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.
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.
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?