This post was last updated on June 26th, 2020 at 06:19 pm
Besides the famous Bromo volcano, the Ijen volcano is also one of the most beautiful volcanoes in Indonesia. Visiting one, or both is a must during your trip to this beautiful country. We often see the same question pop up: Should I visit Bromo or Ijen? If you’re facing this same dilemma, read our blog to make a weighted choice! Did you finally choose to visit Ijen or both volcanoes? In this article, you can read how to get there, what awaits you, and the best tips for your visit to the Ijen volcano!
Climbing Kawah Ijen Volcano
For a visit to the Ijen, it is recommended to start early in the night. We were picked up from the hotel around midnight and started the barren journey to the top not long afterward. This was quite the climb, it took way more effort than we thought! A day earlier we had climbed Mount Bromo in the sun, but nothing prepared us for this.
Now we understand why we were picked up at midnight: to climb the Ijen you have to walk about 3 kilometers up a steep path. In the dark, you actually don’t even realize how steep it actually is. You can feel it in your legs! We are in decent condition and still had to catch our breath a few times. After 2 kilometers there is a cafe where you can catch your breath and have a drink.
One interesting detail to us was that all this time you have no idea what kind of environment you are walking in. It is dark around you so you only see the path ahead. On the way back you will see how steep the path actually is and how beautiful the environment is.
At some point, you will be informed and it is recommended to wear a respirator against the polluted air. It starts to smell very bad. This is due to the sulfur smoke coming from the volcano. Without a mask, you can feel it directly in your lungs and you start coughing. It does not make breathing freer, but fortunately, the path here is also a bit less steep! Once upstairs it is still dark and you still have no idea where you are. Fortunately, you will be accompanied by a guide.
Then you have to descend again, into the crater. Now there is no longer a path, it’s just climbing and scrambling over the rocks of the volcano. Take a good look where you put your feet and occasionally take a big step down. It is quite the trip but finally, you’ll be down in the crater. You also get a lot in return for your efforts!
At the bottom, you can see men at work chopping sulfite out of the rock all night. By condensing the sulfur vapor, a liquid is created, which immediately hardens as soon as it falls on the ground. This is yellow sulfur: a raw material that is used in medicines and cosmetics, among other things. The workers carve this out and collect it in baskets. The poignant thing is that they often do not wear a mask and have to lift the heavy baskets on their back out of the crater. And we already had difficulty climbing Ijen without 30 kilos on our backs!
Keep in mind: you cannot bring the sulfite that the workers offer you! Rather give the workers a big tip!
The men are very nice and are happy to explain how the process works. They also try everything to get a tip. For example, you can take a photo with baskets on your back.
Another attraction in the crater is the “blue fire“, which is also something that arises from a chemical reaction of, among other things, the sulfur vapor. It is still dark in the crater, so the fire is clearly visible. Our guide very kindly offered to take a photo close to the fire. Of course, you cannot get that close yourself!
Finally, you can take a look at the lake that is located in the crater. The lake is a very beautiful color turquoise blue and 40 degrees Celsius (104°F). In the dark, you only see a small part. We then climbed back up a bit and waited for the sun to rise. Only then does it become clear how big the crater and the lake actually are!
Now that the sun has risen we walked back 3 kilometers. First climb out of the crater, then walk down the steep path. This is also quite heavy because you are constantly busy with keeping your body “back” and not falling. At around 07:00 a.m. we are back in the parking lot with the car and we are taken to the ferry to take the boat to Bali.
Now that you know what to expect and hopefully got excited, we’ll tell you how to get there!
Visit Ijen from Surabaya or Malang
Surabaya and Malang both have airports and these are fairly close to both Bromo and Ijen volcano. The volcanoes are often visited directly from the airport. There are several options available. If you want to visit the Ijen, it is very likely that you will end up at one of these airports by public transport (train) or by flying. From here you can travel to the Ijen by public transport or with a tour. Since you practically drive along the Bromo from here, we advise you to visit both if you have the time. But of course, this is not necessary!
