Travel guides

Mount Ijen: is it worth it?

The island of Java, in Indonesia, is rich in volcanoes. Mount Ijen is one of the most visited ones, together with Mount Bromo which is easily accessible and we explained in this other post how to visit it for free. The volcano Ijen requires a little bit more preparation and it’s not that easy. So we hope this guide will help you plan your trip.

How to get to Mount Ijen

If you’ve been at Mount Bromo (Cemara Lawan), you will realize that many other travellers are planning Mount Ijen as their next destination as well. From Cemara Lawan, you need to get back to Probolinggo to take the train.

Take the train to Karangasem. From here to Mount Ijen you can go by car or minivan if you book a tour with a guide, or you can rent a motorbike. There are a few guesthouses in front of the train station where you can rent a motorbike (75k rupiah – 5€) to get to Mount Ijen. The road is mostly in good condition, but there are some parts in horrible conditions too. They are usually just 100 meters long, but keep in mind is an uphill road with no lights at all and you will be riding in the dark. Therefore, make sure the motorbike has a powerful light or bring a good head torch.

Where to stay in Mount Ijen

The hike up this famous volcano happens during the night because the best time to see the blue fire is between 2-4 am. Some budget travellers decide not to book accommodation for that night, as you won’t sleep for most of the time anyway. However, we wouldn’t recommend doing this. First of all, you need to drop your luggage somewhere. And most importantly, you need to rest for at least a few hours before you start hiking!

If you are going with a tour, you can stay near the train station or anywhere in Banyuwangi. The tour will most likely pick you up form your accommodation. If you are going by motorbike, you can also stay near the station or in Banyuwangi, but even better you can stay somewhere in the mountain, closer to the entrance of Mount Ijen. There are many guesthouses on the way to the top. They are very simple, but do the job for one night and you support a local family that will be sure to give you anything you need.

 

How to hike mount Ijen without a guide

The hike is during the night, it can be quite steep and you need to wear a mask. These facts make most people think that you will need a guide to succeed, but it’s not necessary.

Depending on where you stay, start riding your motorbike (if you already have experience driving a motorbike. Otherwise, you shouldn’t do it) around 12 am, arrive at the entrance around 1am and park it there. Rent the gas mask (and torch if you need one) at one of the local shops and head to the entrance point to buy your ticket (100k rupiah – 6€ on weekdays, 150k rupiah – 10€ on weekends). Once you are there, there is only one way to follow, the same as everybody else. The added value of a guide would be getting some theoretical explanations and further information of what you see. But we don’t think it’s necessary for the hike itself.

Once you get to the top, you will start descending to get closer to the lake and be able to see the famous blue fire of Mount Ijen. This part is the hardest, and where you will need a mask for sure. You will be able to see as well the mines carrying 80kg of sulphur on their backs, that will be sold for around 1$ for 10kg.

Our experience

We were not lucky this time, and actually never made it to the top of Mount Ijen. Our plan didn’t work out because of the weather. We woke up at 12am and started driving the motorbike from our homestay on the mountain. A few minutes after we started driving, it started to rain a bit, and then a lot. We stop on the way at an abandoned hut to think about what to do.

It was possibly not raining on the top. However we would arrive being wet (we had raincoats but it was not enough). And then we would have to hike for two hours on wet clothes in slightly cold weather and not very easy conditions (sulphur on the air makes it harder to breath). We waited for a while but the rain didn’t stop. It was a hard decision to make, but we decided to head back to the homestay.

The next morning, we spoke with three different couples that went up with a tour. Actually all three had a bad experience that day. They said it didn’t rain during their hike. But the visibility was very bad and the sulphur was too much, making it hard to breath even with the masks. Some of them even said it’s not worth it, and they barely saw the lake or the blue flames.

HOWEVER, we spoke with people that did it on different days that said it was an incredible experience, and the sulphur wasn’t bad at all, making the gas mask only needed when being very close. We’ve seen pictures of how it looks on good visibility and it looks totally worth it.

We also wrote a full blog about our experience visiting Mount Ijen, you can read it here.

 

What we recommend: check the weather and ask around to people that had done it the day before!

If the weather seems good, we think it’s fine to hike by yourself. Every night 500 people go to Mount Ijen, so don’t be afraid to get lost. You won’t be alone!

If the weather looks like it may rain but you really want to give it a try. It’s probably worth taking the tour that brings you by car, and hope for the best at the top. Otherwise, get a good poncho and lots of layers of clothes.

Let us know about your experience. Was it worth it?

How to visit Mount Bromo (for free)

Wherever you are from, chances are that you’ve never been near a volcano before. Indonesia has around 150 volcanos, so why not visit some of them? Mount Bromo is the most accessible one in Java, and it’s active! Actually, there are stairs that take to the crater but due to its activity they are currently closed since 2018. Don’t worry about that, we tell you how to get to even better views. Read on!

Mount Bromo
Mount Bromo

How to get to Mount Bromo (Cemara Lawang)

The closest village to Mount Bromo is Cemara Lawang. You want to base yourself in this small village to hike up Mount Batok and see the sunrise from the viewpoint (more information about this later).

