Indonesia is an amazing place for hikers. Many visitors will already know about Mount Batur, or Mount Rinjani as incredible places for trekking. Most of them have no idea, however, that there are SO many other great treks around the country. This is mostly due to lack of publicity, which can be a good or bad thing. Places like Gunung Api Purba, or Mount Sumbing are prime examples. The famous Mount Ijen Hike in East Java, however, does NOT have that issue!
This is because the Mount Ijen hike is truly unique. The mountain has features that you will not find anywhere else in the world, including natural phenomena that has to be seen to be believed. Add to that the fact that in recent times it is accessible to practically ANYONE, and you will begin to understand why it is so popular.
Table of Contents
- About Mount Ijen
- Where is Mount Ijen?
- How to get to Mount Ijen from Bali
- The Mount Ijen Hike
- Mount Ijen Hike Summit
- Mount Ijen Viewpoints
- Sulphur Mining on Mount Ijen
- Mount Ijen Hike Tours
- Hiking Mount Ijen without a tour
- Where to stay near Mount Ijen
About Mount Ijen
Mount Ijen, or “Kawah Ijen” is a volcanic complex in East Java. It is mostly famous for two reasons. First, it is the home of the most acidic lake in the world. Sitting in the middle of the volcano, this amazing turquoise colored lake is loved by anyone that sees it, and is probably one of the most photogenic lakes in the world. Just don’t touch it! Like many beautiful things in nature, it can be extremely deadly. So if you MUST approach it, then be very careful.
Secondly, there is the phenomenon known as the “Ijen Blue Fire”. This phenomenon occurs around the clock, but can only be seen by the naked eye in the dark of night. Preferably, between 1am and 4am. The Blue Fire occurs when the thick Sulphur clouds come into contact with the extreme heat issuing from the fissures of the volcano. At around 600 degrees Celsius, these flames are very spectacular, but are also extremely elusive for photographers. Even the professionals struggle to capture them.
Mount Ijen is one of only two places in the world that the blue fire phenomenon can be seen, and unless you want to trek to Ethiopia, then this is the place to see it!
Where is Mount Ijen?
Mount Ijen can be located in East Java, right near the coastal city of Banyuwangi. It is easily accessed from both directions, with main roads connecting the town with both the north and south coastlines of Java. Mount Ijen itself is less than an hours drive from Banyuwangi, with signs posted on the main turnoffs in the town to make it easy for visitors.
The Mount Ijen hike can be easily undertaken by those staying in Banyuwangi, Situbondo, or even Bali. The ferry that runs 24/7 between Banyuwangi and Gilimanuk in Bali makes it almost the ideal overnight trip.
How to get to Mount Ijen from Bali
The very easiest way to get to Mount Ijen from Bali is on a tour. There are plenty of tours you can choose from. Most are a simple roundtrip that take a day, leaving in the late afternoon from Bali, crossing the ferry to Java around midnight, and beginning the hike a couple of hours later. The return trip is almost directly from the completion of the hike, getting you back to Bali that afternoon. Click the link below for my choice of Mount Ijen Hike tours.
The other way to do the Mount Ijen Hike, is to opt out of doing a tour and going it alone. This isn’t hard, and is the way I did the hike only recently. All you need is your own transport, and be a little bit independent. If this is you, then why not? Check out further details on how to hike Mount Ijen without a tour later in this article.
For information on all the different ways that you can get to Mount Ijen from Bali, check out THIS ARTICLE.
The Mount Ijen Hike
The Mount Ijen Hike is not very hard. Certainly not on the scale of volcano hikes in Indonesia, at least. For this reason, many locals opt to do it time and again. On my most recent trip to Ijen, we spoke to many that were on their 6th, 7th, or 8th trip up the mountain. This is testament not only to the accessibility of the hike, but also to the amazing experience that the Mount Ijen Hike provides!
I would liken the trek difficulty as slightly higher than Mount Batur. But only slightly. The track is well trodden, wide, with sure footing and plenty of rest stops. In my opinion, almost anyone could conquer Mount Ijen, and should definitely give it a go!
Arriving at Mount Ijen Hike Start
The drive up to the Mount Ijen Hike starting point is very easy. The location is well sign posted, and if you are coming from Banyuwangi, there are signs at all intersections pointing the way. For 99 percent of hikers, the drive will be done at night time, which is no issue as the road is in very, very good condition. In fact, I would rate it one of the best roads I have ridden on in Indonesia!
There are only a few things to be aware of if you are driving, or especially riding up to Ijen yourself.
- Beware that although the road is in great condition, it sometimes develops potholes after heavy rain. These like to hide around blind bends, and you could lose a small car in them. Be careful! For the most part though, the road is in top condition.
- It is very dark! Take care and drive to conditions.
