Ijen Crater

indonesia

This 2-hour climb to a sulphurous crater lake will leave you breathless.

The Ijen Crater is an old volcanic caldera that has become a sulphur mine. It sits in far eastern Java, Indonesia, and is famous for spitting out blue flames.

Country
indonesia
Height
2,799m (9,183 ft)
Climbing Height
Less than 500m (from Paltuding, up to the crater rim and down inside)
Rank
  • Outside of top #20 in Indonesia
  • Outside of top #50 in SE Asia

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Natural Form and History

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - History

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Geological history

Ijen volcano in its earliest avatar was part of a stratovolcano named Old Ijen, formed 300,000 years ago. Repeated eruptions saw it grow to over 10,000 feet and there is a considerable layer of lava and pyroclastic deposits from Old Ijen over the underlying Miocene limestone. A caldera, measuring 10 miles in diameter was formed around 50,000 years ago after several explosive eruptions. Ijen volcano remains as one of the stratovolcanic peaks that dot the Old Ijen caldera and forms part of its eastern margin. It remains an active volcano even today.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Modern climbing history

Today, the Ijen crater is an active sulphur mine that has been operational since 1968. It was in the 1950’s that locals first started talking about the other-worldly blue flames that lit up the caldera at night. But its attraction as a tourism destination came about after National Geographic did a feature on the volcano specifically talking about the blue flames that the volcano is now famous for.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Current popularity as a climbing destination

Ijen crater is now a must-do on the itinerary of most visitors to this remote part of Indonesia – as long as they are physically fit and able to handle some exposure to toxic smoke in small quantities (although most only go close to the flames in gas masks). Considering that the natural phenomenon of blue fire is only visible in one other place on Earth – Iceland – it is not surprising that more and more people are getting over their squeamishness about the inhospitable terrain every year to make the trek into the caldera in the dark (the blue fire is only visible at night) and return after catching the brilliant sunrise over the mountains.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Overview of the Trail

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Overall Assessment

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Summary of trail accessibility

The trek up Mount Ijen and down into its caldera is about 3 kms and takes less than 2 hours on average. It does not require special equipment or training but unlike other visitor-friendly locations, this trek can be a bit of challenge considering it is also an active mine with about 300 men working to mine sulphur in the early hours of the morning along the narrow trail which is also quite steep.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Trail options

Number of options
1
Summary

There is only one clear path to trek Mount Ijen and this is also what is used by the miners. It has an incline of 17 degrees and takes you about 500m in elevation along its 3 km stretch.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Most popular trail

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Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Standard itinerary

Number of days
1
Summary

Since the highlight of this trip is watching the electric blue flames in the dark, most hikers begin the trek in the middle of the night from Paltuding, catch the sunrise from the middle of the calendra and reurn to Paltuding in time for breakfast. You can get to Paltuding from Bali or Surabaya. This itinerary begins at Paltuding.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Day 1

01:30:  Arrive at Paltuding (1,850m) to get a permit for the climb
01:45:  Begin walking. The trail is a clearly laid out across its 3 km stretch. The first kilometer is not too hard. The trail is moderately wide and flat with some shrubbery along the sides. The second kilometer is the most difficult in terms of the terrain as well as the incline and by then the vegetation gives way to barren rocks. The third kilometer is again a moderate climb.

03:00:  Start walking down into the volcano once you’re at the edge of the crater. There is a descent of about 800m into the crater itself. There are handrails for support in some stretches but not all, when you may need to hold on to rock surfaces around you. At some point your guide will give you gas masks to protect agains the sulphur fumes coming up from the active volcano beneath.

04:00:  If you get to the source of the sulphur emissions before sunrise, watch the blue sulphur flames shooting up. You will be a few 100 metres from the edge of the largest acidic crater lake in the world, as sulphur vapours and moton sulphur pour out of the crater around you.

05:30:  Catch the sunrise from the crater rim, and begin your walk back up along the inside of the crater edge, and back to Paltidung.

08:00:  Arrive back at Paltidung.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Climbing Difficulty

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Terrain

Number of distinct sections
2
Summary

There are two parts to the trail - the uphill trail from Paltidung, while steep and jagged in places, is easy to follow. The more challenging section is the descend into the crater itself.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Paltuding to crater rim
The first and last stretches of this section are easy to navigate and not too steep but the mid-section is where most people have difficulty. Add in the darkness, the narrow trail and the (at times) long line of tourists as well as miners and it becomes easy to get separated from your group. You are also likely to start smelling the Sulphur in the air early on in the trek as well as feel some stinging in the eyes. The good news is that there is only a single trail that is clearly marked out so you should be able to catch up with your group soon enough.
Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Crater rim to caldera lake
This is a narrow and difficult climb down along a rather narrow path. You need to step down big rocks holding on side rails, rocks, or each others hands. The fumes are also more intense now and this is where you really need to watch out so you are not overwhelmed by the toxic fumes. Climbing back up to the rim will be easier as there will be more daylight by then.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Weather

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Overview of climate

Indonesia has an average temperature of 28 degrees celcius throughout the year but in the mountainous areas this tends to go down especially at night. At Mount Ijen, the days are pleasant but the nights can get really cold. Temperatures can go down to the range of 5 to 10 degrees celcius.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Best time to climb

As with all treks in the mountains of Indonesia, aim for the dry season between May and September to plan this one. If you intend to catch the blue flames – and what is a trek up Mount Ijen without a glimpse of those? – you have to be at the crater at least by 4 am. So plan to start your trek no later than 2 am as the flames start to disappear as sunlight starts streaming in by 5 am.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Common weather challenges

