Did you know that you can climb Mount Ijen, an active sulfur volcano, located in East Java without having to hire a guide? Ijen volcano crater is a popular tourist destination in East Java due to the unique blue fire you can see inside the crater. In this short how-to blog post, we will tell you how to climb Ijen volcano on your own and hustle free. All you need is the ability to drive a scooter and the confidence to be able to ask for directions to the locals.
Related: Indonesia destination guide!
How to get to Ijen volcano
Getting out of Bali
If you are coming from Bali, first you will have to get to Denpasar Ubung Bus Terminal. You can take either Grab, Uber, taxi or a bemo to this terminal. It should not cost you much unless you are located on the outskirts of Bali. Ask one of the drivers there for the bus to Gilimanuk, which is the place where you will catch the ferry across to Java. The cost of the bus ride should not be more than 70 000 IDR. The price for locals is around 50 000 IDR. Remember that the first price they will tell you will be almost double because tourists are always considered moneybags wherever they go.
Bus to Gilimanuk
The bus ride will take 4 hours and most likely it will be unpleasant. If you will be lucky you will get a nicer bus (they leave in the early afternoon). Better to start your day early. If you arrive later than 1 pm, be ready for an “all smoking”, everywhere stopping, cramped seats ride to Gilimanuk. Just have a look at the bus you are about to get in and ask if they have any other buses going to Gilimanuk anytime soon. Most likely they will say that this is the only bus, but be persistent and walk around and collect the knowledge.
From the ferry to Banyuwangi
Ferry to Banyuwangi
From Gilimanuk you have to take the ferry to Ketapang, near Banyuwangi city. The cost of the ferry is 4500 IDR for an adult and the ferry takes 30 minutes. The ferry is large, it has smoking and non-smoking (surprisingly) areas and a little cantine on board. It has soft seats, so the journey is quite pleasant. Once you arrive in Ketapang you have to get to Banyuwangi city for your overnight stay. This is by far the most convenient place to spend the night for your mount Ijen hike. From Ketapang take the public green van right out of the station for 15000 IDR – 20000 IDR to Banyuwangi city centre. It is convenient if you can name the accommodation you are staying at, so the driver can take you directly there.
From Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Probolinggo or other cities in Java
If you are travelling from one of the cities in Java you have several options how to get to mount Ijen. Java is a huge island so your decision on transport will depend on how far you are. If you are travelling from Yogyakarta you can take a direct train to Banyuwangi. It takes 12 hours and it costs 110000 IDR for the cheapest class. It is reliable, on time and not affected by traffic. Thus, the train is the best and the cheapest option to go. The bus costs 180 000 IDR, and usually takes 13 – 15 hours.
Rest assured, in Asia nothing happens on time, so when we took the bus it took us 18 dreadful hours in a packed, crammed bus. You wonder why the hell we chose the bus? Well, we were travelling through the Christmas holiday time so all the trains were fully booked for a week in advance. Usually, you can just show up and ride, not in our case though. If you are somewhere in Western Java, you can also fly, but it will be quite expensive. If you have time on your hands just train the whole island with some stops in the nicest cities.
You are not allowed down into the crater without a gas mask!
Where to stay before you hike Ijen volcano
A great budget place to stay for less than USD 10 is Green Ijen Bed and Breakfast, with traditional breakfast included. The owner Johan is a very sweet and knowledgeable man. Johan’s place is located close to the central square so you can get a very cheap and delicious local dinner. Note: we arrived late in the night so we stayed 2 nights in Banyuwangi, and did our hike on the second day. However, if you start your day early, you can make it to Banyuwangi by the late afternoon and arrange everything for your night hike the evening before.
Preparation for the Ijen hike
Go to the ONLY motorbike rental in Banyuwangi, which is located on the main street and a walking distance from Green Ijen Bed and Breakfast. The name of the place is Tripoli Tour and Travel. Motorbike rent for 24 hours will be 65000 IDR. Make sure you get a powerful motorbike, so if you are two people you can get up the mountain. We made the mistake and took quite a small bike so we had to get off and walk a couple of times up the hill.
There you can get your gas mask for 25 000 IDR as well. It is three times cheaper to get the gas mask there because at the base of mount Ijen it will cost 75 000 – 100 000 IDR. Just ask for a gas mask and they will rent you one or refer you to a nice grandpa who will arrange one for you. After you have arranged the motorbike and filled the tank check out the route on google maps, there is only one way up the mountain so it is hard to get lost. Dress warmly as the night is cold, bring gloves if you can. Do not wear any jewellery as it will turn black because of the high sulfur content in the air.
Ijen crater exactly as smokey as the picture shows
The hike to Ijen volcano on your own
Go to bed very early as you will have to depart from your accommodation around 1 am. The ride to the start of the trek takes around 1 hour. Might be a bit longer if you drive slowly, which is recommended, as there are a lot of potholes in the road. You will be stopped some 15 minutes before the entrance to pay the environmental fee of 10 000 IDR. Once you reach the hillside you will have to pay the entrance fee of 100 000 IDR. On the weekends and public holidays, the entrance fee is 150 000 IDR. The entrance fee for locals is ten times lower, though. There is only one way up the hill so you do not need a guide.
There are so many people hiking that it is impossible to get lost. Everyone is tempted to see Ijen’s blue fire. The hike up takes up to 1h 15 min to the Ijen crater rim. Then you have to climb down into the crater to see the famous blue fire. The way down is difficult and the whole blue fire experience is quite dramatic. The smell of sulfur is very strong. If you have any breathing problems, we do not recommend you to do this hike. So many people were constantly coughing, their eyes were tearing and nose running. We were not an exception. Even though we found the hike quite doable, the sulfur effect was very hard to cope with. However, seeing the blue fire is an extraordinary experience. Especially because there are only two places like this in the world.
Beautiful Ijen volcano
Another point that we have to mention is the sulfur miners that you will meet on the way. Their lives are truly hard and their job is devastating. Miners hike up and down the mountain at least twice a day to carry down around 50 kgs of sulfur. The salary they get is 1000 IDR per kg, so they earn around 50 000 – 100 000 IDR a day. This equals to $ 8. Their lives are considerably shorter due to the hazard of their job and the toxic environment they work in. It is an eye-opening experience and makes you realize how blessed you are. You have to be there to feel it.
Mount Ijen sulfur mine workers
To conclude, hopefully after reading this you now realize that it is not so hard to hike up to mount Ijen crater on your own. You just simply have to follow the steps to get there and arrange the motorbike and the mask. Believe us, the hike is an adventure in itself, but even more so if you have done it individually. Just one more thing, guys, safety is very important and climbing an active volcano is kind of an unusual activity, so make sure you have a good travel insurance!
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