- When coming back down you will meet more traffic than on the way up. Take extra care, especially if you are in a car. The road closer to the hike starting point is narrower. Please be considerate.
You will know when you have arrived at the Mount Ijen Hike starting point, simply because there is NOTHING else on the drive up. Suddenly you will find buildings and lights popping up from nowhere.
On our last visit, we stopped at the very first couple of warungs. The locals that were there (mostly guides) were amazing. They had a campfire going, made us hot coffee, then scooted over so we could share the warmth of the fire. Which brings me to another point about Mount Ijen.
I’m not sure what it was, but everyone here was SO friendly. The guides, workers, and everyone on the mountain were amazing. But it actually went beyond that. Every single hiker we met was incredible. We had some great conversations, and heard some incredible stories. I believe that this came from the simple bond of all being there for a singular reason, and for a brief period of time, that made us family.
Gas Masks and Tickets
You will require a gas mask on the top of Mount Ijen if you are going anywhere near the Sulphur. The levels are extremely high, especially down near the lake where the main Sulphur deposits are. In fact, even on the crater rim there are a couple of places that you may require masks. This is due to the prevailing wind blowing the Sulphur across the track.
If you have any breathing problems at all, then GET A MASK. They don’t cost much, and we like to get one just in case. It’s nice to be able to put it on if you encounter issues. I would much rather have one than not!
Last time we were at Ijen, we got ours from the warung where we had coffee on our arrival. They cost 50,000 rupe ($3.50 USD) for a foreigner, or 25,000 rupe ($1.70 USD) for a local. We simply stashed them away in our backpacks and forgot about them until we needed them.
Just down the road about 200m is the entry gate to the Mount Ijen Hike. It is a large structure sign that is unmistakable in the dark, as it is lit up with plenty of lights. Head through here and you will find the ticket office.
Tickets for the Mount Ijen hike differ in price depending on whether you are a local or foreigner. This is the same for most things in Indonesia. The price disparity is very large at Mount Ijen though. What we DID find, was that this opens up the mountain to locals, and plenty that we met had hiked it multiple times, which is great.
Prices at time of writing are:
- 150,000 Rupe for Foreign Tourist ($10 USD)
- 100,000 Rupe for Ordinary Foreigner/Kitas ($7 USD)
- 7,500 Rupe for locals (0.50 USD)
At time of writing, all visitors have to book tickets online. At the ticket office, you then provide your link to your booking, pay, and are provided your ticket. This is a routine that was introduced during covid so they knew how many were on the mountain. It is unknown at this stage whether this procedure will continue when tourism is normal again. What it did mean was that there was only two options – Local or Foreigner. No option for Kitas holders. Click HERE for the online link to book.
The Hike up to Mount Ijen
The hike up Mount Ijen starts out almost as a casual stroll. You will need a torch, headlamp, or something that will light up the path for you. It is pitch dark!
On our most recent climb, we left the starting point with many other hikers. They were friendly, and when our torch failed (of course) they allowed us to stick close to them to use their torches. This was great at the time, but we would have been stuffed if they had not been there! The lesson here is to make sure you have fresh batteries, and everything works.
Many climbers use their phone torch. I used mine at times too. It works well and does the job. If you use this option, be aware that you won’t have much battery left on top.
The track itself is 3.8 km long. After the first few hundred meters, the incline really begins to ramp up. The climb becomes harder, and you will pass many others that have stopped for a rest. The path is wide, and there is plenty of room to move off to the side and be out of the way of others.
Along the way there are 4 or 5 rest stops. These are buildings on the side of the track where you can rest under shelter, and even use the toilet at a couple. They are well spaced out, and usually pop up perfectly placed at places where you really need a rest!
Once you pass the 4th or 5th stop, you will see a large tree almost in the middle of the path. This tree marks the halfway point of the climb. The guides will tell you that the worst is behind you by then, and though technically they are right, there is still more climbing to come.
Not too far past the tree you will arrive at the “canteen”. This is another building off the side of the track, but one that also serves coffee, Pop Mie, and a few other food options. There is a toilet out back, and plenty of room to rest up. You will usually find quite a crowd sitting around here, as it marks the three quarter point of the climb, and most like to time their run to the summit.
From here, the climb becomes a “stairway” that jinks back and forth up the slope, before it evens out and is just a casual flat stroll to the crater rim. Depending on what time you arrive here, there can be some amazing views out to the right. If it is still dark, you will catch the views on the way back down.
Just after the canteen there is another spot off to the left of the track that most people miss. In fact, we only really saw it on the way back down.
It is called Pondok Bunder, and is a Semi Circular concrete building built by the Dutch back in 1920. Originally, it was constructed to measure rainfall around Ijen, in order to try and predict any natural disasters before they occurred. It is now completely abandoned, and the remaining building stands as a ghostly reminder of times long past.