Bromo Authentic tour from Surabaya (airport)
We could not choose between the volcanoes and booked a package where you visit both Bromo and Ijen from Surabaya. In Surabaya, we were picked up by a private driver who took us, in about 3 hours, to a hotel in Probolinggo, which is located at the foot of the Bromo volcano. The next night/day we visited the Bromo volcano and in the afternoon we drove to the hotel near the Ijen volcano, in Banyuwangi.
We have booked this tour at Bromo Authentic Tours. They offer different tours, from different places and with different transport options. We chose the Bromo Ijen Tour 3D2N, where we were picked up at the airport in Surabaya, visited the Bromo and Ijen, and then dropped off at the ferry to Bali (Ketapang port to Gilimanuk). Then we were even brought to the other side of the island in Bali. This whole package including private transport, hotel accommodation with breakfast, and a ferry ticket cost 4.410.000 IDR (~ US$311) for two people. The entrance fee to the volcanoes (Bromo 230,000 IDR (~ US$16) p.p., Ijen 100,000 IDR (~ US$7) p.p.) was not included.
Via Viator.com you can book a similar tour for around US$240 p.p. incl. all costs (this is not Bromo Authentic Tours).
You can also do this tour from Malang. The drive from Malang to Ijen takes about 6 hours. You will then be picked up in Malang and at the end, you will be driven back to Malang. Of course, you can ask if it is possible to pick you up in Malang and afterward, drive to Surabaya or elsewhere so that you can continue your tour.
Do not hesitate to contact the providers and ask about the possibilities. They are often willing to pick you up and drop you off anywhere!
With or without a tour?
There are many different ways to visit Ijen. We chose a tour because it was the fastest and most comfortable option. What was especially nice was that we were dropped off at the ferry and could immediately continue our journey. This saved a lot of time. There are many different tour providers and there are many possibilities. Take a look at what is most convenient for your route and budget! Arranging things yourself is often cheaper and offers you a little more freedom. As said before you can visit the Bromo volcano on your own. Read below how to do this best to Ijen!
Visit Ijen volcano independently without a tour
Ijen is best visited from the village of Bayuwangi!
You can also visit Kawah Ijen independently. The most convenient is when you end up in the town of Bayuwangi. This village is located at the foot of the Ijen volcano. So you can find accommodation here. There are several ways to get here.
Fly to Surabaya
You could fly from Yogyakarta (or anywhere else) to Surabaya. This flight lasts approximately 1.5 hours. From Surabaya airport, you can take the Damri bus to Surabaya bus station (Purabaya Bus terminal in Bungurasih). The Damri bus only leaves when it is full. If you don’t feel like waiting, you can also take a taxi to the bus station. From the Purabuyaya bus station, take the bus to Probolinggo, the base for visiting the Bromo volcano. This departs 14 times a day. More information on the bus schedule can be found on this website.
The bus ride takes about 2.5 hours. While you’re there, you could choose to visit the Bromo volcano too! From Probolinggo you take the train to Banyuwangi. This place is located at the foot of the Kawah Ijen. A train ticket costs approximately IDR 225,000 (~ US$16) per person and the journey takes approximately four hours. There is also a direct train from Surabaya to Banyuwangi. This takes about 6 hours, so almost as long as the previous option. Prices are between US$6 and US$12. This train also makes a stop at Probolinggo.
Train from Yogyakarta to Banyuwangi
There is also a direct train from Yogyakarta to Banyuwangi. This takes a little longer than the other options. The Sri Tanjung Karangasem train leaves early: at 7:15 a.m. from Lempuyangan Station and arrives in Banyuwangi at around 9:00 p.m. Train tickets cost between US$9 and US$14.
From Jakarta to Ijen
It is best to fly from Jakarta, or anywhere else in Indonesia, to Surabaya or Malang. There is a train, but it takes about 20 hours. Then follow the steps as described above and continue to Probolinggo and/or Banyuwangi!
