Kawah Ijen (Ijen Crater)
Indonesia is a country surrounded by a ring of fire, a term for a country which is surrounded by volcanoes. Especially in Indonesia, the volcanoes are spread all around the main islands.
While it sounds quite dangerous, on the other hand, it holds another natural beautiful destination to be admired at. One of the volcanic tourism is Kawah Ijen (Ijen Crater). Kawah Ijen is located in East Java and has been famous as the natural biggest crater lake in Java Island. Magnets for hikers and adventurous souls, Ijen is a quiet yet active volcano with about 2.386 meters high from the depth of the sea.
Historically, the area used to be a giant active crater covering 134 square kilometers in area. Now, two unique qualities define Kawah Ijen. The first is the obvious turquoise-blue water filling the caldera one-kilometer-wide lake. The turquoise color is the result of the high concentration of acid and dissolved metals and is the world’s largest highly acidic lake. The lake is about 200 meters deep and emits swirling sulfur cloud and surrounding the lake is magnificent garden stone.
The second is the electric blue fire streaming down the mountain like a river. This occurrence is the result of flammable sulfurous gases when entering the earth’s oxygen atmosphere as they ignite, creating blue fire down the stream as if it’s a blue fire river. It burns day and night; however, it is only visible during the dark.
Therefore, the best time to see the blue fire is during dawn, while hiking to catch the sunrise. The combination of watching the blue fire and sunrise over the mountain is truly worth the hike.
You will also be presented with the view of volcanic cones of Ijen, Merapi on the northeastern, and Raung on the southwest corner. Kawah Ijen has a temperature between 9 to 18 Celsius and toxic gases are regularly present. Therefore, proper hiking gear and certainly gas mask is a must while hiking to watch this awesome nature.
Kawah Ijen also has many beautiful species of plants. The iconic edelweiss flower and cemera Gunung (Cauarine junghu) can be found here. The unique nature of the volcano is also rich in sulfur; therefore, the locals have been mining the sulfur for decades.
The view of local miners going up and down to extract sulfur will be a daily basis in Kawah Ijen. Every day they have to carry about 70 kilometers of sulfur, often barefoot and with minimum safety equipment. The toxic gases may sometime reach to a point where it is dangerous to hike and will be closed if necessary. So, always update news on Kawah Ijen before hiking.
Getting to Kawah Ijen
Getting to Kawah Ijen is relatively easy as it is a famous tourist’s destination. You’ll find many tour agents providing transportation and tour to Kawah Ijen. The closest city to Kawah Ijen is Banyuwangi, about 38 kilometers away. You can stay in various accommodations with the best deals in Tripcetera.
In order to get to Banyuwangi, there are several options such as by train, bus, or rent a car for a free and easy experience. Once you reach Banyuwangi, you will continue your journey to Licin, Jambu and Pos Paltuding (the starting point of the trek to the crater).
Keep in mind that the road from the closest city to Kawah Ijen probably will be quite uncomfortable. There is an alternative route via Bondowoso, which is about 60 kilometers away to reach Pos Paltuding.
Once you reach Pos Paltuding, you need to hike to the crater for about 2 hours. To get the best view of blue fire, you need to hike a minimum of 2 hours before sunrise. If possible, you may need to hike slightly earlier to get the best spot in Kawah Ijen.
If you start to hike on the sunrise, there is a big chance that many people are already there and will be crowded. It is possible though to get there in about an hour if you are fit and used to physical activities.
Once you get to the summit, the first thing you see in the dark will be the breathtaking blue fire. A wee bit after sunrise, absorb the view of magnificent the iconic Ijen Crater, with that turquoise-blue lake that takes your breath away.