If you’re an adventure and hiking fan, you need to add the Kawah Ijen sunrise hike to your travel bucket list. Kawah Ijen is an active volcano in East Java, and one of the few places in the world where you can see blue flames.
When I found out about it on my first Bali, I decided that I couldn’t miss out on this experience. We did a Ijen crater tour from Bali, and while being pretty knackering, it was one of the highlights of our trip.
If you’re also planning to do the Mount Ijen sunrise hike, this is the guide for you! In this post I’ve outlined everything you need to do about doing the Kawah Ijen night hike, whether you do it yourself or with a tour.
I’ve included some basic information about this incredible natural phenomenon, how to get there, what to expect, what you need to bring and some Ijen crater tour options to choose from.
So let’s dive in and start planning your Bali to Mount Ijen tour!
- 1 About Kawah Ijen
- 2 How to get to Mount Ijen from Bali
- 3 Our experience doing a Mount Ijen sunrise tour from Bali
- 4 Can you hike Ijen without a guide?
- 5 Is doing a Ijen crater tour from Bali worth it?
- 6 Where to stay for your Mount Ijen hike
- 7 What to bring to hike Kawah Ijen
About Kawah Ijen
Kawah Ijen is the highest and the one with the largest crater, which most travellers visit and hike due to the blue flame phenomenon.
The blue flames of Kawah Ijen are a natural phenomenon visible only here due to the combustion of sulphuric gases. Kawah Ijen is an active volcano, but it doesn’t erupt lava as you would expect.
The eruptions are actually of methane and other gases, which make it particularly dangerous as they can’t be predicted like normal eruptions.
The Ijen crater is filled of bright turquoise water, which despite being beautiful to see, is actually extremely acidic.
Mount Ijen has a dramatic and dangerous beauty to it. Doing a Mount Ijen sunrise tour, hiking up at night to see the blue flames and sunrise is an experience I recommend to all outdoors adventure lovers.
How to get to Mount Ijen from Bali
Ijen is in East Java. To get there from Bali you need to drive for around 4 hours (from the main tourist parts of Bali like Ubud, Seminyak or Canggu) to Gilimanuk, where you then get a 1-hour ferry to Java, and then for a final 1-hour drive to the base of Kawah Ijen.
The easiest way to get to Ijen from Bali is do to an organised tour, since they will handle all the transfers and you will then have a guide to support you during the hike.
You can also get there without a tour by either renting a scooter, renting a car or a combination of buses. While it might be cheaper I personally think it would add quite a lot of faff to an already long journey and isn’t worth it.
Our experience doing a Mount Ijen sunrise tour from Bali
We set off from Seminyak at 6pm on the Friday. We did 4- hour minivan drive to Gilimanuk, where we got a 1-hour long ferry to East Java, and then another 1-hour drive to the base camp of Kawah Ijen.
We were ready to be up all night, so spending the car journey sleeping if you can is the best way to ensure you are fresh for the hike.
We were told to wear warm clothes as it can get cold on top of the volcano, and stupidly dismissed it wondering how cold it could really be.
Unsurprisingly, we were wrong and as soon as we stepped out of the car we were greeted by the chilly mountain air.
As our guides explained some of the basics about climbing Kawah Ijen they also handed out warm coats to the foolish people like me that didn’t bring one, along with headlights to climb up in the dark and gas masks for the sulphur gases.
At 2am we set off from the base camp and started hiking under the starry sky. Being a city girl born and raised, I don’t often get to see the night sky unaffected by light pollution, and it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
The hike can be intense and quite steep at parts, but the path is easy to walk since there is an almost paved path, as it used every day by the sulphur miners. It was easy also because we were continuously supported by our guides.
Harry and the other guides know the volcano inside out, and it was fascinating to hear their stories of when they hiked Kawah Ijen as sulphur miners.
The Blue Flames of Kawah Ijen
After the first steep 45 minutes the path flattens out a bit, which makes the second half of the hike easier.
When we were about to approach the peak we were advised to put on our gas masks, as we were downwind form the mines and the sulphur was blowing in our direction.
After 1.5 hours of hiking under the stars we made it to the top, just in time to see the blue flames. This natural phenomenon happens due to the combustion of sulphuric gases.
The gases emerge from cracks in the rock at high pressure and temperature, and when they come in contact with the air, they ignite, creating the blue flames.
When we were there we weren’t allowed to go closer to the flames or inside Ijen crater due to the high levels of methane. Depending on the season and daily weather conditions you might be able to go inside the crater.
While the blue flames were undeniably cool, it wasn’t the highlight of the tour for me. The beauty of the landscape, hiking under the starry sky and the unforgettable sunrise were what made the experience so incredible for us.
The Kawah Ijen Sunrise
Once we decided we had seen enough blue flames we started hiking once again. This part was considerably easier since the area around the crater of the volcano is pretty much flat.
We walked all the way around the crater to the east side, where we sat to wait for the sunrise. That moment of trepidation, sat with other hikers as the sky began to lighten was truly magical.
As the sun came up everything around us became golden, revealing the beauty of the Mount Ijen landscape.
We spent a couple hours at the top, enjoying the warmth of the rising sun and exploring the top of the crater, admiring the turquoise lake beneath us.
The hike back was considerably easier, although a little hard on the knees. On the way back we saw the sulphur miners carrying bamboo baskets, filled with up to 70kg of sulphurs on their shoulders.
It’s crazy to think that we hiked Kawah Ijen as tourists, admiring the beautiful night sky, the peculiarity of the blue flames and acid lake, and the stunning sunrise, while others were hiking it at our same time but for work, trying to make a living.
That is one of the things I love about travelling, you see new things and meet new people, and it makes you reflect on your experiences and how you affect those you meet.
