Ijen Crater, East Java : Volcano, Acid Lake and Blue Flames

Ijen Crater, or known to Indonesians as Kawah Ijen, is one of the top recommended volcano in Indonesia to be visited. This active crater of 134 sq km has a landscape of volcanic cones of both Mount Ijen and Mount Merapi (not to be confused with the famous Mount Merapi in Central Java).

This group of stratovolcanoes lies in East Java. Inside the crater, you will see a magnificent turquoise sulphur lake that exudes flames, blue fire at night and smoky white in the day.

Here you will also find many sulphur collectors that hike up here to mine the minerals of Kawah Ijen but this had been highlighted badly recently in the media due to the fumes being harmful to human and its extremely harsh working conditions.

Map of Ijen Crater, East Java Indonesia

Map of Ijen Crater, East Java

Where is it

Ijen Crater lies nearby Banyuwangi and Bondowoso. Ijen plateau stood as the centre point of the large mountain range west of Banyuwangi and as part of Baluran National Park to the north.

Why go

Come to Ijen Crater for the largest acidic lake in the world and for the mesmerizing blue flames in the night. Besides, it is one of the best volcanic mountains of Indonesia with this one brimming with the rare sulphurs.

Besides it is less touristy and crowded than it’s sister Mount Bromo.

Acid Lake at Ijen Crater, Java Indonesia

Acid Lake at Ijen Crater, Java

When is the best time to go

June – August where there is less rain but more tourist
But that being said, Indonesia being a fairly mild weather of just rain and shine, most of the time is a good to go to Ijen Crater, just check for local weather as you head there.
Also try to avoid weekends if you do not want the crowd.

Workers carrying sulphurs at Ijen Crater

Workers carrying sulphurs at Ijen Crater

What to see

World’s largest acidic lake, which is in the brilliant turquoise color that captures not only the sunlight but every traveler’s heart.

Catch the miners hard at work, carrying a heavily laden basket of sulphur though you may be disturbed by it and feel sorry for them. Note in mind that the sulphur fumes are poisonous and these miners are subjected to it daily for extended hard-laboured hours.

There are coffee plantations cover the Ijen caldera floor where many travelers head there to visit the waterfalls, hot springs or just enjoy the dramatic volcanic scenery.

Sulphur fumes over Acid Lakes at Ijen Crater

Sulphur fumes over Acid Lake at Ijen Crater

What to do

Hiking up to Ijen Crater at night
There are few options for visiting Ijen crater, you can either start at 2 am or 4 am to arrive at the top of the crater by daylight. Many travelers recommend to do the night hiking up to Ijen Crater to catch the magical blue flames or also known as blue fire. To get this, you have to arrive at the top before sunrise of 6 am. The hike up takes 1.5-2 hours averagely and can be quite steep The good thing is at this time there are not many other tourists around as well. After being mesmerized by the blue flames enough, you can sit back at the summit and wait for sunrise which offers another spectacular view.

Walk around the Ijen crater rim
You can take a walk around the rim of Ijen crater or approach the lake which will take about 40 minutes walk.

Walk the crater rim of Ijen Crater

Walk the crater rim of Ijen Crater

Where to stay

Most travelers will choose to stay at Banyuwangi *and then head out to Ijen Crater at night or early morning depending on which adventure you choose. You can also choose to stay at the foothills of Ijen mountain range among the coffee plantations.

-> Find the best hotel deals near Ijen Crater *

How to get there

orker at suplhur mining, Ijen Crater

Worker at suplhur mining, Ijen Crater

If you need to fly in, the nearest airport would be Surabaya. From Surabaya airport to Banyuwangi, it would take another 10 hours by bus. You can also take the train from Surabaya to Banyuwangi which will take about 7 hours.

Via Banyuwangi, you can choose from all kinds of vehicles such as 4WD (costs 55,000 Rp) or motorbike or car to get to the starting point of the hike up to Ijen Crater.

