Located in the Ring of Fire and between active tectonic plates, Indonesia is home to over 100 volcanos and more than half of them are still active today. Amongst these 100, one of the active volcanos stands out to most travellers – Mt Ijen. This post will share everything you want to know when hiking Mt Ijen volcano.
About the hike
The hike is breathtaking as you get to see two “out of the world” things – the blue flames and the largest acidic lake in the world.
The blue flames are formed when sulphuric gases that seep through the cracks at high pressure come in contact with air. The gases then combust into these blue-coloured flames.
To see the blue flame, you have to see it when the sky is still dark. Most of the hikers will set off at 2 am, because the hike up Mt Ijen, followed by the path down the crater is not an easy one.
After seeing the blue flames, the sun will start to rise and will unveil the view of Mt Ijen’s beautiful turquoise acidic lake. The sunrise view of the crater is definitely breathtaking!If you are convinced to add Mt Ijen to your bucket list, the rest of the article will be useful to help you plan your Mt Ijen adventure.
Getting to Mt Ijen
Mt Ijen is located at the far end of East Java. If you are travelling from Surabaya, it is about a 7-hour drive. Alternatively, you can take the ferry from Bali to Ketapang Ferry Port followed by a 1.5-hour drive. Hence, a popular route for many tourists is to travel by plane to Surabaya city, cover Mt Bromo, followed by Mt Ijen, before taking the ferry ride to Bali.
As the hike down to the blue flames is challenging, it is required to be accompanied by a local guide.
What to Weat for Hiking Mt Ijen
Contrary to the hot and humid weather you find in Indonesia, the temperature before sunrise temperature can be as cold as 5°C. The tricky thing is that after sunrise, the weather goes up to 22°C.
When packing your outfit, the key is to pack layers. At the start of the hike, because of the steep incline, many hikers took off their layers. However, at the summit, the wind is very strong, and the hikers put on their full gear.
As for shoes, we recommend getting one with a strong grip. As the descent had many loose rocks and sand, we saw many hikers slipping.
What To bring for the hike
Before the hike, the guide will pass you a gas mask to wear near the blue flame. For our hike, we were given one headlamp to be shared by two persons. Hence, we recommend that you bring along your own headlamp as hiking in the dark can be daunting to some.
As you can still smell the sulphuric gases through the gas mask, it would trigger your nose to run. A packet of tissue will definitely come in handy.
What to expect on the hike?
Depending on the tour you sign up for, the guide will pick you up from your hotel. We stayed at Ijen View Hotel, which is a 1.5-hour drive from Mt Ijen meet-up point. We set off from the hotel at midnight and arrived at the meet-up point at 1.30 am. Many visitors grabbed a quick bite and used the toilet at the meet-up point.
We were given a gas mask each and a torchlight to share between the two of us. The hike started at 2.10 am.
The first part of the hike was a one-way non-stop incline. After you reach the top, that is where the real difficulty of the hike begins. In the dark, the guide will bring you down to the crater via a path filled with loose rocks. Our guide was very helpful, and he assisted us step by step to ensure that we got down to the crater safely.
When you are close to the bottom of the crater, you would start to smell the sulphuric gases. The guide will prompt you to wear the gas mask.
At the blue flames, depending on the wind direction, you may be engulfed by the sulphuric gas momentarily. At these moments it would be difficult to breathe. The guide will bring you away from the gas, so do stay calm. When you panic, you will run out of breath quicker than you think. Rest assured, all this is worth it because the blue flames are stunning!
Once you are done with the pictures, you go back up to the Mt Ijen peak via the same path down. As the descent is more dangerous than the ascent, the guide gave priority to those descending. We had to patiently wait for our turn to ascent.
At the top of Mt Ijen is where you get an unblocked view of the entire acidic lake. Find your spot with one of the trees to take your Instagram-worthy shots!
After the sunrises, the guide will lead you back on the same path down Mt Ijen. The path is filled with loose soil, so many hikers slip along the way. That’s why we highly recommend a good pair of shoes for this hike!
In total, we hiked a total of 11km, up an elevation of 632m and returned to the Mt Ijen meet-up point at 7.30 am.
Alternative path up Mt Ijen
If the incline is too much for you, we saw some visitors ride the “taxi” trolley up and down Mt Ijen.
Depending on the season, it can cost about 1 million IDR/ SGD$85 (negotiable), for the local guides to pull you up and down the mountain on a 3-wheel cart. Do note that the “taxi” will not bring you down the crater to see the blue flames.
It will only bring you up to the top of Mt Ijen where you get to see the lake.
When we were there, there were a few tourists who took up this service. We found that many more people took the “taxi” for the way down as they might have been too exhausted after the hike up!
FAQ’s on Hiking Mt Ijen Volcano in Indonesia
Do I need a guide for the Mt. Ijen hike?
Yes, it is required to be accompanied by a local guide, especially for the challenging hike down to see the blue flames. Guides also provide necessary equipment such as gas masks.
When is the best time to see the blue flames on Mt. Ijen?
To witness the blue flames, you should start your hike when the sky is still dark, usually around 2 am. This timing allows you to experience the surreal blue flames before the sunrise.
How to Get to Mt Ijen?
Mt. Ijen is located in East Java. If you are traveling from Surabaya, it’s about a 7-hour drive. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Bali to Ketapang Ferry Port followed by a 1.5-hour drive. Many tourists choose to fly to Surabaya, visit Mt. Bromo, then continue to Mt. Ijen before taking the ferry to Bali.
Final verdict of Mt Ijen
We went on a 4D3N trip to Surabaya, and the sunrise hike up Mt Ijen was the most adventurous and memorable thing we did. If you are okay with hiking on loose soil and breathing in some sulphuric gases, then nothing can stop you from seeing the most epic blue flames and crater view!