Once we made it back to the base camp we then drove off to a traditional Javanese family house, for a typical Javanese breakfast. After being up and hiking all night this was much needed and appreciated.
We then got in the car and got ready to nap on our 6-hour journey back to Bali.
Can you hike Ijen without a guide?
It depends on your fitness and confidence level. The trail itself is fairly easy and well marked. There are also so many people going up between tourists and miners that it’s almost impossible to get lost.
However if you want to go down inside the crater the path is a little trickier, and having a guide help you and show you where to put your feet will make it much easier.
Personally I was glad to have a guide with us. Our guide used to work as a sulphur miner and had lots of interesting stories about Kawah Ijen. It was also one of my first night hikes so I was glad for the extra support.
If you’re an experienced hiker and have done lots of night hikes before you would be fine without one. Just rent a gas mask at the base of Ijen, follow the crowds and you’re sorted.
Is doing a Ijen crater tour from Bali worth it?
It ultimately depends on how long you have in Bali, but personally, I don’t think so.
While there’s no doubt that hiking under the Milky Way, seeing the natural phenomenon of the blue flames and that stunning sunrise is a magical experience, it’s also a knackering one.
On my first trip to Indonesia I only had 10 days in Bali. Taking 24 hours out of that to see Ijen destroyed us, and we spent the few days after that in Ubud just recovering from the night hike and long journey.
If you have longer in Indonesia then yes, I think you should do it. If I were to go back and hike Ijen again I would do one of the following options instead.
Do a 3-day Ijen & Bromo tour from Bali – The journey from Bali to East Java is pretty long and knackering. I recommend visiting also Mount Bromo while you’re at it.
That way the long bus and ferry journeys will be spread out and not back to back in 24 hours, and you’ll see also one of the most stunning natural landscapes in Indonesia.
Borobudur, Bromo & Ijen tour from Yogyakarta – Alternatively you can also do a 4-day tour from Yogyakarta. This tour also includes a visit to Borobudur, one of the most beautiful temples in Indonesia.
It’s the perfect alternative and gives you the opportunity to see more than just Bali. However it’s quite a long trip so best suited for those who have a long time to spend in Bali.
Hike Mount Batur in Bali instead – If you’re tight on time and can only visit Bali, but really want to do a volcano night and sunrise hike, then I would recommend hiking Mount Batur instead.
Sure, there are no blue flames and the landscape is completely different, but you will still get the night hike experience, without having to take 24 hours out of your day to do so.
Where to stay for your Mount Ijen hike
If you’re doing your Ijen crater tour from Bali it doesn’t really matter where in Bali you’re staying, since it will usually include pick-up and drop-off.
I’ve listed below some of the places I stayed at during my two trips to Bali, which I particularly liked and can recommend.
In Ubud: Desa Visesa or Komaneka at Monkey Forest
I stayed in Ubud twice on separate occasions and in very different types of hotels.
The first time I stayed at Komaneka at Monkey Forest, located right in the centre of Ubud, an easy walking distance to all the main attractions.
Despite being so central it wasn’t noisy, and the resort is very beautiful. I also stayed in a resort called Desa Visesa, which was a bit outside the centre of Ubud but they offer a free shuttle service in the town centre.
Both offer standard rooms at affordable prices, or private villas with pool if you’re looking for something a bit fancier. They’re both also very Insagrammable hotels, perfect for those picture perfect holiday shots!
In Cepaka: Villa Sungai
If you’re willing to splurge a bit on your Bali trip, Villa Sungai is the place to do it. Villa Sungai has been featured multiple times in luxury travel magazines and has won multiple awards.
The property itself is beautiful, with outdoors bathrooms and private pools. The staff are simply stunning and really go out of their way to make your stay there unforgettable. It’s one of the best private pool villas in Bali.
In Canggu: Pondok Homestay
In Canggu we stayed at Pondok Homestay, a lovely property a short 20 minute walk down to the beach. For 24 EUR a night we had a private ensuite room with air conditioning and a pool.
The property was just off the main road and next to a rice field, away from the noise of the busy street, which made it a very quiet and pleasant place to stay.
What to bring to hike Kawah Ijen
If you choose to do a Ijen guided tour they will provide you with the essentials like gas mask and a warm coat.
You don’t need much besides the usual travel essentials, but I’ve listed below some things that you should remember to pack.
Warm coat – I know what you’re thinking, you’re going to Bali, you don’t want to bring a warm coat with you! With a tour they should give you one, but better safe than cold!
Water bottle – There are no services whatsoever once you start the hike, so make sure to bring plenty of water with you for the hike!
Comfortable walking shoes – You don’t want your feet to hurt half way through the hike. Bring some comfy walking shoes with you and you’ll be sorted for a night of hiking!
Head torch – You’ll be hiking in the dark after all! They should give you one if you do a tour, but if you’re hiking alone you will definitely need one, even if there will be lots of lights from other people hiking.
Final thoughts on doing a Ijen crater tour
Have you ever hiked up an active volcano at night? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!
Doing the Kawah Ijen night hike was one of the coolest parts of our Bali trip. Yes it was pretty knackering, but it was also pretty magical and a unique experience I’d never had before.
I hope you find this guide useful in planning your own Ijen tour from Bali. I’ve listed everything you need to know and can expect, as well as some better options if you have longer to spend in Indonesia.
Looking for more Indonesia and Bali travel tips? Check out these guides:
- The most beautiful places in Bali
- Plan your perfect Bali surfing trip
- The ultimate Bali bucket list
- Explore the most beautiful rice fields in Bali
- Snorkel with turtles in Gili Trawangan
- Places to avoid in Bali & where to go instead