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


Ijen Crater, known to Indonesians as Kawah Ijen, is one of the top recommended volcanoes in Indonesia to be visited. This active crater of 134 sq km has a landscape of volcanic cones of 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 sulfur lake that exudes flames, blue fire at night, and smoky white in the day.

Here you will also find many sulfur collectors that hike up here to mine the minerals of Kawah Ijen, but this has been highlighted badly recently in the media due to the fumes being harmful to humans 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 center 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 world’s largest acidic lake and the mesmerizing blue flames at night. Besides, it is one of the best volcanic mountains in Indonesia with this, one brimming with rare sulfurs.

Besides, it is less touristy and crowded than its 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 when there is less rain but more tourist
But that being said, Indonesia being fairly mild weather of just rain and shine, most of the time, is 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

The world’s largest acidic lake is in a 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 sulfur though you may be disturbed by it and feel sorry for them. Note that the sulfur fumes are poisonous, and these miners are subjected to it daily for extended hard-labored hours.

There are coffee plantations covering the Ijen caldera floor, and many travelers head there to visit the waterfalls and 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 a few options for visiting the 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 doing the night hiking up to Ijen Crater to catch the magical blue flames or also known as blue fire. You must arrive at the top before sunrise at 6 am to get this. The hike up takes 1.5-2 hours on average 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 the Ijen crater or approach the lake, which will take about 40 minutes.

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 stay at the foothills of the Ijen mountain range among the coffee plantations.

How to get there

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 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, the starting point of the trek to Ijen Crater. The Ijen Crater’s lake is around another 90 minutes hike from here.

orker at suplhur mining, Ijen Crater

Worker at suplhur mining, Ijen Crater

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 walk around the rim.

Where to go nearby

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

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

Blue Flames (Fire) at Ijen Crater

Blue Flames (Fire) at Ijen Crater

Travel Tips

Remember to bring a mask to cover your nose, as the pungent odor of sulfur may burn.
Also, bring a warm jacket as the trek at night is cold, and the temperature may drop to 5C.
Lastly, an insider tip says to climb to the right (anticlockwise) at the crater rim as the view from that side of the sulfur lake and the 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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  1. Is it best to take a boat or flight to North Sulawesi from Surabaya? What are the average price differences for both options?


    1. With flight you would save on time and it is a safer option with the Pelni boat having bad rep. Having said that, if you have the time and luxury to go with the sparsely scheduled pelni boat and want to experience more of the local scene, pelni would be an adventure itself, and it would save you some money.

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