Well, it’s not my first time to Mount Ijen (Gunung Ijen) or Ijen Crater (Kawah Ijen). Been here few times before and I’m glad to live in a country with the most active volcanoes in the world.
Mount Ijen is home to the world’s largest acidic crater lake, the site of a dangerous sulfur mining operation and of course, it radiates the natural phenomenon known as the electric blue flames!
After 7-hour journey from Malang to Banyuwangi in East Java, we arrived to the base camp at 2am the following morning. When we stepped outside the car we were slapped by the unwelcoming freezing cold temperature. The temperature is being about 10 C and said to be even colder at the top. I grabbed extra clothes and began my 3 km hike to the top of Kawah Ijen.
As we climbed through the night, the full moon and the star-filled sky lit the way. As fascinating as that would have been to see, we were content with the current beauty of the sky. It made the hike up to the top much less strenuous and that much more magical.
After an hour and a half of trekking in the night, we finally made it to the top. It was time to put on our gas masks and await the natural phenomenon known as blue fire. Due to mother nature’s unpredictability and the high levels of methane gas being released from the lake, we weren’t allowed to get up close and personal with the blue flames or the turquoise-green acidic lake. We had to admire them from afar.
To be honest, it was the beauty of Mount Ijen and its surroundings that took our breath away. As the morning sun began to rise and the night sky drifted away, Mount Ijen’s true beauty began to reveal itself. The volcanoes surrounding Ijen and the fluffy clouds made the perfect backdrop. This is truly something you have to experience to believe.
After spending over two hours basking in Mount Ijen’s beauty, we decided it was time to head back. As we trekked back, we saw sulfur miners carrying bamboo baskets filled with sulfur on their shoulders. The hike down to the base camp wasn’t bad, just make sure you don’t have crappy knees, it will painful for you lol.
Best time to hike Mount Ijen
The best time to hike Mount Ijen is between May and October, with the best month being June and July. If you can, try avoiding weekends and holidays as it will be even more touristy.
Hiking difficulty: Moderate
Climbing Kawah Ijen isn’t an easy hike nor is it a super difficult one. However, some level of fitness is required. The hardest part of the climb is the first hour as the path, which is wide with practically no rocks, snakes up steep slopes. The last 20-30 minutes to the top are the easiest, as the path flattens for a fairly smooth trek. From there, the trek to the caldera, which is another 30-45 minutes, can be a bit strenuous as the path is steep, rocky and slippery.
What you need to climb
• Proper hiking shoes
• A gas mask
• A headlamp or flashlight
• Warm clothes and jacket
• Water and light snacks or chocolate (always Silver Queen for me)
• Gloves and hat (if you can handle 10 celcius or below)
• Your favorite camera
• A guide (though one is not required, I highly recommend it. Mount Ijen may not be something you want to tackle on your own.)
Tips for Hiking Mount Ijen
• As you start to sweat during your climb, remove layers so once you are at the top you won’t freeze to death due to your clothes being wet.
• Don’t forget to stop once in awhile to gaze at the star-filled sky, it’s breathtaking!
• If you want to see the blue flames, get to the crater around 4 or 4:30am, at the latest. After sunrise, the flames disappear.
• Use the bathroom before the hike starts, as there will be no “proper toilet” to relieve yourself on the volcano.
• Leave the jewelry and fancy clothes at home if you don’t want to ruin them.
• Three layers of clothes is a great idea because it can be as cold as 5 C at the top, especially in July.
• Take your time climbing, there is no rush! Pace yourself and enjoy the hike without pushing your limits.
• Before the hike, forget all your expectations and just allow yourself to truly experience Mount Ijen and be amazed.
Here’s some pictures during my trip to Mount Ijen, third week of May 2019.