You can also get to Ijen Crater via Bondowoso from either the northern or southern coast. This way is closer but much steeper and in bad condition, therefore, 4WD is essential here though costly. After that, most travelers will walk the last 8 km along the road to Pos Paltuding which is the starting point of the trek to Ijen Crater. The Ijen Crater’s lake is around another 90 minutes hike from here.

How to get around

You can get around in most preferred choice a 4WD and for more budget if via Banyuwangi you may take the motorbike or car. After that it is all on foot to hike up Mount Ijen to get to the crater and to walk around the crater rim.

Blue Flames (Fire) at Ijen Crater

Blue Flames (Fire) at Ijen Crater

Where to go nearby

Mount Bromo which is another volcano, about 6 hours away. Many travelers go there to catch the sunrise over Mount Bromo, which is a scene that promises to take your breath away.

From Banyuwangi, take a ferry onwards to Bali, a common popular route travelers take through Java to get to Bali.

Travel Tips

Remember to bring a mask to cover your nose as the pungent odour of sulphur may burn.
Also bring warm jacket as the trek at night is cold and temperature may drop to 5C.
Lastly, and insider tip says to climb to the right (anticlockwise) at the crater rim as the view from that side of the sulphur lake and entire area is spectacular.

Sulphur fumes at Ijen Crater

Sulphur fumes at Ijen Crater

Photo credits from top: Burmesedays, Richard Liblanc, Paul Hessels, Daniel Julie, Daniel Julie, Nate Robert, Dodi Mulyana and Paul Hessels

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Top 10 Best Diving Sites in Indonesia

Indonesia is little known to divers out there that Indonesia is actually one of the world’s best scuba destination even though it has many beautiful diving spots.

Indonesia has one of the longest coastline in the world stretching from the Indian Ocean to the east and Pacific Ocean to the west. Being part of the Coral Triangle of the world, Indonesia has a diverse marine life with 20% of world’s coral reefs. There are over 3000 fish species and 600 coral species to discover, where the dive sites come in diverse types from coral, steep walls, deep water trenches, wrecks and underwater volcanic mountains. To top it off, diving in Indonesia is affordable.

Coral reef and fishes at diving Bunaken, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Coral reef and fishes at Bunaken, Sulawesi. Photo by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten


The best time and weather to dive in Indonesia are during the dry season of April to December. But it is generally alright to dive all year round in Indonesia.

Forming one corner of the ‘Coral Triangle’, the epicenter of world marine biodiversity, and containing 20% of the world’s coral reefs, it will come as no surprise that it boasts the most diverse waters in the world.

Corals at Diving Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Corals at Raja Ampat, Papua. Photo by Lakshmi Sawitri

Raja Ampat

Hawkbill Turtle, Diving, Indonesia

Hawkbill Turtle. Photo by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten

Located just off the northwest tip of Papua (Irian Jaya), it is the most well-known dive site in Indonesia. Diving in Raja Ampat is one of the most talked-about activity in Indonesia travel. It is an archipelago of 1,500 small islands. The marine life diversity here is staggering with 1200 fish species, where a world record of 284 on a single dive in Kofiau Island was noted. Raja Ampat set itself apart from the rest of the world’s dive site. It is even coined the term Frontier Diving, where diving will take you over crystal clear seas, inhabited islands with the horizon stretch out beyond into infinity. If you are lucky and in the season, you can even catch whale sharks while diving!

-> Read our Guide to Diving in Raja Ampat

-> Find the best hotel deals in Raja Ampat at Booking.com *

Togian Islands

Diving in Togian Islands are also among the top activities in Indonesia that many know besides Raja Ampat. Just located North of Sulawesi, Togian Islands are a group of islands boasting secrets to amazing dives. This place is still largely unexploited, invoking feelings of diving in unexplored places. One of the best diving places in Indonesia and maybe even on earth, you will have to explore more than the 3 dive sites among these 56 islands The two top places to stay on this island are Black Marlin Dive Resort * and Kadidiri Paradise *.