If you like abandoned buildings, and places that give off ghostly feels and send the goose bumps running up and down your arms, then stop by and check this place out. There is some old furniture inside that looks like it was left by the Dutch a hundred years ago, and a few overturned beds. A glance inside gives one the feeling that a night spent alone in such a place, would not actually be a night alone!
The “trolley” Service/Ijen Taxi
Along the way up the climb, you will be constantly “harrassed” by the local “taxi service”. We found this to be a bit of fun, and got to know some of the operators quite well, joking with them as we climbed.
Basically, the “Ijen Taxi” is a “trolley” that was donated by a local foreigner from Bali that owns a big restaurant in Nusa Dua. He wanted to open the mountain up to those that could not handle the rigors of the climb to the summit, so donated 200 trolleys to Mount Ijen.
These trolleys are like wheelchairs. They have inflatable wheels, and allow the user to sit back with their feet up while THREE locals drag them to the summit. You can also get a ride back down if you like.
The great thing about these is that now anyone can see and experience the Mount Ijen Hike. You can literally hire one of the Trolleys from the starting point, get pulled to the summit, and then ride all the way back again!
Prices for the trolley vary. I have heard that 600k rupe will get you up and back again, which is quite good when it means that you don’t have to climb. Especially if you have difficulty doing such things. Like most good Indonesian Entrepreneurs though, they don’t actually offer you the ride right away.
They wait until the first really steep part. Then, when you are gasping for air and would pay ANYTHING to get a lift to the top, they appear. The first offer is usually around 800k rupe. Some will pay it. Most that do, think they are getting a great deal!
The further you climb, the lower the price drops. By the time you are past the canteen, you can get to the summit for only 200k rupe. This is a great barometer for working out how close you are to the summit too. When the price drops to 50k rupe, you KNOW you are almost there!
On the way back down, you can get from the summit to the carpark for 200k rupe. Hike down to the canteen, and you will be able to finish the descent for 100k.
Not bad if you are exhausted.
Most find the trolley service a bit of fun, and hikers will tease their friends that take up the option. The great thing about it is that those that never thought they would get to witness the wonders of Mount Ijen, now can. THAT is worth a lot more, in my opinion!
Mount Ijen Hike Summit
Once you get up the final “stairs” of the climb, the path will flatten out and you will be hit by the smell of Sulphur in the air. This is the first indication that you are getting close to the end of the trek. Before you know it, a fence will appear in front of you, and you will realize that you are at the summit.
From here, you will see a building off to the left where you can take a rest and have a snack if you like. Otherwise, most of what you will want to see is off to the right. Follow the fence line down to where some Sulphur miners can be seen, and decide if you want to go down into the crater to see the Iconic Blue Flames and visit the lake edge, or if you want to continue around the rim to the viewpoints for when the sun rises. If you are early enough, you have time to do both.
If you want to go down into the crater, be aware that the descent is steep. This not only means that you have to be careful, but also that the climb back out is quite taxing. So determine what you can do depending upon how you feel after the Hike up the mountain.
Once inside the crater, you will be able to see the Sulphur mining operations, visit the lake edge and see the Blue flames. All of these are incredible, especially the blue flames. Take your time, but be aware that the Sulphur levels in the air here are pretty toxic. Use your mask, and if you don’t have one, think twice about going down at all!
Mount Ijen Viewpoints
The entire rim of the Mount Ijen Crater is full of amazing viewpoints.
Obviously, there are some that are very well known, and these are the ones that most people will flock to. This is great, but if you want to avoid the crowd, then simply seek out your own.
The three main viewpoints that people look for are:
- The iconic “tree”. This can be found off to the right once you reach the fenceline at the summit. Head slightly downhill, cross the “Sulphur line” where you will see some miners, and Sulphur powders the ground. Keep heading along the rim and follow the contour up and around. After about 15 minutes you will come across the iconic tree, and probably a group or two of people taking photos.
- The famous “photo spot” that is right next to the tree. This spot is where a piece of the rim sticks out toward the lake a few meters, and allows for you to stand and pose for a beautiful photo.
- The Sunrise viewpoint. This is about 700 meters further around the rim from the tree. It is called the Sunrise Viewpoint due to the great location for viewing the sunrise, but in reality, anywhere on the rim is just as good! If you have already hiked far enough, there is no need to head to the sunrise viewpoint unless you really feel the need.
Other than these viewpoints, there are hundreds of others. They just aren’t famous. Take a stroll around the rim and make it up as you go. There is no rush, and you will find that there are many amazing spots to get some really original photos and footage.
Sulphur Mining on Mount Ijen
The high levels of Sulphur on Mount Ijen mean that Sulphur is very easy to come by. It is highly concentrated, and is mined 24/7 by the local miners. They can be seen trudging up and down the mountain, hauling loads of Sulphur in baskets across their shoulders. Each load weighs up to 90 kilo, and each miner will do about 2 or 3 loads a day. Considering they have to haul it up and out of the crater, then down the mountain each time, this is pretty good.
