Located on the border of Banyuwangi and Bondowoso districts in East Java province, Indonesia is a group of mixed volcanoes called the Ijen volcanic complex. Kawah Ijen Volcano located west of Gunung Merapi mountains, Ijen is famous for its characteristic lake formed from crater with turquoise lake water, about 1km wide at its widest and with high concentration of sulfuric acid. So, what to do and how to get to Kawah Ijen, how to go to Kawah Ijen? Let’s check out our Kawah Ijen travel blog with the fullest Kawah Ijen travel guide for first-timers.
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This is one of the few places in the world where you can first-hand witness the “blue fire”, a magical and rare natural phenomenon. You’ll walk up to the crater and watch the blue flames burn through the night, and then look forward to the sunrise as the sun comes out.
How to get to Kawah Ijen: From Malang City to Banyuwangi (#kawah ijen travel guide)
The starting point of the journey to explore the Kawah Ijen volcano will be Banyuwangi, most tourists to East Java, Indonesia will book a package tour of the tour operator to go to both volcanoes, Bromo and Kawah Ijen. But we chose to go on our own way and join the solo tour in Bromo, then move to Banyuwangi (Kawah Ijen tour joining point). You can refer to our article on how to go to Mount Bromo through this article.
After finishing the trip in Bromo, we went back to the hotel to pack up, check out, order food at Erdys Kitchen – Penanggungan on Grab and book Gojek to Malang Kotalama train station.
The train of KAI line runs at 4:10pm to Banyuwangi Kota 11:29pm. We also bought train tickets in advance, when we arrived at the station, there would be an automatic check-in machine, but the train ticket inspector enthusiastically helped us, and took pictures for us before boarding the train. Taking advantage of the train, we tried to sleep to have the strength to go to Ijen as soon as we got off the train.
- Book train tickets on: https://en.tiket.com/
- Ticket price: IDR 143,500/ 2 people (about $9.59)
Like the Bromo trekking, we also find tour operators on Instagram, talking about information on everything via WhatsApp and book a share tour for IDR 350,000/person (about $23.39). Tour will start from 00:00 to 10:00am, pick up and drop off at your hotel in Banyuwangi.
Information about the tour operator to Kawah Ijen volcano:
- Name of tour house: Visit Bangyuwangi
- Instagram/Website: visitbanyuwangi.id
11:29pm: Train arrived at Banyuwangi Kota station, train is very punctual. At that time, volcano tour driver Kawah Ijen informed us that he would pick us up at 11:45pm at the hotel. In the late night, we had to order 2 phones continuously from Grab via Gojek to be able to find a driver to pick up and take us to the hotel. We quickly did the check-in procedure, put on 2 more layers of clothes to keep warm and asked the receptionist to keep the breakfast when we come back tomorrow at noon (we have the option to have breakfast at this hotel) because we only stayed here for a short time, it was always convenient to have food).
Banyuwangi hotel information
- Address: Q9PG+JFW, Kepatihan, Banyuwangi Sub-District, Banyuwangi Regency, East Java 68411, Indonesia.
- Room price we booked: 442,000 IDR (about $29.54) / 1 night (Including breakfast for 2 people).
Journey to the peak of Kawah Ijen volcano
00:00 – 2:00 am: We got in the car and was taken to the base camp, which is a small shop at the foot of the mountain, we drank hot tea and coffee, sat by the fire to warm up ‘frozen’ hearts with the heat was 11 degrees Celsius.
Here we also met the German uncle and Jakarta’s brother, who was on a business trip, suddenly got excited to go trekking, accompanied by the tour guide on this share trip.
2:30 am: We put on our flashlights, rent gas masks 50,000 IDR/person and start the journey. We had to go fast and early so we could see the “Blue fire” blue flames in the crater of Kawah Ijen.
The distance was about 4km with vertical elbow bends that made our calves stiff, little by little we passed each slope. Unlike the Bromo volcano, to reach the Kawah Ijen volcano requires you to have better physical strength, endurance because you have to climb the crater, until you return to the knee and the right leg is strong to go downhill. Be careful not to injure your knee.