-> Read our Guide to Diving in Togian Islands

Whale Shark Diving at Papua Indonesia

Whale Shark Diving at Papua. Photo by Marcel Ekkel

Komodo Islands

Diving at the Komodo islands is also known to many world-class divers. The Komodo National Park’s reserve offers what every tropical diving paradise does – calm and colourful shallow reefs, mountains of marine life from reef fishes to sharks, and deep walls and pinnacles. Komodo Islands is the epicentre of scuba diving for its rich marine life and coral reefs. Besides, on land, it houses the famous Komodo dragon, which is the largest lizard in the world. The place to stay on this island itself is the Komodo Resort *.

-> See our Guide to Komodo Islands National Park

-> Find the best hotel deals near Komodo Islands at Booking.com *

Bunaken Islands

Diving Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia

Diving Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. Photo by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten

One of the top diving sites in Indonesia, Bunaken Island (Pulau Bunaken) is unsurprisingly very popular for divers around the world. The Bunaken Marine Park, located at the north tip of Sulawesi, is not only rich with marine lives, but it is also mesmerizing for its water so clear it is truly transparent. It has an amazing diverse marine life such as 70 different corals, five species of sea turtles, many fish species and even white tip and black tip reef sharks, the almost extinct dugongs, barracuda and even saltwater crocodiles! Bunaken island also features a world-class wall diving.

-> Read our Guide to Diving in Bunaken Islands

Bali Islands

No doubt there are reasons for Bali’s popularity, not only was it one of the best places to surf in Indonesia, but it is also one of the best places to dive here. Many divers find this place with excellent shore-based diving surrounded with a view of magnificent volcanoes and lush rice paddy terraces. Scuba diving in Bali gives you deep drop-offs, steep banks, coral ridges and famous wrecks from the world war, volcanic outcrops and seagrass beds. Choices of dive sites here including Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, Tulamben and Candi Dasa. Divers favourite resorts here are Penida Dive Resort (Nusa Penida), Twin Island Dive (Nusa Lembongan) and Toyabali Dive Resort * (Tulamben).

-> Check out our Bali Travel Guide

Lombok and Gili Islands

Jellyfish at Diving Raja Ampat, Papua Indonesia

Jellyfish at Diving Raja Ampat, Papua. Photo by Lakshmi Sawitri

Just neighbour to the famous Bali, this sister island Lombok keeps its own secrets to spectacular diving with untouched coral reefs and pinnacles. You may even find Hammerhead sharks here and other wild marine life. besides being a peaceful holiday getaway, it features many adventurous dive to balance it with drop-offs, plateaus and slopes among fascinating corals and diverse marine lives. The most popular dive resort around here is the Manta Dive Gili Air Resort *

-> See our Lombok and Gili Islands Guide

Bangka and Belitung Islands

Bangka and Belitung Islands, just off Sumatra, offer over 25 dive sites that promise reef slopes and pinnacles of soft corals and rich marine life. You can also do a drift diving here with a negative entry and also descending pinnacles and giant granite rock formations that are clinging with beautiful corals.

-> Find the best hotel deals in Bangka and Belitung Islands *

Pulau Weh, Sumatra

Diving in Pulau Weh is well known for its rich ecosystem and off the beaten track in oppose to its famous distant sister Bali of Indonesia. A part of this island had been declared as wildlife protection is by the Indonesian government because it is the home to many rare species on land wild the coral reefs are bursting with a large and diverse variety of Indo-Pacific marine life. The remoteness of this Island makes the open Banda Sea all the more fascinating to dive in as the place is still bursting with a vibrant and natural reef system and a large variety of marine life that are not exploited. Seemingly only good dive resort on this island is the aptly named Pulau Weh Dive Resort *

-> Read our Guide to Diving in Pulau Weh

Manta Ray Diving Indonesia

Manta Ray. Photo by prilfish

Wakatobi Islands

Dotted in the Banda Sea, the islands of Wakatobi – Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomea, and Binongki is another Indonesia’s answer to world-class diving. Rich with reefs along with barriers, corals and fishes, this national park is well protected, thus brimming with healthy marine lives. Diving here will also contribute towards the local community and the support for the marine park. Relatively new in the diving scene of Indonesia, the place is still practically untouched.

