Mount Ijen
Ijen Indonesia is located on the border between Banyuwangi Regency and Bondowoso Regency in East Java. The Kawah Ijen tour is often combined with neighbouring attractions in East Java like Mount Bromo and Tumpak Sewu waterfalls. Check out Kawah Ijen Bondowoso on the map here.
Interested in seeing more in East Java?
READ: The Ultimate 7 day East Java Itinerary
Best time to visit Ijen Crater
The best time to do the Ijen tours and avoid the rainy season is between the months of April and October. Indonesia’s rainy season starts in November and lasts till mid-April.
How to get to Mount Ijen
Kawah Ijen has gained popularity in the travelling circles of Indonesia. Ijen is a fairly easily accessible destination from the main city hub of Banyuwangi.
Bali to Ijen
OPTION 1: Getting to Ijen from Bali will involve catching the ferry from the port of Gilimanuk, on the western part of the island. The ferry will take you to the port of Ketapang in Banyuwangi for easy pickup by a tour guide/company.
OPTION 2: Bali also has an airport should you choose to fly from Bali Denpasar (DPS) Ngurah Rai International Airport to Banyuwangi (BWW)-Blimbingsari, however, is not a frequent flight and may only run on certain days.
The Ijen Bali ferry option appears to be popular (and cheaper) for most who are in Bali.
Jakarta to Ijen
If you are in Jakarta, you can fly from Soekarno-Hatta International (CGK) to Banyuwangi International (BWX). Its pretty far to attempt via train or bus, but if you wanted to, you could take a train or bus to Surabaya and follow the options below to get to Ijen.
Surabaya to Ijen
OPTION 1: Surabaya is another main city in Indonesia that has the option to fly from Juanda International (SUB) to Banyuwangi (BWW)-Blimbingsari to be picked up by your tour guide.
OPTION 2: If you’re wanting to do the Surabaya Ijen tour there is also the option to take the train to Banyuwangi. The Kawah Ijen Surabaya 6 hour journey is definitely doable and not too bad depending on which train class you choose.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: The Surabaya Bromo Ijen tour is EXTREMELY popular and highly recommended! The Surabaya Bromo Ijen tour price will vary depending on what your inclusions and exclusions are and can range from 4 million IDR upwards. This is the option we chose for the Bromo Ijen tour from Surabaya.
Banyuwangi to Ijen
The best option is to take an Ijen tour. Banyuwangi is a good base city to stay in with good hotel options and restaurants etc. The Ijen trip is approximately a 1-hour drive.
Kawah Ijen Accommodation
Similarly to Mount Bromo, Mount Ijen does not involve sleeping at a base camp etc. The closest places to stay are Bondowoso and Banyuwangi. These are my top picks of places to stay
Looking for an Banyuwangi Ijen hotel? Check Agoda.com
Ijen View Hotel – Probably the most popular is Ijen View hotel and resort Bondowoso, Hotel Ijen View Resort was the gorgeous location we stayed for our night before summiting Mount Ijen. Ijen View hotel & resort was so great that I was actually disappointed that we only had a few hours there and would’ve loved to stay longer and enjoy their amenities
Ijen Resort and villas Banyuwangi – Possibly the most popular is Ijen resort & villas, Ijen resort Banyuwangi offers incredible mid-range and luxury options for the traveller seeking a bit more than just a bed for the night. Ijen resorts and villas are definitely my Number #1 pick of places to stay in Banyuwangi
Backpacker Kawah Ijen Banyuwangi – Great affordable budget option for backpackers and those just seeking a place to rest their head for a few hours
Ijen Cliff Resort Banyuwangi – This is a stunning hotel with great mountains views and some gorgeous villa options.
Grand Padis Hotel – This is an affordable and comfy hotel in the heart of Bondowoso
Mi Casa Guesthouse Banyuwangi – This is a popular option for travellers, offering a stylish bungalow, friendly owners and a scrumptious breakfast
Kampoeng Jogglo Ijen – Guests visit to take advantage of a wealth of unrivalled services and amenities at this Banyuwangi hotel. Guests can choose from 5 rooms, all of which exude an atmosphere of total peace and tranquillity.
Looking for more Bondowoso hotels near Kawah Ijen Indonesia? Check Agoda.com
Kawah Ijen Weather
How cold is Mount Ijen? Well, Mount Ijen weather in the early morning or before sunrise temperatures can be as low as 8 to 12 °C (46-53 F°). The weather on the Mount Ijen tour in the late morning and afternoon will be around 22 to 25 °C (71 to 77 °F).
Check out the Kawah Ijen weather forecast for your travel dates
Climbing Ijen Difficulty
Climbing Ijen mountain itself to the crater rim is not technically difficult in the sense of needing to physically climb. The Mount Ijen Java path is completely paved and walkable, the difficult aspect comes in with the incline itself. It is steep!
You fail to realize the steepness though since you are walking in the dark (thankfully), but returning after sunrise descending you’ll definitely need to watch your footing on your way down. There is however a second option instead of walking to the top.
If you think the walk will be too steep it’s actually possible to get a lift up and down Kawah Ijen.
As mentioned above local men pull carts up the hill and are willing to pull tourists up the majority of the way in exchange for payment. The cost of being pulled up in one of these carts is generally between IDR 600 000 to 1 million. It is usually one person per cart, but I have seen a mother and children being pulled up.
We did not need the cart option, it is a service offered and these men really should be compensated accordingly if you use their service- its is an incredibly hard work and some of these men are really not young, its amazing to see their strength.
Kawah Ijen Crater Tours
The Mount Ijen Blue fire tour is something that NEEDS to be on your Indonesia trip itinerary! As a result of the growing popularity of this unique destination, there are now a number of tours that can easily help you visit this natural wonder. These are some of my recommendations:
Not seeing the Mount Ijen Blue Flame tour you like?
