IJEN CRATER TREK AND THE BLUE FLAME IN EAST JAVA
Waking up in the middle of the night and trekking up and then inside a crater sound enticing? Add a gas mask and walk into a cloud of sulfur gas while watching blue flames. Enticed yet? You should be. Ijen Crater is one of the most epic adventures in East Java.
In this article, I will share with you all the tips for trekking up Ijen Crater such as the time you should leave, what equipment you need, guide or no guide needed and tips for the best photo spots around the crater.
PREPARING FOR IJEN CRATER
Ijen Crater is an interesting adventure because you have a few different elements. Firstly, you are waking up in the middle of the night to start the adventure so it is cold. Secondly, you are going to be hiking in the dark. Thirdly, you are going to be very close to toxic sulfur gas as you observe the blue flames inside the crater. It isn’t your normal hike and this requires a certain level of preparation but nothing too intense.
You will need:
A gas mask or filtration mask: You can rent this in the parking lot at Ijen Crater. For 40,000 rupiah you can get a mask that covers your mouth and nose with a small filter. It isn’t perfect but it helps a lot. Most people use these and you are only doing near the Sulfur for a short period of time or really as long as you like. There’s no need to go close to it.
A flashlight or headlamp: The trail is pretty simple the whole way and we had a full moon so we only used one light between us. I do suggest at least one torch or headlamp between you and a partner. They also sell things in the Ijen Crater parking lot for about $4
Warm Jacket: It was cold but because we were hiking up I actually had my jacket off most of the way. Waiting for sunrise at the top when we stopped moving was cold but only lasted thirty minutes until it warmed up with the rising sun. It isn’t as cold as Bromo and I found it warmer than I thought.
Enclosed shoes: I had Salomon hiking shoes, which were great and I suggest proper hiking shoes as it can be quite slippery. However, my friends just used normal sneakers. Definitely, don’t do this one in flip-flops!
Water and snacks: There are no vendors once you are on the trail for the most part. I think I noticed one shop but I’m not sure it was open. Pack your snacks and water. We were there for a long time taking photos and videos so we packed a bit extra. There are Warungs and cafes near the parking lot for when you exit Ijen Crater.
ENTRANCE FEE TO IJEN CRATER
The entrance fee for foreigners was 150,000 rupiah, which is about $10 USD. For locals and all Indonesians, the fee was only about $1 USD. The team is constantly upgrading the path and adding infrastructure so this fee is quite low considering the popularity of the attraction.
DO YOU NEED A GUIDE
To answer this question you first have to consider your level of experience and what you are willing to figure out on your own. We didn’t have a guide but a local friend helped show us the way. The entrance fee is only $10 USD without a guide. The reality is that there is a path the whole way and then you can just follow the crowd. There are lots of other tour groups so it is impossible to get lost. Hundreds of people go every morning and the trail is straightforward.
The only part that required any know-how was walking down to the blue flame. I saw many tourists holding onto their guides as they went down the steps. They were scared, in the dark and out of their comfort zone. This a great time to have a guide.
For us, we were not scared walking down the rocky trail in the dark with our torch. It was just a normal experience for us. So I think if you have done a few trails, hikes and night hikes in the past, I would suggest no guide. Only pay for a guide if you want a group tour, a bit of extra safety and guidance or you think they will provide you with good information. That would depend on their English level or other language depending on what you speak.
Conclusion: Not necessary but if you are inexperienced or nervous it would be helpful and safer.
WHAT TIME TO BEGIN THE IJEN CRATER HIKE
There are a few main things to do consider. Do you want to go down to see the blue flame up close (and inhale sulfur!) and do you want to be at the sunrise point early to prepare or right on time for the sunrise.
We began at midnight from Banyuwangi Town, which is where most people stay. The drive was simple and took an hour. We parked the car, rented our masks, used the toilet facilities on site, finalized our gear and I believe we were on the trail walking by 1:30 am. The sunrise was scheduled for 5:10 am.
We reached the crater within about an hour and then spent about 45 minutes going up and down to reach the blue flame. It was then about 3:30 am. We then made the final trek to the sunrise spot, which took about half an hour. We then had to wait only half an hour at the summit (a bit cold but not freezing) for the colors to start to come through. For us as photographers that was perfect because we prefer to be thirty minutes early than thirty minutes late.