-> See Guide to Diving Wakatobi, Sulawesi

Diving Komodo Islands, Indonesia

Diving Komodo Islands, Indonesia. Photo by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten

Banda Islands

One of the best-kept secrets of Indonesia, this little-known diving site of Indonesia is bursting with healthy reefs of massive hard corals, sea fans, sponges, and marine wildlife of pelagic and reef fishes. Diving Banda Islands might bring you into critter havens of Ambon and also other undiscovered secrets that only diving exploration can bring.

Recommended tours *:
Indonesia Liveaboard diving tours

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Diving Pulau Weh (Island), Sumatra

Pulau Weh (Weh Island) or sometimes known as Pulo Weh by the locals, is a volcanic island off the coast of northwest Sumatra. The largest city in the island is Sabang. Hence the island is also sometimes known as Pulau Sabang

Pulau Weh had been well known for its ecosystem, diving and considered off the beaten track in oppose to its famous distant sister Bali of Indonesia. A part of this island had been declared as wildlife protection are by the Indonesian government because it is the home to many rare species on land wild the coral reefs are bursting with large and diverse variety of Indo-Pacific marine life.

Pulau Weh, Sabang, Sumatra, Indonesia Map

Pulau Weh, Sabang, Sumatra, Indonesia Map

Where is it

It is located on the Andaman Sea, about 15 km off the northwestern tip of Sumatra. It takes 45 minutes of a fast boat or 2 hours regular boat from Banda Aceh to Pulau Weh.

Why go

Boat at Iboih, Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Boat at Iboih, Pulau Weh. Photo by BenJam

Off the beaten track from Sumatra and one of Indonesia’s beautiful islands, this jungle island house many rare species from the land to the sea.

Also, one of the best diving site in Indonesia with 20 diving spots, though not as well known as the others but many who had dived here agree it is among the top stars.

Visiting this somewhat remote island is also suitable for conscious independent traveling where you can contribute to the locals here yourself and keep to eco-travel.

When is the best time to go

Best time to go to Pulau Weh, Sumatra is during April to November, the dry season of Indonesia tropical climate. This is the time with good weather where you can enjoy more of the sun and sea.

What to see

Not that much to see in Sabang or land, most travelers head to the beaches either Gapang beach or Iboih beach.

Iboih Beach at Pulau Weh, Sabang, Sumatra, Indonesia

Iboih Beach. Photo by hartanto

What to do

Diving of course with up to 20 dive spots around Pulau Weh to choose from and it is known as one of Indonesia’s best diving site!

Here are the top dive spots in/around Pulau Weh:

Arus Balee – with water passage around a rocky pinnacle between islands of Seulako and Rubiah, offering chance of drift diving in strong currents
Batee Meuduro – an hour south of Pulau Weh, worthy to go to for being a top site where you can chance upon several species of shark
Gapang house reef – famous for its dense marine life
Pulau Rubia for a lush coral garden that drops 30 meters.
Batee Tokong – steep and rich with marine life, this 40 meters downwards wall will be sure to delight
Pantee Aneuk – lined with caves, arches, wall and canyongs that many divers love to explore.
Pantee Peunateung – famous for the 70 meters drop off that boasts wild marines like baraccuda.
Sophie Rickmers – for impressive wreck dive, this is a cargo steam ship built back in 1920 in Germany, which sunk at the bay of Pria Laot. Decompression dive is needed here.
Sabang harbour – for shallower wreck dive of a tugboat

Diving Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Diving Pulau Weh. Photo by Eric Beerkens

Where to stay

Stay in the island’s main city Sabang for various choices ranging from hostels to guesthouses and hotels. People tend to either stay at the center of Sabang or along the guesthouses at Iboih beach *.