In addition, along the way, there are a lot of carry services that pull people up and down the mountain here, 1 guest when going up the mountain needs 1 person to push and 2 people pull by wrapping ropes on their shoulders, if you don’t go alone, you can consider hiring this service. This job also generates income for the guys here, but I feel very poor for them.
Around 4:30am: We reached the top of the mountain, but to see the “Blue fire”, we had to continue down to the crater where the workers were mining sulfur. The way down to the crater is also not easy because the road is slippery because of many large and sharp rocks, steep cliffs.
When we got to the crater lake, we had to wear gas masks, when the wind passed by, the tour guide always reminded us to sit down, face down, close our eyes to avoid the gas and inhale too much. The strong smell of sulfur makes me feel like I’m suffocating and stinging my eyes, but seeing the blue fire with my own eyes was a worthy thing for this trip.
After admiring the wonder of the blue flames, we continued to move up to watch the sunrise slowly appear amidst the dense fog, and immerse ourselves in the magical jade green of the acid lake located nestled in the mouth of the mountain.
Right now when I write about my last trip, I still can’t forget the image of that turquoise color that gradually appeared when the sun came out. We enjoyed a masterpiece of nature given to this place.
8:00am: We started down the mountain, now it’s starting to become clear about the way through the mountains we climbed during the night, can’t believe we were able to go through them.
10:00am: We finished the trip and were dropped off back to the hotel.
12:00am: Check out and continue the journey to Ubud (Bali). See you all in your trip to Bali in the next few days.
About the mysterious blue flame “Blue fire”
Often mistaken for lava, but it is actually burned sulfur gas escaping from crevices in the crater with a temperature of up to 600 degrees Celsius, when exposed to air, the gas will evaporate, burns and emits blue flames. The flames are like dancing blue waters that are breathtaking and exciting in the dark and can only be seen at night when there is no sunlight. Currently, the Kawah Ijen volcano is recorded as one of the few areas with the most sulfur fires in the world.
About the hardworking sulfur miners
One thing to note is that you should stay out of the way when you meet the miners carrying sulfur going up and down so as not to affect their hard work. Each miner has to carry an average of nearly 80kg of sulfur to the foot of the mountain, depending on health and weather every day, they will sell it to a factory at the foot of the mountain for industrial uses such as manufactures batteries, detergents, matches, gunpowder and fertilizers… with the price for 1kg of sulfur only about IDR 330, about $0.022. Each day they will work about 12 hours and take from 2 to 3 trips.
Miners harvested sulfur manually, they used sharp sticks and hammers to smash the cooled sulfur blocks into large pieces, put them in two baskets, hook them to a pole, and carry them over the rim of the crater, then bring them gradually to the factory at the foot of the mountain.
The miners had to work in a very dangerous environment, without protective gear, only wrapping towels around their heads and faces to prevent sulfur gas from getting into their faces and eyes. The steps on flip-flops really make us feel sad.
Our tour guide also shared that he had done this job before, but it affected his health a lot, the salary for selling sulfur was not enough for his family life, so he learned English while carrying sulfur together with friends along the way for a long time to be able to lead tours for guests like now.
The Kawah Ijen Volcano Exploration not only brought us surprises and delights of nature, but it also gave us positive perspectives. I think, in life, every job is very precious, let’s be strong and work hard because maybe we are luckier and happier than many people.
Text, information and some photos are credited to Duong Tran!
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Kawah Ijen you can refer to
- Ijen Blue Fire Hiking Tour from Bali
- Ijen Crater Hiking Experience from Surabaya, Malang, or Banyuwangi
- Ijen Blue Fire and Jagir Waterfall Private Tour
- Ijen Crater Hiking Experience with Breakfast at the Dialoog Banyuwangi
- Ijen Crater Adventure with Local Homestay Experience
- Ijen Crater Sunrise Tour
Read more Bromo trekking guide here.