We were very sceptical about doing the Ijen trek, especially about getting down the crater to see the well-known blue flame. Reading many articles about the trek built the fear within us about the sulphur smoke.
After having done the trek, we thanked ourselves for mustering the courage and doing it. It is indeed a once in a lifetime experience.
WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT CRATER IJEN:
The Ijen crater trek is famous for witnessing the blue flames which is caused by the reaction of sulphur from the volcanic smoke with the moisture in the air. The second thing is the acidic turquoise blue crater lake which is picturesque.
IS IJEN SUITABLE FOR YOU:
- The blue flame can be seen only before 5 so you need to start the trek around 1AM in the midnight. The temperature might get as low as 4 degrees.
- From the base camp, its a 3 km trek to the top and after that 1km down the crater to see the blue flame. For an average person, it takes anywhere between 2-3 hours to reach there. Though, it does not require prior climbing experience, it does require basic physical stamina to do the uphill trek. If climbing a flight of stairs tire you, then you may want to think about doing this.
- The volcanic smoke constitutes of Sulphur and there are chances that you may inhale sulphur. It does have a pungent smell and burns your eyes but it does not last long. So if you are a person who hates chemistry labs, then you may not want to do this.
The locals mine sulphur from the crater for their livelihood and they carry as heavy as 80kg of sulphur in their backs, from the crater to the top. They also start very early and because of the traffic of tourists down the crater, they sometimes end up waiting in the queue with such heavy load on their backs. So if you see a miner, make way for him.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Banyuwangi is the nearest town from where Ijen is accessible. We reached Karangasem, which is one of the railway stations in Banyuwangi around 8:00PM and we had booked a homestay just opposite to the train station and from here Ijen base camp is an hour and half ride. (Details of the homestay and our itinerary here)
The initial plan was to rent a motor bike from the homestay and drive to Ijen ourselves.
But we were sleep deprived the previous night, the terrain was unknown and most importantly the homestay owner scared us about self-driving to Ijen. Owing to all these factors, we agreed to take the tour organized by him.
Only after doing the trek, we realized that it’s perfectly safe for you to drive to Ijen as well. Roads were well laid and not that steep like the owner told us. So you can consider renting a motor bike and getting there by yourself instead of booking a tour, if you are up for adventures like us 😛 Perfectly safe.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF TAKING THE TOUR:
We booked for the tour from our homestay itself and he costed us 350,000IDR per person. We could have walked around and explored the price from other tour operators since there were several such operators and then negotiated for a better deal.
The tour includes
- A local guide.
- Gas mask
- Flash light
- Entry ticket
- Pickup from and drop to the homestay
If you have opted for share trip, you would have company.
Having said that, it is pretty much doable by yourself. Gas masks and torch lights are available for rent at the base camp itself. You won’t have a guide but all he did was show the path down the crater and to the sunrise point and came along with us. You don’t need a guide since there will be tonnes of other tourists and you can just follow them.
WHAT TO WEAR:
- It is very very cold and hence a jacket is a must. If you do not have a jacket, you can rent one from the shops at the base camp.
- Wear several layers of clothes if possible.
- Don’t forget your gloves, socks and shoes. Again if you don’t have any of these like we did, you can rent it from the shop at the base camp.
- Torch lights are a must. Go for a head torch so that your hands would be free.
- Once you start the uphill, you will start to sweat and you may choose to remove your jackets then.
We were picked up in a minivan around 12:45 and we reached Ijen around 1:00AM.
They briefed us and introduced our local guide. After sipping hot tea, we started our trek around 1:30 AM.
- There are no toilets once you start the trek and you will have to hold on till you get down after 5 hours. So use the toilets at the base camp itself.
- The trek to the crater did take 2 hours to complete. The last 30 minutes were easier. Carry a stick which will really be helpful. If you are unfit to climb up or down till the crater, there will be people with hand carts and you can pay and get till the top of the crater. However you have to do the descent down the crater by yourself. The trek down the crater is a little slippery. But chances are very high that you will already be in a line with bunch of people before and after you. So they will help you if you find anything tougher to cross.
- First go for the blue flame since it is visible only before 5AM. If you had started at 1 30, on an average you would reach there around 4 AM. The blue colour is very attractive.
- After that, start climbing up the crater and trek towards the sunrise point. This will take half an hour to 45 minutes, the perfect timing for the sunrise. Enjoy the sunrise and also get a view of the acid lake.
- Always give way for the sulphur miners.
- Sulphur smoke will be strong only after you reach the point to see the blue flame. It will hit you only if the wind comes in your direction. Don’t panic if a cloud of sulphur smoke comes your way. It stinks and you may cough a bit. Your eyes will have a burning sensation. All you have to do is close your eyes and turn back till it goes away. It usually clears in less than a minute. We were hit by it several times, and we were ok in a few seconds.
After witnessing a very beautiful sunrise and the very scenic acidic lake, we started our descent. After a very scenic downhill, we reached the base camp around 9AM. After reaching our homestay, we had breakfast and checked out and started to Bali.
Don’t skip Ijen, though you may have visited mount bromo or any other volcano in Indonesia, cause it will definitely be an unique adventure. You will honestly descent with utmost satisfaction of achieving something really big and it is definitely worth the sleep you sacrificed.
Don’t forget to check us out on instagram for more pictures from this place.