Visit Ijen from Bali
The Ijen volcano is located south of Java and is very easy to visit from Bali. We have noticed this ourselves because after the visit to Ijen we took the ferry to Bali which took an hour. The ferry from Ketapang port to the port of Gilimanuk in Bali also only took an hour. Given that Surabaya and Malang are still quite far from Ijen, we would only recommend this if you also visit the Bromo, so that you split up the trip a bit. If you only want to see the Ijen, we recommend going there from Bali.
Ijen from Bali by public transport
To visit Ijen from Bali you have to take the ferry from the port of Gilimanuk. This is located in the west of Bali. Since Bali’s hotspots are mostly on the east side, we looked at the best way to travel to Gilpasanuk from Denpasar (Bali airport). There will be enough transport from the place where you stay at the airport.
You can also fly to Denpasar from a completely different place and then visit the Ijen from there. Buses go to Gilimanuk from Denpasar bus station. This trip takes about 3 hours and costs about 40,000 IDR (~ US$2.80) p.p. The ferry from Bali to Java costs about 6500 IDR (~ US$0.45) p.p. and takes less than an hour. The ferry arrives directly in Banyuwangi.
Where to Stay in Banyuwangi
We stayed (via the tour operator) in a super luxurious hotel, or rather it was more of a resort. However, this luxury was short-lived. We arrived in the evening, had some food, and went to bed for a while. At midnight we were picked up again to go to the Ijen. However, the Ketapang Indah Hotel has very sweetly provided a bag with breakfast. Breakfast included costs US$28 a night for two people. The hotel is rated with an 8.1.
If you don’t want to spend that much for a few hours, choose this budget option. This accommodation is rated an 8.9 and costs only US$3.50 per night including breakfast. Most travelers are particularly positive about the helpful staff. So they can help you on your way to the Ijen!
From Banyuwangi to Ijen with a driver
There are several ways to get from your hotel in Banyuwangi to the Ijen. Most comfortable is probably arranging a private driver through your hotel or around town. This person will pick you up at your hotel at night, you can take your belongings and put them in the car (if you do not return to the hotel) and the driver will also take you to your next destination after the Ijen.
Visit Ijen by scooter from Banyuwangi
Banyuwangi is really super close to the foot and entrance of the Ijen volcano. We were picked up by the driver but before we were well and wide we were already there. So it is certainly also an option to take the scooter from your hotel to Ijen. Of course, this takes a little longer, but it is a cheaper option. I estimate this will be over an hour away. With us, it started to rain a bit and it was quite cold because we were already higher. The road is also quite steep and may, therefore, be slippery due to the rain. Keep this in mind!
A guide is required to climb the Ijen!
At the Ijen volcano, you are obliged to be accompanied by a guide. This guide will be assigned to you when you pay the entrance fee of 100,000 IDR (~ US$7). You will also receive a mask to protect you against the sulfur.
Climbing Ijen: practical tips
First of all, we advise you to really climb the Ijen at night. The tour is tough, and during the day it is a lot warmer. What may also work psychologically is that you do not always see the steep path in front of you, so you do not realize how long and far you have to go and how steep the path is. On the way back we were still surprised about that! In addition, the blue fire is best, if not only, seen in the dark. We would not want to miss the special experience that you don’t know where you are and how big everything is and that this suddenly becomes clear after the sun rises.
Keep in mind that it can be quite cold at night. The air also feels a bit humid or it can even rain a little. So dress up for this! Wear multiple layers that you can always take off or put on. Bringing a raincoat is also handy, just in case. It is clear that good comfortable walking shoes are not an unnecessary luxury.
We received a breakfast package from the hotel. We also recommend that you bring some food and plenty of drinks. As mentioned, a visit takes around 7 hours (from midnight to 7:00 a.m.) and demands a lot from your body. Your body will feel great after a refuel!