1. When is the best time to visit Ijen?
Ijen National Park is open all year round, and the best time to visit Ijen is during the dry season from April to October. Incidence of rain will be higher during the wet season from November to March. For conservation reason, Ijen is closed every first Friday of the month starting in year 2019. For year 2020, the closure days are 7 Feb, 6 Mar, 3 Apr, 1 May, 5 Jun, 3 Jul, 7 Aug, 4 Sep, 2 Oct, 6 Nov and 4 Dec.
2. Where is Ijen located and what is the landscape like?
Ijen Crater, also known as Kawah Ijen, is a volcano complex (group of volcanoes) in East Java. At the top of the crater is the magnificent turquoise acidic lake (2148 m high) of Kawah Ijen – probably the most acidic lake in the world – surrounded by the volcanos sheer crater walls. One of the highlights of Ijen is its electric-blue flame that can only be seen at night. The blue flame is actually ignited sulphuric gas, which emerges from cracks at high pressure and temperatures (above 600°C). You will also have the opportunity to witness how the miners brave the sulphuric gas in order to carry up tons of sulphur from the crater floor.
3. Where are the accommodations available in Ijen?
Most visitors stay near the foot of Ijen Crater at one of the two homestays available: Catimor Homestay or Arabica Homestay, which are only a 30 min drive to the trailhead at Paltuding. Both homestays are considered very basic. There are some interesting sights in the vicinity of the homestays, such as coffee plantations and coffee processing factories. There is also a waterfall and hotspring nearby. The better accommodations are found in the nearest major towns – Bondowoso or Bangyuwangi. These will be more comfortable, but will cost slightly more and are much further away from the trailhead (~2 hrs drive). You will have to set off at least around 2 hrs earlier for the Ijen tour if you intend to stay in Bondowoso.
4. What is a typical itinerary like?
You will be given an early morning wakeup call around 3-4am to prepare for the Ijen night hike. A drive (~ 45 min) will bring you to the trail head at Paltuding, where you will start your hike to the Ijen crater (approx. 1.5hrs). After sunrise, you will hike back to the trail head at Paltuding where your driver will fetch you back to the homestay. To catch the blue flames which is only visible before daybreak, you would have to wake up and set off from the homestay around 1-2am.
5. How difficult is the hike to the crater rim?
It is a 3.3km hike (~1.5 hrs) from the trailhead at Paltuding to the crater rim. This section of the trail is basically a wide dirt road but sloping upwards all the way to the rim. It can be quite taxing to hike up the slope if you do not exercise regularly.
6. Can I go down to the crater floor for a closer look at the blue flame?
Our guide will only be able to lead you up to the crater rim, as this is part of the Indonesian National Park regulations. However, at your own risk (and not recommended), it is possible to arrange for a local guide (ex-miner) to bring you down to the crater floor where you can take a clearer look at the blue flames and the lake. The hike is approximately 500m (one way), and will take you about 45 mins. This section of the trail is steep, rocky and can be precarious if you are not careful. While hiking, priority of the way should always be given to the miners who carry up to 70kg of the sulphur weight. This extra cost of hiring the guide is not included in our tour package and is only payable by cash on the day itself. The cost for optional hike down the crater cost IDR 400,000 IDR for 1 pax private group and IDR 200,000 each person for group size 2 and above. This includes both fees to the guide and gas mask rental. Since 2017, it is no longer allowed to directly engage a local miner to be a guide anymore.
7. What is the temperature at Ijen?
The temperatures are refreshingly cool during the day but gets very cold at night. Temperatures at night will vary between 5-10 degrees Celsius.
8. What clothes should I wear for Ijen?
Winter wear is essential for visiting Ijen in the early morning. You should layer appropriately, preferably in three layers:- a quick dry base layer, a thick fleece or wool jacket and wind breaker with accessories like beanie, scarf and gloves which you can easily remove when the sun rises and gets significantly warmer.
9. What types of footwear are recommended for the hike?
A pair of covered shoes with good traction and ankle grip to protect your feet from sharp rocks. Sport shoes are fine but not sandals.
10. Do I need a trekking stick for the hike?
A trekking stick is useful for providing extra stability and traction when going uphill and reducing strain on joints when going downhill. It is a good to have but not absolutely necessary for the Ijen hike.
11. Are there any other essential items to bring along?
The surroundings, especially when you are nearing the crater rim, will smell of sulphur. A face mask is needed to protect yourself from inhaling the sulphuric particles. While basic mask is provided by our guide, we recommend the N95 with ventilator which you can buy in Singapore. You can also rent a gas mask at around IDR 50,000 if preferred. If you opt for the trek down the crater, the price includes gas mask rental. You will be hiking in the dark, therefore a headlight (to free your hands from carrying the torch light) is needed to light up your way. You should also bring along a poncho in case it rains.
12. Do I need to bring any food for the hike?
As you might feel hungry during the hike, we recommend you to bring some lightweight trail food like energy bar, biscuits, nuts and raisins, fruits etc that are easy to pack.
13. How much water should I bring for Ijen?
At least 2 litres of drinking water for the whole tour. There is no water source along the way except at the National Park Office (just before the trailhead) where there is one small convenience store selling snacks and drinks.
14. Are there any toilets available along the hike?
There is no toilet along the way except at the National Park Office.
15. Can I camp at Ijen?
Yes, we can arrange camping for your night stay at Paltuding area.
16. Can I take a domestic flight from Surabaya to Ijen?
There are a few daily flights from Surabaya to Banyuwangi. They are: (1) Garuda Indonesia 7302 (605am > 700am), Garuda Indonesia 7304 (1145am > 1245pm) and Wings Abadi 1880 (1200pm > 1250pm). Depending on the location of your accommodations, it can take an extra 1 to 3 hours to get from Banyuwangi airport to your lodge (e.g. 2.5 hour to Catimor).
17. Can I continue to Bali after Ijen?
Yes, you can. After Ijen sunrise, we can transfer you to Ketapang Harbour (East Java, near Ijen) for the ferry to Gilimanuk Harbour (Bali). If you require onward transport in Bali, we can help to arrange as well. Our guide will accompany your group on the ferry to Bali.
18. Do I have to carry my luggage for the Ijen hike?
You will keep your luggage in your vehicle for safekeeping while you hike. For our standard itinerary, you will not be returning to your accommodations but continue with sight-seeing and onward travel to next destination.
19. What do I need to bring for the Sempol hotspring visit?
Bring along swim wear (no bikinis), towel, slippers if you would like to take a dip.
16. Can I swim at Sempol Waterfalls?
Swimming is not allowed. But you may still get wet from the water. Our guides will provide ponchos for everybody. For footwear, we recommend covered rubber shoes like Crocs. Sandals/slippers with good grips are also fine but please be careful not to hit any rocks.
17. What are the alternate plans if Ijen Crater is closed?
In the event that Ijen Crater is not accessible e.g. due to excessive smoke, the contingency plan is to explore the Ijen Crater area instead – visit to coffee plantation, hot spring, Kalibendo and Jagir Waterfalls. Another option is to go for Pekalen water rafting.