Ijen Crater, located in East Java, Indonesia, is renowned for its stunning turquoise sulfur lake and the mesmerizing blue flames that dance around its edges at night. This natural wonder offers an unforgettable experience for adventure seekers and nature lovers. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to plan the perfect trip to the most acidic lake in the world, including hiking tips, safety advice, and the best times to visit.

Getting to Ijen Crater

✈️ By air: the nearest major airport to Ijen Crater is Juanda International Airport (SUB) in Surabaya. From Surabaya, you can take a domestic flight to Banyuwangi Airport (BWX), which is closer to Ijen. From Banyuwangi, it’s about a 2-hour drive to the starting point of the hike.

🚗 By land: if you prefer traveling by land, you can take a bus or train from Surabaya to Banyuwangi. The journey takes approximately 6-7 hours by train and around 7-8 hours by bus. Once in Banyuwangi, you can hire a car or join a tour to reach the base of Ijen Crater. There are also tours who starts from Malang.

When to Visit ☀️

The best time to visit Ijen Crater is during the dry season, from April to October. The weather is more predictable, and the trails are less slippery. However, this is also the peak tourist season, so expect more crowds. If you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting from March and November. We went in May and had a good weather and not so many people.

What to Bring 🚨

  1. Proper Footwear: Sturdy hiking boots with good grip are essential as the trails can be steep and slippery.
  2. Warm Clothing: The temperature can drop significantly, especially during the night hike. Layered clothing is recommended.
  3. Headlamp or Flashlight: If you plan to see the blue flames, you’ll start your hike in the dark.
  4. Gas Mask: The sulfur fumes can be overwhelming. You can rent a gas mask at the base of the hike if you don’t hire a guide.
  5. Water and Snacks: There are no facilities on the trail, so bring enough water and energy-boosting snacks.
Gas mask
Guide or not guide?

If you are an experienced hiker with good skills and familiarity with volcanic environments, you might feel comfortable tackling the hike on your own. If not, we recommend you to hire a guide for different reasons :

  • Safety: a guide can help you navigate the terrain safely, especially the descent into the crater.
  • Local knowledge: our guide used to be a sulfate miner and took us to places only a local could knew.
  • The blue flames: a key attraction, are best viewed at night or early morning. A guide can ensure you reach the viewing point at the optimal time and help you manage the difficult, dark descent.
  • Logistics: he can handle the logistics of the trip, including transportation from your accommodation to the trailhead and back.

We decided to take a guide and we can only recommend Indo Travel Team. Our guide was amazing, sharing his firsthand knowledge and incredible stories from his days as a miner, which added a unique and deeply insightful perspective to our adventure.

The Route

The hike to Ijen Crater starts from the Paltuding base camp. The trail is approximately 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) long and can be divided into three sections:

  • Climbing to the Crater Rim: This 2-kilometer (1.24-mile) section is a steady uphill climb. The path is well-marked but can be challenging due to the steep incline.
  • Crater Rim to the Blue Flames: To see the blue flames, you’ll need to descend into the crater. This section is more difficult and can be dangerous due to loose rocks and strong sulfur fumes. It’s essential to wear a gas mask and be careful.
  • Summit of Mount Ijen: For those looking for a more challenging hike, continuing to the summit of Mount Ijen offers an even higher view. From here, you can see not only the crater but also the surrounding landscape, including other volcanoes in the distance.
Experiencing the Blue Flames

Those are a unique phenomenon caused by sulfuric gases igniting as they escape from cracks in the volcano. To witness this magical sight, you’ll need to start your hike around midnight. The flames are only visible in the dark and typically last until just before dawn. It will also give you enough time to descend the crater, see the blue flames, climbing up and continue to the summit.

Sulfur Miners

One of the most striking and poignant aspects of visiting Ijen Crater is witnessing the sulfur miners at work. Often called « penambang belerang » in Indonesian, they engage in one of the most grueling and dangerous occupations in the world.

The miners extract solidified sulfur from vents inside the crater where volcanic gases escape. The gases are channeled through a network of ceramic pipes, where they cool and condense into bright yellow sulfur. Using simple tools like metal rods and shovels, miners break up the solid sulfur and load it into baskets. Each load can weigh between 70 to 90 kilograms. Once the baskets are filled, the miners carry them up the steep, rocky path from the crater floor to the rim, and then down the mountain to a weighing station. This trek can take several hours and is repeated multiple times a day.

Despite the harsh conditions, many miners continue this work due to limited economic opportunities in the region. The income from sulfur mining, although meager, is a crucial source of livelihood for their families.

You can support the miners by purchasing souvenirs made from sulfur or tipping them for photographs. While this can provide some additional income, it’s important to do so respectfully. Witnessing the sulfur miners at Ijen Crater offers a powerful and humbling insight into human endurance and the harsh realities faced by these workers.

Photography Tips
  • Use a tripod: For clear night shots of the blue flames, a tripod is essential.
  • Capture the sunrise from the summit: After witnessing the blue flames, stay to watch the sunrise. The changing colors of the sky and the sulfur lake make for breathtaking photos.
  • Wide-angle lens: It will help you capture the vastness of the crater and its surroundings.

Visiting Ijen Crater is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that offers a mix of adventure, natural beauty, and unique phenomena. After quite an effort, you’ll be rewarded with unforgettable memories and stunning views. Follow this guide to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip to one of Indonesia’s most iconic destinations. Happy hiking!

Bon voyage !!! J&T