□ Rain: It is best to not attempt this climb if it is raining – not only will the trail get difficult you will also not get to witness the flames and the sunrise.
□ Wind: Wind is normally not a problem, except when it picks up the sulphur fumes rising up from within the volcano and blows them in your direction. While a gas mask is usually only required inside the crater, make sure you have another face mask (or at least a scarf to cover your face) at all other times as well.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Safety tips

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Climbing safety

Toxic fumes:  Sulphurous fumes are a given on this mountain and everyone has some level of coughing and stinging of the eyes so it is not advisable to attempt this if you have a history of breathing difficulty or have sensitive eyes. Inside the caldera the fumes are far stronger and there is a distinct possibility that at some point the wind will blow the fumes right into your face. It is important to carry appropriate gas masks and maybe even something like skiing goggles to protect your eyes. Stay calm and patient until till the wind blows the fumes in another direction.

Slips and falls:  The rocks up along the inner edge of the caldera have sharp edges and can be challenging to navigate. You’ll need to take big steps on your way up and down so walk carefully and make sure you use your hands for balance. Walking sticks will not help as your hands much more, so make sure you have a good thick pair of gloves for protection.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Personal safety

This is a busy trail frequented by visitors and locals both so there are no major personal safety concerns. But it is also carried out in utter darkness so there is a possibility that at some point you may get separated from your guide or group. It is essential to stay calm and move forward sticking close to other trekkers on the trail.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Safety for women travelers

Indonesia is generally considered a safe country for women. On this trail, most would consider the volcano to be feared more than other people.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Recommended equipment

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Footwear

Comfortable trekking shoes with good grip.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Clothing
  • Warm clothes are very essential at the beginning of the trek. But make sure to layer your clothes so you can easily shed layers since you start getting warmer as you climb up and by the time the sun is up, you will definitely want to have fewer layers.
  • Scarf:  for protection against cold and wind, and volcanic fumes
  • Gloves:  for protection against cold and rain, and to help you grip to side rails and rocks as you climb down
  • Warm cap:  for protection against cold
Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Bags

Light backpack

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Weather protection
  • Sunscreen lotion
  • Sun glasses
  • A face-mask to protect against volcanic fumes (check with your guide about bringing a more sophisticated gas mask for when you’re inside the crater)
  • Skiing goggles to protect your eyes against volcanic fumes (optional)
Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Climbing support

Not required

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Navigation tools
  • Headlamps
  • Flashlight (optional)
Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Medical equipment

Basic first-aid kid, for cuts and bruises

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Food
  • Drinking water
  • Dry snacks – chocolates, energy bars, etc. (optional)
Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Hygene sanitation
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wet and dry tissues
Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Connectivity

Mobile phone(s)

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Documents

Climbing permit (generally issued at the entrance of the trail)

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Support facilities

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Resting stops and facilities

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Rest stops

There are no designated rest stops on the trail, but at about a half hour distance from the crater rim there is a shack where you can get tea and soft drinks.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Base camp

Given the short trek, there is no designated base camp. Most visitors start and end the tour at Paltidung, where there are toilets and a shop selling basic necessities.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Guides and porters

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Do you need a guide?

It is not mandatory to have a guide on this trek and there are many tourists who do it on their own. However, given the time of the climb and the possibility of getting to the best spots for the best experience, it may be a good idea to have a guide along.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - How to find a guide?

The best way to find a guide is through recommendations on travel blogs and social media. Make sure to zero in a guide who has made several trips up the mountain with various groups so he (or she) will be well equipped to handle emergencies and know they way around.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Tips while working with guides

Read reviews from previous climbers before confirming a guide. Make it known to the guide if appropriate how you heard about them and offer to write a review if you like the experience. This might give them the extra incentive to be attentive to your needs.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Porters

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Do you need a porter?

Porters are not required for this climb.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - How to find a porter?

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Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Tips while working with porters

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Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Food & water

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - At the start of the hike

Since the hike typically starts very early in the morning, have a coffee or light snack before you start.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - During the hike, along the trail

The guide will carry water for you, if pre-arranged. At about a half hour distance from the crater rim there is a shack where you can get tea and soft drinks. Being a short trek, you’re unlikely to need much more than a few small bites along the way. Some guides will have also have a boxed breakfast for you after the trek is complete.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - During the hike, at base camp

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Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Network connectivity

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Phone and data (3G) connectivity

Mobile signal is patchy and you’re unlikely to find good 3G connectivity along the way.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Accessibility

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Getting there

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Nearest airport
Bali or Surabaya.
Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - From the airport to the starting point

Most tour operators will pick you up from Surabaya or Bali. If you are driving on your own from Bali, you will need to first ride to Gilimanuk (a 4 to 5 hour drive depending on the traffic and road conditions) from where you can take a ferry to Ketapang in East Java. From the Ketapang harbor it is a 2 to 3 hour ride to Paltuding. The last stretch is a rugged path and it will be best to hire a 4×4 drive for this bit.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Climbing permits

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Is a permit needed?
Yes a permit is needed for this climb.
Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - How to get a permit?

The office for issuing permits is right at the entrance of the trail and opens at about 1 am for the midnight trek.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - Special Tips

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - For amateur climbers

Mount Ijen can be a strenuous trek for some, but if you are fit it may not pose much of a challenge. Combine the experience with a trek up Mount Bromo – which is not too far – and you get to see two different volcanoes offering completely different landscapes and experience.

Climbing Ijen Crater Indonesia - For advanced climbers

tbd

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