Java – A hike to the Ijen Crater & the blue Flames (Indonesia)

Categories: Travel reports, Asia, Indonesia

After a visit to Mount Bromo yesterday, after a very short night, we started again at 1 o’clock at night. On the program was a hike to the Ijen Crater.


The drive to the Paltuding car park

Together with our guide and the driver we took the jeep to the parking lot Paltuding, which is the starting point for hikes to ijen crater. When we arrived, there were already many other tourists in the parking lot with their guides.

The Ijen Crater

Ijen is a volcanic complexwith a diameter of 75 km. The most famous is the turquoise crater lake Kawah Ijen, which is considered “the largest acid barrel on earth”.

The hike to the crater

With a great starry sky and cold 5 degrees, the 3 km long and about 90-minute steep ascent to the Ijen Crater started. However, our first goal was the sulphur mining site on the south-eastern shore of the lake, one of the most active solfatars on earth and the most important sulfur accumulation in Indonesia. It is officially forbidden to descend the crater because it is too dangerous. But somehow that doesn’t seem to bother anyone and dozens of agencies offer tours here.

The descent into the crater is a total of 1 km long and can only be reached via partly really steep slopes. Armed with flashlights, we carefully dared to descend in the dark. Halfway through the path, you have to put on a gas mask, as the rising sulfur vapours can cause health damage. Shortly before we arrived at the bottom, thicker and thicker sulfur vapours came towards us. The smell is unbearable, the steam is warm and biting in the eyes. So in the truest sense of the word “eyes to and through”.

The Blue Flames of Sulphur Springs

At the bottom of the crater we also saw the well-known Blue Flames, which are created by the fact that the sulfur gases ignite when in contact with the air. This luminous spectacle can only be seen at night in the dark, but unfortunately it is difficult to photograph because of the almost perfect darkness.

A video of the blue flames

Here we found a video where you can see the flickering of the blue sulfur flames:

The miners in the crater

The sulfur vapours are routed through a system of thick pipelines to lower-lying sampling points, where the sulfur as a hot viscous orange to red-colored mass escapes and turns into a bright yellow only after cooling. The sulfur is then broken off by the miners with iron bars and stored in the bamboo baskets. The heavy baskets of the miners, which are filled with rocks of sulphur up to 70 kg, are then carried by the “strongest men in the world” to the parking lot 3 kilometres away. It is unbelievable what conditions the workers are exposed to every day. And for that they get a mini-wage of just 3 to 4 euros per 70 kg basket. We were already broken and completely out of breath after the extremely steep ascent – without the baskets… Madness!

The sunrise at Ijen Crater

After a while with the Blue Flames we climbed back to the crater rim and had to hurry up a bit to see the sunrise. At the best vantage point it was finally 1 km to run. Shortly before sunrise we had a good place – on one side the view to the sun and the sea and on the other side a great view of the luminous crater lake. The edge of the crater is not secured, which makes the scenario even more impressive.

From the edge of the crater you could now see the sulfur springs in the light, where we had seen the Blue Flames tonight.

Around 8 o’clock we walked back to the parking lot. The thick cloud formations on the other side of the mountain were great to look at.

After we were back in the hotel, we had a short breakfast and then lay down again for two hours. At noon, the journey continued into Sukamade, four hours away, on the south coast of Java.