IJEN CRATER HIKE EXPERIENCE
The trail begins with a sandy incline in the dark at around 1:30 am. Nothing too remarkable happens for the first 45 minutes as you trudge your way up the hill, sweating heavily. With fifteen minutes left before reaching the crater, you begin to realize how high you are. I turned around and saw we were above the clouds as Mt. Rante poked above the cloud line in the distance.
THE BLUE FLAME
We reached the tip of the crater edge after about an hour of pretty mild climbing and saw there was already quite a crowd. They were all headed down to the blue flame, which occurs near the huge cloud of sulfur gas pouring out of the pipes. Sulfur mining has been underway at Ijen Crater since 1968. The combustion of the sulfuric gases creates a blue glow, which has become famous as the ‘blue lame of Ijen Crater’. I’m sorry but I didn’t fancy coughing on sulfur for 20 minutes to shoot a long exposure of the blue flame. To be honest it is something best enjoyed with the eye.. for 2 minutes then get the hell out!
Mining companies have installed ceramic pipes on an active gas vent, which speed up the natural processes. The pipes channel the gas down the mountain, condensing it into liquid sulfur, which drips and solidifies into the sulfur collected by the miners. The miners then have to hit the sulfur with iron bars to break it up, pack it into the reed baskets and carry up to 150 pounds back to the crater rim and then down to the bottom of the trail. Miners make anywhere from $5 -$7 per load. Most miners are reportedly making 1-2 loads per day.
The sulfur cloud is toxic and you will need to wear your filtration mask. I found that I was still breathing in some sulfur and pressed the mask tighter. It helped but it still wasn’t perfect. You are warned before about this and if you have breathing problems or are asthmatic definitely DO NOT go down into the crater. You can get a good look at the blue flame from a distance and there is no need to push the limit and risk your health to get right up close and personal in the flumes of gas.
The wind will often change direction rapidly and blow all of the gas right into your face, engulfing you for up to a minute in the foul sulfur gas. Don’t stay down here too long. Enjoy the phenomenon and then get the hell out.
IJEN CRATER SUNRISE
After the blue flame expedition, you head on further up and around the crater rim to the ‘sunrise spot’. It is an interesting spot because a huge mountain actually blocks most of the sunrise. There are some brick bunkers and structures to shelter in as you wait. This is where most of the crowd will be or back at the blue flame area. Many don’t continue on further than the blue flame as you can actually enjoy the sunrise from anywhere around the crater so for most people that is enough walking for one day!
We decided that we would get away from the crowd and headed further around the rim to an epic knife-edge section that is very dangerous. It was here that we really enjoyed the epic nature and grand scale of Ijen Crater. With no-one else around, huge drop-offs and the ever-changing gas clouds billowing out from the pipes, we felt in a land far, far away.
We stayed up here for hours and finally made it back down as the last ones to leave Ijen crater at 11 am after being up there for 10 hours! It’s just a great place to explore and we wanted to enjoy our moments and hope you do to!
IJEN CRATER ALTERNATE VIEWPOINTS
You can access almost every single section around Ijen if you are keen to do so. We made it to the knife-edge ridgeline and covered almost 2/3 of the rim. However, you can cover the other 1/3 near the gas cloud by taking a left turn before the blue flame. There is a path here and we saw several people over there.
There is one popular viewpoint with a little walk-way. It is very popular quite safe for epic photos. This viewpoint is in between the blue flame area and the sunrise summit viewpoint.
WHERE IS IJEN CRATER
As you can see from the pinned location on the map below, Ijen Crater is in the far east of Java. In fact, it is so close to eastern neighbor Bali, that many people use Bali as a base for the Ijen Crater tour. However, most people base themselves in Banyuwangi town and then drive one hour to Ijen Crater in the early hours of the morning. This way you can still get a few good hours of sleep before the adventure, which is very important.
ADVENTURE BAG FROM IJEN CRATER HIKE
This is an adventure bag. It is full of trash. Every time I go on an adventure I collect one adventure bag full of trash. It’s my small way of saying thanks to mother nature for allowing me to enjoy her beautiful creations. If we have time to go on an adventure we have time to collect an adventure bag on the way back out of the trail once we have enjoyed the waterfall, the hike or the beach. Adventure hard!
Tag your @adventurebagcrew on Instagram and mention @adventurebagcrew in your Instagram stories to be featured and inspire your friends, family, and followers to join the movement!