Ijen Tour Prices
The Ijen crater tour price will depend on whether you are doing this as a single destination or combined with other destinations.
The price for a private tour for Ijen blue fire tour starts from under IDR 1 000 000.
Use XE Currency exchange checker to see what your countries exchange rate is to the Indonesian Rupiah
I strongly recommend seeing Ijen, Java Indonesia and especially East Java as it has some incredible natural beauty so make the most of your trip and combine it with other attractions.
TRAVELIST TIP: There are two types of tours that you’ll find advertised: Private trips and Open trips. A private trip means it will just be yourself or the people of the group you’ve booked with. An Open trip means a combined much of people visiting the destination together. There are pros and cons of both private and open trips. I feel that for me doing an open trip Ijen would’ve not been suitable because we were are to get up to to see Ijen crater blue fire and back down fairly fast and easily and in an open trip, you’d have to go at the pace of the group.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: Our tour Ijen price was IDR 4 million per person. It was 3 days and 2 night and included Mount Bromo, Tumpak Sewu Waterfall and Ijen Crater, Accommodation, drivers, guide and all entrance fees were included. The only exclusions were lunch and dinner. This is an EXTREMELY GOOD DEAL. The Mt Bromo tour Kawah Ijen package was a PRIVATE TOUR from Surabaya. In light of COVID-19 these prices may actually have come down, so you might get a better deal.
There is an Ijen Entrance fee which is IDR 150 000 Indonesian Rupiah, If you are visiting with a tour company, make sure to see this is included in your tour price.
TRAVELIST TIP: Be sure to check your inclusions and exclusions in Ijen tour packages prior to booking. Things like entrance tickets, driver, guides, masks, food etc. may seem mandatory, but if something is not stipulated – ASK!
PERSONAL OPINION: There have been many articles stating how you should never take the first price provided and that locals are out to cheat foreigners and overcharge or even scam you. THIS IS NOT TRUE!
The tours that I have recommended above are reviewed and operated by reputable companies using local guides and drivers.
I STRONGLY RECOMMEND USING A TOUR COMPANY for the reasons that the jobs are given to locals and this is their source of income and you are also contributing to the growing economy of this third world country.
I also believe that the people reporting being scammed and overcharged are not using reputable and reviewed guides and agents. Most local guides, companies and drivers are charging the figures listed above.
If you are getting a deal vastly different from what’s listed above, then perhaps its shady and you should look elsewhere.
Things that are too good to be true, usually aren’t!
What to wear to Mount Ijen
Not sure what to wear? Mount Ijen is cold! So dress warmly, like seriously you need to do warm clothes in layers.
Warm Jacket – something not too heavy (Down jackets are great and easy to fold up and pop back into your backpack)
Long Thin Top – to wear under your jacket to shield you from the chill after the jacket becomes too much
Vest or Thin Activewear Top – to wear under your thin top (You might be questioning whether you need 3 layers – typically I get hot and here 3 layers was not enough for watching the blue flames or sunrise)
Beanie – My ears were freezing, its recommended!
Gloves – my finger tips were going numb, you need these.
Gas Mask/ Buff – unlike Mount Bromo, there’s no volcanic ash or dust thankfully, but depending on the wind direction on the day you visit, your guide should provide you with a gas mask in case there are severe toxic fumes. I suggest keeping a mask/buff in my backpack anyway.
Headlamp or torch: There is no lighting as you head up the path to Kawah Ijen, I would highly recommend having a headlamp or hand held torch. Using your phone is an option but you also will be depleting your battery unless you have 2 phones.
Sports Sneakers or Shoes with a bit of Grip – closed shoes are recommended for the walk up but hiking boots are not essential for the terrain is more or less a paved area, but the steepness is evident when heading back down, so be careful because it can be quite slippery.
A thin blanket: This one might just be for me, but regardless of how much clothes I was wearing, I was still freezing. A small carry blanket would’ve been great for comfort whilst watching the mt ijen blue flames
Light Day Bag or Backpack – for your camera gear, water and to put your layers in after you’ve taken them off.
SIDE NOTE: This is only if you are descending into the crater: Don’t wear silver jewellery – If you have any silver jewellery, make sure to leave it at your accommodation when you climb Ijen. If you don’t, the silver will react with the sulphur and turn black
BEFORE YOU CLIMB: There is no toilet at the top of the crater, so make sure to go before you start your climb. There is a paid toilet facility (it’s a squat toilet and will cost approximately IDR 2 000 Indonesian Rupiah)
Itinerary Kawah Ijen
Your average itinerary has you starting the night before, this is if you want to see the Kawah Ijen Banyuwangi blue fire (I mean who doesn’t right?)
- 23:30: Check out of Hotel (Bondowoso) )/ 1:00: Check out of the hotel (Banyuwangi)
- 00:00: Start to drive to Ijen from the hotel
- 01:45-02:00: Arrive at Paltuding Ijen Permit Post
- 02:00-04:00: Mount Ijen hike: Ijen trekking for approximately 2 hours (depending again on your pace and fitness levels)
- 04:00-07:30: Arrive at peak of Kawah Ijen Java, enjoy the Ijen blue flames tour and wait for sunrise
- 05:30-05:45: Enjoy the Kawah Ijen sunrise
- 06:00: Descend to the bottom of the crater for the Ijen volcano tour (if allowed)
- 07:30: Mount Ijen trekking back down to Paltuding permit post.
- 08:30: Head back to the hotel – Enjoy some warm breakfast and travel home/next destination
Kawah Ijen Volcano Facts
Here are a few cool Kawah Ijen facts in case you were a bit more interested in this incredible natural wonder, Kawah Ijen is an acidic lake created in the crater of the active volcano of Ijen.