Are you ready to chase Indonesia’s Electric Blue Fire? Well get ready folks and put on your mask! On this mini guide, I’ll try to be as detailed as possible.
There are only two volcanoes in the world that produces this electric blue fire: one is in Iceland and the other one is in East Java, Indonesia. Mt. Ijen is considered as the World’s Largest highly acidic lake with a diameter of 722 metres (2,369 ft). A two-hour hike is needed to reach the rim of the crater, followed by a 45-minute hike down to the crater through an 800-meter staircase to see the blue fire.
How I got here:
I was coming here from my recent hike to Mt. Bromo which was like less than 15 hours ago. I rode a bus alone in Probollingo at around 11am with still no breakfast from the Bromo hike. It was unexpectedly after 9 hours when I arrived at my guesthouse in Banyuwangi, the base town of Kawah Ijen. Still feeling grumpy from the ride, I still have a wake up call at 12 midnight to start the trek to Mt. Ijen.
If you’re coming from Bali, it’s only a 2 day and 1 night trip which is fairly close. Ride a bus to Gilimanuk and hop on a ferry for an hour to Ketapang Port for IDR 6,500. From that port, you may use Grab to take you to your accommodation. Then you can book your tour from there.
If you want a hassle free tour, then you can book here in advance, they will pick you up at your accommodation in Bali then bring you to Mt. Ijen the next morning.
Mount Ijen With or Without a Tour
I did the Mt. Ijen with a tour for only IDR 350,000 ($50). It’s a fair price to be considered because my safety, as a solo traveller, comes first. If you plan to do this on your own, then hire a driver to take you to the base of Mt. Ijen or get a motorbike and drive yourself. If this is your first time hiking, then I suggest you join a tour to help you out if something unfortunate happens.
I woke up at 12 midnight and I was picked up by my guide and met my squad in the van. It was more than an hour ride to the base of the crater and started the 4km hike up at around 2am.
The trek began with a rather easy straight and wide route with no rocks. Then it started getting steeper. The first hour or first KM was moderately challenging. I was getting out of breath. I was freezing. Temperature could get as low as 2˚C. Since everyone in the group has different levels of speed and fitness, I was a bit scared that if I walked slowly, I’d be the one to slow us down. So I tried my best to catch up with their pace.
Once we made it to the crater rim of Mt. Ijen, we descended into the crater of the volcano to discover nature’s miracle which is the famous blue fire of Ijen. It is a natural phenomenon. It’s made by the gas coming out of the ground after meeting with oxygen.
We were given a respirator to wear to protect us from the sulphur smoke that may be blown in our direction.
There was a moment of uneasiness when it was too crowded on the way down and up. What was once a hidden gem of East Java is now a tourist trap. Every step I made on the terrains was carefully calculated to avoid slipping on loose rocks. Most people seem to be in a hurry and not patient about the person before them. Don’t let anyone pressure you to walk faster. Your security is of utmost importance.
We also passed by sulphur miners when were on the way down the crater. They came out carrying their load of blocks with 70-90 kilos on their shoulders. An incredibly small amount of IDR 1,000 per kilo for the damage they do to their lungs. They jeopardize their lives and shorten their lifespan as most of them pass away before they reach 45 years old. It’s hard to believe this is their only way to support their family.
Some miners only protect themselves with some wet clothes on their mouth. Some were even smoking and sleeping at the crater! They hike this twice a day going up and down the crater for the extraction of this sulphur which is used for cosmetics, etc.
So, move aside and let them pass immediately, if you see a miner coming your way. They would be glad about it. This might be an exotic and once in a lifetime experience but for those men, this is a matter of survival.
Despite my struggles to capture it on camera, the flame was definitely there. When we were getting closer to the blue fire, we were at times covered with sulphuric smoke from head to toe. While thinking about our health, we were grateful enough for the respirator. But even with it, it was hard to breathe. I couched away when the smoke seeped through the mask and caused my eyes to water. Hiking Mount Ijen, literally & figuratively, took my breath away!
At around 5am we immediately headed back up the crater rim to catch the sunrise. We hiked up farther to the top most part where it’s not much crowded. At most times I was left behind to take shots on different angles. The views were absolutely breathtaking!
As the sun rose above the horizon, the sky transformed from crispy blue into a kaleidoscope of pink hues. Watching the sunrise from the crater rim was truly an unforgettable moment and one of the best sunrises I have ever seen to date!
The return to the base camp
At around 8 am, we began the one hour hike back down to the base camp and drive for 20 minutes for a waterfall which is part of the package. The walk down was very steep but it was a good time to talk to my squad and know their stories back home.
As much as I would have like the idea of joining others on their way to Bali, I asked to be dropped off to my guesthouse because I left my things there. If I had known they were going to Bali, I would have brought my things in the first place. After a while, I left my guesthouse and proceeded to the port that will take me to Gilimanuk in Bali. The boat ride was an hour. Then I met these couple from Germany in the port whom I shared a ride going to Ubud for IDR 200,000 each. Other options which I was supposed to do was going to the bus terminal in Banyuwangi. The bus itself will be in the ferry and it will cost you about IDR 175,000. There are also buses available at the Gilimanuk port after the ferry ride.
So taking a guided tour saves you time, hassle and ensures your safety. It was money well spent!
When to go?
As long as there is sunlight, the blue fire can’t be seen. So the best time to go is before dawn. If you can, try to avoid the holidays and weekends, as it can get busy on the trail up to the crater rim during those times.
MT IJEN HIKING ESSENTIALS
- gloves (available for IDR 10,000)
- gas masks (available for IDR 50,000)
- warm clothes
- comfortable shoes for trekking
- Drinking water
Bus to Banyuwangi: IDR 200,000
Terminal to Guesthouse: IDR 30,000
Ijen Tour Package: IDR 350,000 ($50)
Guesthouse to Ketapang Port: IDR 30,000
Ferry ride to Bali: IDR 6,500
Fascinating, Unique, Unforgettable. This is something you would not want to miss in your lifetime.
There was a lot of unpredictability on this hike as recently it was close down due to high toxic gases. The conditions there are one the most toxic places on earth according to a BBC documentary. The last 2 hours probably shoved at least 5 years of my life. But I’m glad I made it! I’m also glad, I didn’t end up like a zombie after this trek considering I only had 2 hours of sleep. Mt Ijen is just one to many of the wonderful places in Indonesia. The landscape around it is what truly makes it exceptional.
If you want to hike Mt Bromo and Mt Ijen in one booking, you can do so here: Bali-Bromo-Ijen Tour. If you have questions, feel free to comment below. I hope you enjoyed reading this article, and if you did please share it.
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