We stopped in Banyuwangi in Indonesia, as we wanted to visit Ijen Crater. It was a bit of an ordeal getting there (more on that later), but we eventually made it. We set off from our hotel at 01:00 and arrived at the start point at 02:40. It then took us around an hour and 20 minutes to hike the 3 km to the top, which was very steep for around the first half. The reason that we had to start our climb so early was that we wanted to see the blue flames of the burning sulphur gas, and this is something that can only be seen at night. We had to climb by torch light, as it is very dark up there at that time of night.
Blue Fire At Ijen Crater
After reaching the top, we then had to climb down another 1.5 km to the bottom of the crater, as this is where the gas is burning, and also where the miners get the sulphur from. It’s a steep climb down into the crater, and it can be quite dangerous, so you should only attempt it if you’re fit and able. You’ll also need to wear a mask or scarf to protect yourself from the sulphur fumes.
While we were at the bottom of the crater, the wind suddenly changed, and the whole crater started filling up with sulphur smoke, so we had to leave quite quickly. We had planned to see the acid lake from the bottom of the crater, but the smoke was just too bad.
By the time we got back to the top, the whole crater was full of sulphur smoke, as you can see in the image above.
Videos Of Blue Fire
Acid Lake At Ijen Crater
We then walked for about another 1-2 km around the top of the crater so that we could get a view of the acid lake, which is the largest in the world. Unfortunately the sulphur smoke was still filling most of the crater, so we only got a partial view of the lake.
The lake is supposed to look quite spectacular on days when the smoke isn’t so bad, so whether you see that view or not depends on the weather conditions. On windy days, the smoke gets blown away, but on calm days it just fills the crater.
On a clear day you are able to see Bali, but it was just too smoky and cloudy when we were at the top of the crater.
There are many miners walking up and down the volcano, as they bring up the sulphur from the bottom of the crater. They carry loads of 70-80 kg a time, twice day. That means that they walk a total distance of around 18 km each day. For this, they get paid around $14 per day. These miners are amazingly strong.
The baskets above contain 80 kg of sulphur. This load is waiting to be carried down from the top of the volcano.
It took us around 6 hours to complete the walk. During that time we walked around 12 km. So you need to be fairly fit to make this trip. Most visitors arrive later and just climb to the top to get a view of the lake. On the day we were there, only about 20 people walked down to the bottom of the crater. It’s not possible to go down every day, as the guards sometime deem it to be too dangerous.
Video Of Acid Lake At Ijen Crater
Luwak Coffee (Civet Coffee)
On the way back from our trip we stopped at a coffee plantation. This is where we found out how they make luwak coffee (civet coffee). The civets are kept in small cages and fed coffee beans which they later excrete. Coffee is then made from the excreted beans and sold for around $10 a cup, or over $200 per pound.
This is just a cruel practice that should be banned. My advice is not to buy this coffee.
Our Disaster Tour
We had booked our tour with a local company, but when we were about 7 km from the volcano the car engine started overheating. The driver wanted to turn back to get a different car, so tried to reverse the car on the small single-track road. However, he ended up reversing it into a ditch. It took us a few hours to get a jeep to pull the car out, so we were too late to see the blue flame.
So we agreed to go again the next day, as we were assured that either the car would be repaired or we’d use a different car. The second night we got the same car, and the engine overheated again. It stopped 6 or 7 times, and I thought we’d miss the blue flames again. This could happen to anyone once, but to happen two nights running made the company seem very amateur. While our guide was very good, I wouldn’t recommend the company we used.
Hotels Near Ijen Crater
We stayed at Ketapang Indah Hotel while in Banyuwangi. This is one of the best hotels in the area and is very reasonably priced. Click here to book a room at Ketapang Indah Hotel via Agoda.