-> Find the best hotel deals on Pulau Weh at Booking.com *

How to get there

Ferry from Banda Aceh, Sumatra to Sabang, Pulau Weh.

Ferry Banda Aceh to Sabang, Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Ferry Banda Aceh to Sabang. Photo by Franc López

Fast ferry/boat, it will take about 45 minutes at 60000-80000RP. It leaves everyday 9.30am and 4pm from Banda Aceh and 8.30am and 4pm from Sabang. The fast boat is call Pulo Rondo .

Slow ferry/boat will take about 2 hours and cheaper priced at 18000-32000Rp. It leaves Banda Aceh at 2 pm and from Sabang, Pulau Weh at 8 am.

How to get around

You can rent a motorbike to go around on Pulau Weh or rent a minivan and guide if you are in a group.

Where to go nearby

Being at the northernmost tip of Indonesia off Sumatra, there is nowhere else to go but back to Banda Aceh. From Banda Aceh you can make your way to Bukit Lawang for Orang Utan or chill at famous Lake Toba.

Sabang, Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Sabang, Pulau Weh. Photo by Franc López

Travel Tips

Tsunami struck Banda Aceh at 2004 and had heavily affected Pulau Weh too. At 2005, the reefs of Pulau Weh was surveyed at depths and was reported that most sites are still alright especially those deeper than 10m. For some shallow areas, the reefs are damaged, and out of the chartered dive sites, only reefs at Rubiah/Iboih was affected. Restoration efforts are also being looked into.

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Top 10 Places to Surf in Indonesia

Indonesia is not unknown to many surfers around the world to have many perfect surf spots around its many beautiful islands surrounded by many choices of waves. Be it that you are an advanced surfer or a beginner, you will be sure to find a place to surf here.

Many surf travelers will come to Indonesia for its perfect surf breaks, white sand beaches, warm and sunny weather and local friendly people. This is almost a perfect setting to make Indonesia an ultimate surfer’s paradise.

The swells come from the south and southwest of Indonesia, so all the coastlines facing in these directions will get a good amount of waves to surf. This includes places like Bali, Lombok, Java, Sumatra, Flores, Sumbawa, Sumba and Timor, just to name a few of the thousands of islands in Indonesia.

Let’s take a look at the Top 10 Places to Surf in Indonesia:

Surf waves in Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia

Surf waves in Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia


Bali

With as many as 100 surf spots in Bali, it can be best known for surfing in Indonesia, not just because it is the main tourist place in Indonesia. Bali is known for surfing places like Padang and Uluwatu which is famous for its entry cave. The full force of wind comes from southern ocean swell therefore, its southwest or southeast coasts are dotted with many surf spots. Come during the dry season from June to September for perfect surf conditions though this is also the peak season so be prepared for the crowd.

-> Find places to stay in Bali at Agoda.com *

Surfing in Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia

Surfing in Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia

Lombok

Next to Bali, is the less crowded Lombok but no less in beauty. This may be your answer to perfect surf without fighting for space. One of the famous secret yet not so secret anymore surf place is The Desert Point. There are good surf breaks here in surf spots like Mawi, Mawun and Point X along the southern coast of Lombok. The best season to come here to surf is from April to October and the swell comes from southern wind as well.

-> Read Bali Travel Guide
-> See Surfing at Kuta, Bali
-> Check out the Best Beachfront Resorts in Bali

-> Find places to stay in Lombok at Agoda.com *

Surf Desert Point, Lombok, Indonesia

Surf Desert Point, Lombok, Indonesia

Gili Trawangan or Gili Air

Two of the three famous Gili Islands in Lombok deserve top places on their own for having own unique surf breaks. Though the frequency is not as good as the other spots in Lombok, this place promises good surf for the experienced surfers if they manage to catch the breaks. Many of the locals come here to enjoy the surf in secret and when in good timing it will swell more than you expect but do be careful as it can be unexpected.

