12 In Asia/ Indonesia

Hiking Kawah Ijen At Night: A Complete Guide To An Active Volcano Night Hike

Ever wanted to hike up an active volcano at night? Me too. When I was in Bali and heard about Kawah Ijen; an active volcano in East Java famous for its unique electric blue flames, I decided that I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity of seeing them in person. So we went on an adventure with IndoTravelTeam and night hike of this volcano. If you’re wondering what it’s like to climb up Kawah Ijen at night, this is the post for you!

Waiting for the sun to rise at the top of Kawah Ijen

Waiting for the sun to rise at the top of Kawah Ijen

About Kawah Ijen

Kawah Ijen is on the island of Java in Indonesia, an island famous for its spectacular temples and wild nature. Ijen is actually a group of composite volcanoes. Kawah Ijen is the highest and the one with the largest crater, and is becoming an increasingly popular tourist attraction 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 actually 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 crater is of Kawah Ijen is also filled of turquoise water, which despite being beautiful to see is actually extremely acidic. Mount Ijen has a dramatic and dangerous beauty to it, and hiking up it at night to see the blue flames and sunrise is an experience I recommend to all outdoors adventure lovers.

Standing over the crater of Kawah Ijen, looking down at the biggest acidic lake in the world

Standing over the crater of Kawah Ijen, looking down at the biggest acidic lake in the world

How to get to Kawah Ijen & Preparing for the hike

We did an organised tour from Bali with IndoTravelTeam. These cost around 100USD per person, and are well worth the price with all the support and guidance you receive. We set off from Seminyak at 6pm on the Friday, and after a 4 hour car drive to Gilimanuk we got an hour long ferry to East Java, and then another 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 dismissed it wondering how cold it could really be. Surprisingly enough, 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.

Misty morning landscapes at Kawah Ijen

Misty morning landscapes at Kawah Ijen

Climbing Kawah Ijen

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 it’s 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 the IndoTravelTeam guides. Having three guides for a group of twelve hikers was really good and it made sure that none of us were ever just walking around alone. Not that you would ever really be alone or lost, as there are quite a lot of both miners and tourists hiking up Mount Ijen at night. 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 sun breaks through and turns East Java pink

The sun breaks through and turns East Java pink

The Blue Flames of Kawah Ijen

After the first steep forty-five 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 an hour and a half 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. It was pretty cool to see in person, although to us it wasn’t the highlight of the night. You can’t get up close to the flames because of the high levels of methane gas there (not complaining, I’d rather be alive!) but it probably contributed to us not being overwhelmed by the flames. The beauty of the landscape, hiking under the starry sky and the unforgettable sunrise were what made the experience so incredible for us.

| READ MORE: PLACES TO AVOID IN BALI |

The Blue Flames of Kawah Ijen, photo by Alexander Mazurkevich / shutterstock.com

The Blue Flames of Kawah Ijen, photo by Alexander Mazurkevich / shutterstock.com

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. While it looks pretty and makes you want to jump in to cool down after the hike, this is tactually the largest acidic lake in the world, so I wouldn’t recommend that. The hydrochloric acid is actually what gives the water that turquoise colour. The water became acidic due to the hydrogen chloride gas emitted by the volcano, which reacts with the water and made it acidic.

Enjoying the morning light after the night hike

Enjoying the morning light after the night hike

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. Some of the guys in our group had a “do you lift” moment and gave it a shot at lifting the sulphur baskets, they claimed they could have taken it down Mount Ijen like the miners but I have my doubts. 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. If you want to find out more about the job of the sulphur miners at Kawah Ijen you can check out this documentary by the BBC or article by CNN.

The sulphur miners, photo by R.M. Nunes / shutterstock.com

The sulphur miners, photo by R.M. Nunes / shutterstock.com

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. All in all hiking up Kawah Ijen was an incredible experience, made even more special by IndoTravelTeam, who ensured we were always safe and having a good time. If you want to go on an organised tour of Kawah Ijen I can highly recommend doing it with them. Don’t forget to check out the video for the full footage of this amazing hike! Have you ever hiked up an active volcano at night? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!

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Ever wondered what it would be like to hike an active volcano at night? Come read about my experience hiking Kawah Ijen, in East Java Indonesia, and I'll try to answer all your questions! Kawah Ijen is especially famous because of the blue flames, visible only here.

If you want to hike up an active volcano at night, Kawah Ijen in East Java, Indonesia, is the place to do it. Discover everything you need to know about this incredible experience, from preparing for the hike, to seeing the blue flames and sunrise.

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Jean
    June 17, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Oh this looks amazing! Well worth the drive. It’s always surprising how cold it gets in the mountains.

    • Reply
      gomoboni
      June 17, 2017 at 3:38 pm

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! Yes it was quite the trip but worth it in my opinion! And I know lol, next time a guide says I’ll need a coat I won’t doubt them haha

  • Reply
    Nerissa
    June 17, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Love your pictures! So many great hikes and sunsets/sunrises to see! I’m just getting into hiking so I’ll be adding your recommendations to my list!! Thanks 🙂

    • Reply
      gomoboni
      June 17, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      Thanks, glad you liked it! When you do it I’ll want to hear all about it!

  • Reply
    Alice
    June 17, 2017 at 9:43 am

    That looks like a great experience! Hiking a volcano is always something that gives you chill in my experience, and this one looks really interesting, I’d love to do that hike! Between that beautiful (but acidic, oops!) lake and the flames… wow! Also I loved your video!!

    • Reply
      gomoboni
      June 17, 2017 at 3:40 pm

      Haha thanks! Glad you liked it! I know right, when I saw it at first I was like wow so pretty and turquoise and then they told me about the acid!

  • Reply
    C-Ludik
    June 17, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Gorgeous photos of sunsets/sunrises ! Wow such a great hiking experience with the lake and the blue flames 🙂 And these sulphur miners carrying bamboo baskets, filled with up to 70kg of sulphurs on their shoulders… for them the hike seems so easy !

    • Reply
      gomoboni
      June 19, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      Thanks, glad you liked the pics, it really was an incredible experience! I know, it’s crazy to think they do the hike three times a day and with such a heavy load!

  • Reply
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