Hiking active volcano: #5 on my Bucket list
Indonesia is a country that has the biggest number of active volcanoes in the world. Only in the small island of Bali, you can choose to hike Mount Batur of sacred Mount Agung. If those two are too easy for you, you can hop to Lombok, where Mount Rinjani offers 2 -3 day hiking experience for more adventurous travelers. If that is still not enough, hiking to East Java volcanoes – Kawah Ijen and Mount Bromo should definitely satisfy your appetite.
With so many active volcanoes around, it gives me no other option than finally cross out first of my items on the Bucket lists. For that challenge, we choose to climb Kawah Ijen, a volcano situated in East Java. Why? Apart from great hiking experience Ijen also offers incredible views of the turquoise lake and of the phenomenon called blue fire. Also, sulfur mining operations are still ongoing there, therefore one can get an idea about conditions more than 200 sulfur miners works in. We just couldn’t resist hiking this one.
What should you know before hiking Kawah Ijen?
- Sulfur smells terrible and it makes your eyes itchy
- Blue fire is visible only at night until 4 o’clock in the evening
- In December you will NOT see sunrise
- This place is touristic as hell
- Take headtorch with you and rent a mask with filter, you gonna need it up there
- If going there on motorbike, make sure your tank is full as the road is steep
- Hike itself is easy
- You do not need guide, not even to go down to see blue fire
- If it’s raining it too dangerous, to go down to see blue lights
- There is 1 hour less in Java than in Bali. Remember this when you waking up in the midnight to start your trip
How to get to Java?
We reached Java with a ferry going from Gilimanuk in Bali, so if you are in Bali, hiking Kawah Igen could be 2 days trip that you might go for. From Canggu, it took us 3 hours on a motorbike to get to the port. As Gilimanuk – Denpasar road is super busy with buses and trucks we enjoyed one of the craziest rides in Bali. And after we got off the motorbike our faces were covered in black cover from the pollution. Make sure you have original papers for a motorbike as well as international driving license. We got checked in the ferry. Tickets cost 22k IDR and ferry leaves every 30 minutes and it takes approximately 40 minutes to get to Java. We decided to stay overnight in Benyuwangi, 1 hour away from the parking lot of Kawah Ijen.
How to get to Kawah Ijen?
Best time to start the fun is at midnight. It takes an hour on a motorbike from Benyuwangi. to get to parking lot. The road is steep, bumpy without lights, so get ready for an adventure. With our Vario, we have only one problem on the steepest part, when the motorbike just stopped. Lucky me, I could get off the motorbike and walk for a bit. After reaching the parking lot, we found out about one hour time difference between Bali and Java, so we still had around 40 minutes before the gates open. Fortunately, locals sell tea and coffee and we could get warmer by the fire. We rented the mask for 50k IDR, had some chat with locals, bought a ticket and started the hike. The road to the top is easy without rocks and with few steep parts, but nothing difficult. As soon as we were approaching the summit, we could smell the sulfur more and more. Sometimes the smell was so strong that we thought it can’t get worst, but it always did. In the beginning, it is really strange to breathe through the mask, but as the smell is much better when using mask we got use to it pretty fast.
Going down to see Blue Fire
After reaching a top we walked few meters around the edge of the crater to finally arrived at the rocky road that led to the bottom of the crater. While we followed the road, we were meeting sulfur miner that were carrying baskets of 80 kg sulfur to the top. Surprisingly, they didn’t wear masks and some had flip flops instead of proper shoes. With 80 kg baskets on their shoulders, they had to walk among all the tourists that were heading down. The conditions they are working in are inhumane, but their salary is on average higher than in the rest of the jobs in this area, however still it is nothing for such a dangerous job. Blue fire is a chemical reaction that happened when sulfur meats with an air. It is extraordinary and unique to see it. For the best experience try to be among the first ones that get down, otherwise, you will be stuck in a group of tourists coming slowly down to crater and then taking pictures of blue fire like crazy. We were lucky to be the first people down there, however on the way up, we enjoyed this craziness of Chinese tourists in flip-flops coming down.
Waiting for sunrise to see the amazing view
Another reason why we choose to hike Kawah Ijen was to see the turquoise acid lake that is in the crater. Well, unfortunately, we didn’t see it, as the sulfur fumes were so strong that we could hardly see in front of us. That was disappointing but still the whole experience was so intense, that in the end, we didn’t mind.
Now, we are thinking to give the view one more time and hike Mount Batur for a sunrise instead. But since it is December our chances are very small. Not to mention that we have always had bad luck when chasing a sunrise in the mountains. So, let’s see.
Happy Travels and do not forget to share this post. Sharing is caring :).