->Guide to Gili Air, Lombok
-> Find the Best Accommodations in Gili Trawangan
-> Read Top 10 Things to Do on the Gili Islands

-> Find places to stay on Gili Trawangan at Booking.com *

Surfing in Gili Islands, Lombok, Indonesia

Surfing in Gili Islands, Lombok, Indonesia

Sumba Islands in East Nusa Tenggara

In the East Nusa Tenggara, the waves are different from the rest of Indonesia. If you don’t mind the basic setup of this place, then you will be rewarded with high-quality waves in between major breaks. Nihiwatu offers many reefs, bays and river mouths and the waves are just insane. Go during the dry season of March to October for the Indian Ocean swells, which can be up to 12-15 feet high from the southwest direction. The wind here does not blow consistently though unlike Bali nearby.

Sumbawa Islands, Lesser Sunda

Finally an excellent surf place for all levels of surfer, this site gives a massive swell to break before sucking out on the inside reef. Located east of Lombok, you may find it less touristy and more space for you to surf. Go to offshore for good surf breaks. Best time to come here is also the dry season from April to October for its southwest wind.

Surf Lakey Peak, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia

Surf Lakey Peak, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia

Panaitan Islands in West Java

At West Java, facing the southwestern wind from the Indian Ocean, Panaitan offers one of the best waves in Indonesia. You will find good waves here with less the crowd in comparison to places like Bali and Lombok. The dry season of April to October is the best time to come for reliable surf breaks. The surfing spots like Apocalypse in Panaitan Islands had been touted to be epic where if you score this place you will get tubed.

Grajagan (G-Land) in East Java

Another epic surf place that many people love, where it is touted to be adventurous with minimal crowd. It has different sections along 2km long point, from hollow walls to shallow and dangerous reef. G-land also has world-class barrels on lower tides and bigger days but be careful of sharp reefs at the break, therefore booties are a must. It is also known of its consistent offshore trade winds.

Surf G-Land, Java, Indonesia

Surf G-Land, Java, Indonesia

Mentawai Islands in Sumatra

At the West of Sumatra, the Mentawai Islands have the most consistent surf breaks in Indonesia making it one of the preferred choices for serious surfers. Surfing spots here include like E’bay, Beng-beng, Nipussi and Pitstop. Best time to come here is during the dry season of May to October. Here you can get many islets and flawless reef with sun blue waters, and also offshore winds and spitting tubes. The most choices of places to stay on Mentawai Islands would be on the big island of Pulau Siberut *. You may also find some remote and luxurious choices at Sipora Island, for example, the Simakakang Villa *.

-> See Guide to the Mentawai Islands, Sumatra

-> Find places to stay on Mentawai Islands at Agoda.com *

Hinako Islands in North Sumatra

Remote location that takes you into the deep water trenches which funnel in the southwest Indian ocean swell. Here choose Asu or Bawa for its reputation for consistent overhead surf. You get surfing on outer-islands reefs and crystal clear water. Come here in between May to October during dry season for the best surfs.

Surfing Mentawai Island, Sumatra, Indonesia

Surfing Mentawai Island, Sumatra, Indonesia

Nias Islands in West Sumatra

Nias Island is famous internationally as a surfing destination with the famous Sorake Bay. This place provides both left and right-hand breaks. Although it saw fewer travelers due to the earthquakes in 2004 and 2005, it had picked up again in recent years, and as always the waves still rush to shore. Like Hinako Islands, come here during the dry season of May to October too.

Photo credits from top: Madeleine Holland, Siim Teller, Mike Slagter, Mike Slagter, Edouard Brèthes, Sunova Surfboards, Imanol Sorazu and clogwog

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