Hiking Mount Ijen Volcano on Java, Indonesia (+Photos)

Lying in east Java in Indonesia is a majestic volcano known as Mount Ijen. It’s famed for having the largest acid lake in the world. It gets a lot of attention for the “Kawah Ijen blue fire,” a flame you can see deep in the crater when it’s dark.

I had the pleasure of taking on the challenging climb to the top just in time for sunrise a while back, and I can say it was easily one of my favourite attractions to date. From the insane views at the top to the gas masks I had to wear as soon as I got close to the flame, a wild experience is a light way of putting it.

The two options when climbing Mount Ijen are doing it solo or with a tour company. I did the latter, and it was totally worth it; it may cost a bit more, but it cuts out the hassle of trying to organise everything that early in the morning.

In this article, I’ll fill you in on my trek up to the top of Mount Ijen and give you some useful tips you can use when you go yourself.

Getting to Mount Ijen

Mount Ijen sits between the regencies of Banyuwangi and Bondowoso in East Java, close to the island of Bali. Most people who want to climb Ijen do so from Bali because it’s the easiest way. The drive with a short ferry ride only takes a little over five hours, so it’s easily doable if you want to do a tour this way.

I went to Ijen the opposite way since I was spending time in Java; I was in the city of Malang beforehand, so I took a six-hour and 40-minute train to Banyuwangi train station. My tour guide met me there and drove me an hour and 15 minutes to the Ijen car park, and we set off from there.

Going from Bali would be slightly easier for you since so many tour companies operate from there. Fewer companies operate from Malang because the drive would be too long, so you have to take the train like I did if you want to do it that way.

It’s possible to do things independently, stay at a guesthouse near Ijen, and arrange transport there. A guide isn’t required at all; I just hired one because it made things easier with transport and arrival times.

Entrance Fees for Mount Ijen

Entrance Fees for Mount Ijen

Regardless of whether you go with a tour guide or not, you’ll have to pay the entrance fees to Mount Ijen. Luckily, they’re very affordable; the fee on weekdays is 100,000 IDR ($6.42), and on the weekends, it increases to 150,000 ($9.63). These fees are subject to change depending on the time of year it is.

Make sure to bring cash with you, because you won’t find any ATMs around the area; it’s in a countryside area.

Before you start climbing, you’ll be asked to pay for it. If you’ve booked a guide, they’ll usually include it in their tour price, but ask them just to be sure.

The Hike to the Top

Hike to the Top

Hiking to the top of Ijen is tough, especially since you’ll be doing it for sunrise, so you’ll be awake super early in the morning. I started climbing with my guide at about 2:00 am – it really does mess up your sleeping pattern.

Before you start the hike, I recommend you stock up on snacks and plenty of water at the booths in the car park because there’s nothing for sale at the top.

The hike lasted for about two hours to the top, with another half an hour into the crater and half an hour back up again for sunset. So many people were doing it, and there were plenty of areas to stop for breaks, so the local community was fairly geared up for it. If you do go with the guided option, they’ll stop with you as many times as you like, so don’t be afraid to ask.

I would say the hike was fairly strenuous but nothing too crazy; if you’re generally fit, you’ll be fine. There were some local guys pushing people who were unable to hike the whole way up the mountain in wheelbarrows for some cash, but I thought it was kind of harsh on them.

Climbing Down into the Crater


The trip down into the crater did come with some excitement since it was to see the blue flame, but it was also very dangerous because the rock is pure gravel, so it’s easy to slip if you make a wrong step. Be careful and don’t rush; it’s not a race, and you don’t want to end up in the hospital!

It took me roughly 30 minutes to get down there. You could probably do it faster, but because of the number of people doing it, I don’t advise you to rush in case you fall.

There are a lot of miners working there. The conditions are pretty awful for them; it’s a hazardous job between carrying the sulfur up the top while damaging their bodies and all the smoke from the volcano going into their lungs. If you can, try to give them any extra cash you have because it’s a tough old job, and you really do feel for them.

You’ll need a headlamp to go down to the bottom; most tour guides will provide you with these, but if they don’t, you should be able to find someone offering them down the bottom of the mountain for a small fee.

The Blue Flame

Blue Flame

As we approached the blue flame, my guide immediately gave me my gas mask and told me to keep it on until we left the area. The area is so smoky that you can barely see anything once you get close enough.

You must walk an extra few minutes into the smoke to see the flame. I’ll warn you in advance: you won’t be able to last too long because the smoke is unbearable, so try to get your photo ASAP; after you’ve been hit once by the smoke, it’s very hard to recover. I was in bits; I couldn’t see anything for about ten minutes, and my eyes were roaring red for a couple of hours after.

I don’t recommend seeing the flame if you don’t have a mask; you’re only damaging yourself, and you’ll have to stop halfway because the smoke will just get too much to handle.

Anyone who has any type of respiratory issues should also refrain from getting too close to the flame. I didn’t have any sort of problems like this, and it still knocked me off my feet.

The Sunrise and the Views at the Top


For me, the real highlight of the Mount Ijen hike was the sunrise and the views from the top. Since I climbed down into the crater when it was dark, I initially couldn’t see anything, but climbing back up was a feast for my eyes. The whole sky was illuminated in an almost pink colour, with the ice-blue acid lake lighting up in the distance.

Instead of hovering around where you come back up from the crater, make your way over to the left side so you can get a good view of the acid lake. Avoid getting too close to the ledge because there is a sudden drop, and you can easily fall if you’re not careful.

There are plenty of spots to get your photo taken. Even if you’re travelling alone, so many people will be around to grab a photo of you.

If you’re looking for a quiet place to enjoy the vistas, you have to keep walking to the left, past the area where most people stand. You’ll find many long tree trunks perfect for sitting on and soaking up the scenery.

The Walk Back Down to the Bottom

Walk Back Down

After spending a solid hour and a half enjoying the sunrise, it was time to walk back down to the bottom. I managed to get down in an hour and 40 minutes, so it was a bit faster than going up. But I must stress that the walk down was very tough on my calves, and the tiredness slowly started to creep in, so I took it slow.

You’ll still see the odd person walking up to the top at that hour, but trust me, you want to get up there for sunrise; it’s so worth waking up early for.

Another thing I wanted to mention is that there’s a real lack of toilets throughout the hike, so try go before you start. I remember on the way back down, I really needed to use a toilet, but there weren’t any to be seen.

Continuing on to Bali

Ferry to Bali

After an early rise and a tough hike, you’ll be well and truly ready for bed. Unfortunately, most people will go back to Bali, Malang, or Surabaya unless they’ve booked accommodation nearby. These journeys are long, so you’ll probably not get a good sleep until later that evening.

Luckily, the package my hostel organised for me in Malang had transport included to my guesthouse in Canggu in Bali, which I highly recommend you do. The last thing you want to have to do is try to haggle with drivers at the port when you’re exhausted. You can get a driver and a van from the port, but it will be very expensive and would only be worth your while if you had a group of six of you to split the costs with.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *