Kawah Ijen is an extraordinary place in
Java, Indonesia in the entire world! The Mount Ijen Crater houses the largest acidic lake in the world!
Moreover, it’s one of the very few places in the world where it’s possible to see the fabled Blue Fire. Don’t get me started about the awesome sunrise you can see above!
Kawah Ijen is part of my complete 14-day Java Backpacking Itinerary.
In this Kawah Ijen guide, I will tell you everything you need to know to visit this marvelous volcano with or without an organized tour.
Before we begin, here’s the important Mount Ijen Blue Fire information you come looking for:
Can you see the Blue Flames at Kawah Ijen now?
Since 12 August 2023, it is possible to see the Blue Fire!
If the above changes again, I will update this Kawah Ijen guide promptly.
Between January and August 2023, it was impossible to observe the blue fire at Kawah Ijen due to government regulations and a ban on going down the crater. This partly changed on 12 August 2023 when the opening time was pulled from 4:00 AM to 2:00 AM.
Kawah Ijen Opening Times and Regulations
As of 2023, Kawah Ijen gates open at 2:00. It takes at least 90 minutes to reach the summit. It is thus now theoretically possible to observe the Blue Fire.
The government decree from 12 August extended the opening hours of Kawah Ijen by 2 hours making them 2:00 to 12:00.
HOWEVER! Going down the crater is still officially forbidden.
But that’s only officially. Organized tours regularly disregard this ban and bring people inside the crater against the official rules. If you want to absolutely guarantee that you will see the blue fire, book this organized tour.
In reality, nothing is stopping you from going down the crater yourself, especially after 9:00 when the crowds of organized tours are gone. It’s just that nobody goes down after sunrise, because there’s no blue flame to be seen.
The entrance fee to Kawah Ijen (foreigners) is 100.000 IDR (6.6$) on a weekday and 150.000 IDR (10$) on the weekend.
Kawah Ijen closes at noon, so it’s impossible to watch the sunset over Ijen or to observe the blue fire after sunset.
How to get to Kawah Ijen from Bali
There are very affordable public transport options from Bali to Banyuwangi, a popular base for a hike to Mount Ijen.
Bali to Ijen Crater by bus
There are frequent buses between the port city of Gilimanuk and destinations in Bali. The most common are Lovina and Denpasar.
- From Denpasar to Gilimanuk the public buses depart from Ubung Bus Terminal at 8:00 every day. The ticket costs 50.000 IDR / 3.4$; Luxury AC buses are also available.
- From Lovina to Gilimanuk the public minibuses (bemos) pass by the main road. It costs 30.000 IDR (2$) although locals will try to convince you to pay them 100.000 so that they stop it for you. It’s a trap!
- At Gilimanuk, board the ferry and cross over to Ketapang. The ferry costs 6500 IDR / 0.45$ and runs every 20-25 mins, 24/7.
- From Ketapang take a train, bus, or Grab taxi to Banyuwangi depending on timetable and availability.
It is possible to travel on your own motorcycle from Bali to Java. Getting a rented motorcycle across the Bali Strait is possible and you don’t need any additional documents.
Probolinggo to Kawah Ijen by train
The cheapest and most convenient way to travel between Probolinggo and Banyuwangi is by train. Why Probolinggo? Because it’s the closest city to Mount Bromo. Here’s how to visit Mount Bromo on a budget from Probolinggo.
If you’re traveling to Banyuwangi from Surabaya or Malang, it’s more or less the same trains except for the Probowangi train. Check and book online on Kai Access.
You can travel by similar train from Yogyakarta all the way to Ketapang Harbor on your way to Bali.
Banyuwangi to Kawah Ijen Entrance
This leg of the journey also really depends on whether or not you want to climb Kawah Ijen as early as possible for the sunrise.
In 2023, Kawah Ijen opens at 4:00, although some groups are let in at 3:45.
Sunrise at Kawah Ijen is between 5:28 – 6:07 depending on the month, so you really have to be quick to catch the pre-sunrise colors.
In my opinion, at the moment it’s not worth it going to Ijen so early in the morning. You will have to organize a private transfer to Ijen (not too hard in person in Banyuwangi, but still expensive, 100.000 to 200.000), there will be loads of people, you won’t see the blue flame and you will barely make it for sunrise only if you’re quick enough.
Is it still worth it to go? Totally!
There used to be a public DAMRI bus from Banyuwangi to Kawah Ijen, which has been discontinued since the newest regulations. The only way to independently go to Mount Ijen is by your own motorcycle (or rental) or a private transfer.
You can arrange both of those in person in Banyuwangi. My advice is to go to Kawah Ijen’s entrance at around 6:30 and hike peacefully without all the crowds (which you will encounter going down as you go up).
If you want absolutely no crowds at all, then go to Ijen at 8:00 as everybody will have left by that time. You will have all of Ijen’s natural beauty for yourself.
Kawah Ijen Guide – What to expect on the hike
The hike is straightforward, well-trodden, and paved for the first 30 minutes. It takes around 90 minutes to hike to the top (~3.5 km with 450 meters altitude change).
You don’t need to hire a guide to hike Kawah Ijen!
Going down the crater is a little more difficult, especially with the crowds, and even harder when a tour guide tries to cut in front of everybody on the trail to bring his group down first. However, since going down is forbidden, this is not really an issue right now.
For those too unfit to walk, locals offer a “taxi” service. You sit down in a small cart and 2-4 men carry you up like some sort of a spoilt king. It’s usually Chinese tourists who take advantage of the incredible offer to pay 800.000 IDR (53$) to not walk a single step to the top.
The trail is clearly marked on Maps.me. The way back is hard on the knees, but nothing extraordinary.
The Acidic Lake
In the middle of the Ijen crater is the notoriously acidic lake with a uniquely aquamarine color. The PH has been measured at less than 0.5 on the edges and down to 0.13 in the center.
The PH scale goes from 0 (extremely acidic) to 14 (extremely basic) with 7 being pure water. Every unit denotes 10 times more or less acidity (i.e. PH3 is 10 times more acidic than PH4)
For example, lemon juice has a PH between 2 and 3, so it’s between 10.000 and 100.000 times more acidic than water.
0.13 on the PH scale is so extremely acidic that it will cause burns on your skin. It cannot dissolve metals as quickly as in movies though.
All of this is to say: if you manage to get down inside the crater, don’t touch the lake.
The Sulfur Miners
On the hiking trail towards Kawah Ijen, you will see men lugging heavy loads of yellow stones on their shoulders. Sometimes it’s as heavy as 90 kg and the men are still quicker than most people on the trail, it’s truly remarkable.
Sulfur is mined 24/7. It takes the men around 2-3 hours to go up Kawah Ijen, down the crater, load some sulfur, then go back down and unload it. They get paid 1.000 IDR (0.07$) per kilogram.
Miners do 2 or 3 such runs every day. It is hard work and I honestly have great appreciation for their endurance. This amounts to less than 15$ per day for this exhausting work.
If you want to support them, you have the chance to buy sulfur figurines all along the trail and especially at the summit.
Do you need a gas mask for Kawah Ijen?
If you are going down the crater I strongly advise you to take a gas mask. When I went to Kawah Ijen in 2019 it was still possible to see the blue flame up close and personal and a gas mask was imperative.
The sulfur smoke is strong down there and breathing EVEN WITH a gas mask is a challenge. I could barely open my eyes too.
However, since it is no longer possible to go down the crater, a gas mask is not required. At the rim of the crater you might feel a whiff of sulfur, but it just a slight smell of rotten eggs. Nowadays, gas masks’ main purpose is for the mandatory Instagram picture from Kawah Ijen.
Food on the hike up Ijen Crater
There’s some food and drinks just before you start the hike and it’s a good idea to take a bite or two before you go for some energy.
On the hike itself, there’s one small cafe with pot noodles, coffee, and small confectionery.
It’s always wise to carry some food with you like energy bars or a banana.
Carry some water too, of course.
What to wear at Kawah Ijen
Remember that Kawah Ijen is high. The hike starts at 1860 m. and ends at 2700 m. Additionally, you will be there in the early morning hours when it’s coldest.
Dress up in layers. To begin the hike you’d need a winter jacket, warm sweater, long pants, closed shoes, and thick socks. A hat and gloves are also a good idea. Peel off layers as your body warms up during the hike.
Where to stay near Kawah Ijen
Most backpackers stay in Banyuwangi. It’s a small uneventful town with extremely loud mosques and apart from being something of a base camp for Kawah Ijen, there’s not much else to it.
In Banyuwangi, my recommendation for backpackers goes to Mango Tree Homestay. It’s cheap, clean, and conveniently located and the hosts are extremely helpful with all things Ijen.
If you want to stay even closer to Kawah Ijen, you can find cheap accommodation in Licin. I haven’t personally stayed there, but I have heard very good things about Nio Homestay.
You can organize a pickup with the host from the harbor or the train station as well as tours or just transport to Kawah Ijen.
Parting words about this Kawah Ijen Guide
- You can travel from Bali to Kawah Ijen by public transport or on your own motorcycle;
- You can travel from Probolinggo to Kawah Ijen by train;
- Kawah Ijen gates open at 2:00 (UPDATED IN AUGUST);
- It is currently (2023) possible to see the blue flames;
- You don’t need an organized tour, nor a guide, to hike Mount Ijen.