What is NOT good, is the pay and conditions. Each miner has very little protection from the high Sulphur levels, other than a wet cloth wrapped around their faces. The pay is also very low, with only a few dollars earnt for each load they haul. Even though this might be pretty good pay in Java, it is still very low considering the nature of the working conditions.
If you come across the miners on the slopes, give them right of way. Some will try and sell you trinkets in all sorts of shapes, carved from Sulphur. If you can, buy a couple. They don’t cost much, but the money is worth a lot to these guys.
On our last visit, we spoke to a guide who was once a miner. He stopped mining and became a guide on the mountain he knew so well. After many years, he was tested along with all of the other miners, and they found that despite common belief, their lungs were actually clear. What WAS affected more was their eyes from the high levels of Sulphur. These days, he is able to protect himself a little more, guiding people and providing amazing insights to what is an incredible vocation and lifestyle.
Mount Ijen Hike Tours
There are plenty of Mount Ijen Hike tours available. That being said, not every tour is equal. If you are in Bali, then a trip to Mount Ijen is easy to arrange and here I will list my favorite through GetYourGuide.
This is the simple, overnight tour from Bali to visit Mount Ijen. This tour will pick you up from your hotel, take you to Gilimanuk, where you will travel by ferry across to Java. From there you will go by 4wd up the mountain to the hike starting point. Hike the mountain, and upon return, have breakfast before returning to Bali. All fees including your ferry ticket, Ijen Ticket and guide are all included, as is breakfast.
If you want to go all out, then what better than to do a full 3 day tour that takes you to two of the most memorable places in Indonesia. This tour takes you from Bali, to both Mt Ijen AND the incredible Mt Bromo. Click the button below for more details.
If you are already in Java, then you can also see these amazing places by taking a trip from Yogyakarta. This is a great option, especially if you are not heading in the direction of Bali just yet, and if you are, don’t really want to travel by road. Check below for details.
Hiking Mount Ijen without a tour
Hiking Mount Ijen without a tour is possible, and is a great option for those on a budget. Unlike many other places in Indonesia (IE – Mt Batur) there is no push for you to have a guide at Mount Ijen. Guides are available at the base of the climb, but they are respectful and simply enquire if you would like a guide.
Firstly, let’s tackle the question of why you would want a guide. There are several reasons.
- You are simply unsure about hiking, especially at night, and a guide would make you feel safer
- Once you summit, you would like to access the crater. A guide will show you the best way to go, and assist you with the steep descent if you are unsure.
- A guide will help with little incidentals, such as gas mask hire, buying your ticket, and giving you a torch to use.
- Guides know all of the best photo spots and angles. This is invaluable, and I have used guides before at other locations specifically for this purpose.
If none of this matters to you, or you simply want to save money, then by all means do the Mount Ijen Hike without a guide. The first time I summited Ijen, I had no guide, so it is not an issue.
Make your own way to Ijen however you can get there. My choice is to ride scooter from Bali, taking it across the ferry, and riding to Mount Ijen. I stayed two nights in local accommodation to make the trip a bit easier, and safer to make certain I was fully rested both before and after the long ride to and from Bali.
Once you arrive, organize your own gas mask, buy your ticket and begin the hike. Along the way, chat to others, and if you can, get into a conversation with a guide or two. Even if you are not paying them, they are more than willing to give you tips and answer questions. They are just that friendly!
On the summit, follow the others to find the best photos spots. They are pretty easy to find.
The hike back down is pretty simple in the daylight.
In the end, hiking Mount Ijen without a guide is pretty simple. Don’t worry about getting harrassed to hire a guide. In my experience it simply won’t happen.
Where to stay near Mount Ijen
There are plenty of places to stay around the Banyuwangi area of Mount Ijen. When we visited recently, we rode from Bali on our scooter. Arriving around 2pm, we booked accommodation so that we could get an evenings rest before tackling the Mount Ijen Hike. Then, we booked a second night so that we could get a full afternoon and nights rest before the 5 hour ride home again. This was one of the best decisions ever!
The place we stayed was very nice, with small bungalow cottages, and only about 45 minutes ride from the Hike starting point. Click the below link to check it out.
The city of Banyuwangi has many options geared toward visitors to Mount Ijen. Most of them will provide information about the Mount Ijen Hike that is up to date, and even put you in touch with guides if you would like them. They also offer options to drop you at the hike starting point and pick you up again. Check out the below link for accommodation options in Banyuwangi.
Any visitor to East Java or Bali should try to visit Mount Ijen. The Mount Ijen Hike is incredible, and the experience is unique. You simply will not find anything like it anywhere else in the world. I highly recommend it, and will be returning once again myself just as soon as I can arrange it!
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