From Jakarta, Yogyakarta or Surabaya to Probolinggo

Most travellers will be coming to Mount Bromo from Jakarta, Yogyakarta or Surabaya. From any of these cities you can take a train to Probolinggo. There are many trains per day and prices vary between trains, but it won’t take much of your budget (under 10€ for sure). Probolinggo is the closest train station to Cemara Lawang. Actually, any traveller in Probolinggo is there just to go to Mount Bromo, and the locals know it. As soon as you get off the train you will be offered transport, but you should avoid it as usually they will overcharge.

From Probolinggo to Cemara Lawang

Once you are in Probolinggo, you need to go to Cemara Lawang, a ride of approximately 1 hour on a very terrible road uphill. You can go by private taxi (aprox. 350k rupiah or 20€), public bus (aprox. 35-60k rupiah or 2-4€), or rent a motorbike (aprox. 75k rupiah or 5€). We’ve rode a bike in all kind of situations, and I would certainly not recommend going by motorbike because of the road conditions.

To get the public bus, you need to go to the bus terminal. Walk out of the train station and head towards the right for around 250m. On the left side of the road you will see a bus stop. Here the local public minibus stops every now and then, so just ask around when the next one is coming and mention “Mount Bromo”. They’ll know where you need to go! Once you are on a minibus, be ready to squish, as they never consider them to be full, haha! After around 15 minutes ride, you will be dropped off next to the bus terminal and they will point you where to go. Just outside of the terminal there will be a slightly bigger bus waiting for travellers to come. The bus goes whenever it’s full (15 people), for 35k rupiah (2€) each. You may need to wait there for a while until some more people arrive. When there’s around 8 people, the driver may ask if you want to get going and pay some extra. Now, prepare yourself for a bumpy ride, you are almost there!

Cemara Lawang

Cemara Lawang is a small village of farmers, with a few homestays, a couple of shops and two restaurants. There’s not much to do other than visiting Mount Bromo, but if you have the time, it’s worth going for a walk around the fields. The views of the mountains are beautiful!

Accomodation

Accomodation in Cemara Lawang is overpriced and doesn’t offer much quality. Our guesthouse wan’t great, but we would recommend you Otix guesthouse. We wanted to book there, but it was sold out at the time. We met other travellers staying there that had a very positive experience.

Food

There’s two or three restaurants in Cemara Lawang. One of them is Café Lava, a more westernised restaurant at higher prices. If you want local food, tasty and cheap, we recommend you try Warung Pondok Tengger. All local dishes for 15k rupiah (1€), also delicious pancakes for the same price, cheap drinks, nice and honest owners. Perfect place! We had breakfast, lunch and dinner there.

 

How to visit mount Bromo for free

Hiking up Mount Batok

If you arrive in the morning or early afternoon, head to the “sea of sand”. This is how the flat sandy area on the base of Mount Bromo is called. The best time to start would be around 2pm, when it will start to cool down a bit and you still have enough time to explore before it gets dark.

Mount Bromo
Mount Bromo

There is an official entrance fee which is quite highly priced for tourists. However, there is a path that everybody takes, avoiding the official entrance. To find this path, head to Cemara Indah hotel. There are stunning views from the fence. Next to it, there is a small path that goes all the way down to the sea of sand. It’s a bit of a hike, but short and not too bad. In less than 10 minutes you will be already down.

Once you are on the sea of sand, it will take you around 20 minutes to walk to the base of Mount Batok, which is the mount next to Bromo (the access to Mount Bromo is currently closed due to it’s activity). Going up will take you around 45 – 50 minutes and you will need good shoes. It’s not a real path, it’s not dangerous but only for adventurous people willing to use both hands and feet. From the top, you can see the crater of Bromo and beautiful views. Going down will take another 40-45 minutes. Make sure you check at what time it gets dark when you are there, since there is not a single light.

Sunrise viewpoint

If you are up for another adventurous walk, set up your alarm at 3am and get to the viewpoint before sunrise. It will take around 1 hour to the first viewpoint, and another 30-40 minutes to the highest one. To be honest, we only went to the first one, but seeing pictures from both points, I don’t think it’s worth the extra 40 minutes walking up. You will just have to follow the road that goes towards the right on the village (ask any local about the viewpoint) and you will be there. Make sure you take clothes in layers, since it will be cold at night but as soon as the sun is out, it gets hot quickly. There are local stands selling coffee and tea everywhere along the road, and expect to see MANY other travellers there.

Tip: we walked to the first viewpoint quite early, and it was already crowded. So we went down to the previews little stop with a bench and had almost the same view, just for ourselves!

 

Many locals will try to sell you a “jeep tour” that includes the “entrance fee” to the volcano, drives you to the base of Mount Bromo, and takes you later to the sunrise point. Their selling point is that the whole tour is cheaper than the entrance fee alone. But don’t forget, you don’t have to pay the entrance fee! Besides that, the jeep only takes you to the sea of sand, and halfway up the sunrise point. In our opinion, it would not be worth the 15-20€. (They do include as well a visit to a nearby waterfall).