Kawah Ijen Crater, as the whole Indonesia, was one of the most stunning adventures I have experienced in my life. This untypical scenery is a combination of unique local stories and phenomenon nature. I traveled along Java to get to Bromo and Ijen crater on the south-east side of the island. Ijen Crater is a true natural wonder of the world.
Hiking Ijen Crater lake.
Hiking Ijen Crater is not too difficult, it does not require any special fitness level and it is accessible for an average traveler. We didn’t have any guide but most of people would be using them. It is possible to join Ijen Crater tour but it is also doable alone, the path is pretty maintained. Start trekking toward Ijen crater early enough /we started at 1am/ to witness sunrise and blue flames! You can’t miss them! The road is quite simple, you just need to walk few kilometers to get to the top of the crater. Only if you’re there before 4 am you might have a chance to see unique phenomenon in the bottom of the crater – the blue flames.
Blue flames in Kawah Ijen.
Some habitats say that Ijen blue flames can only be seen once a week. We were lucky and saw this magnificent phenomenon. By the time you reach Ijen Crater it still may be completely dark. But there are many people hiking down toward the crater so you don’t need to worry you get lost. Although you need to be careful walking down as the crater slope is rocky and pretty steep. It’s still night when you reach the bottom of the crater and the view of the blue flames was one of the most incredible I’ve seen in my life. Some of the gases condense into liquid sulfur, which pours from the side of volcano and flows down the slopes burning blue fire. The burning leaks are rare phenomenon to see anywhere in the world. You feel the heat and the smoke is so choking that it’s impossible to get really close to the flames. The scenery is so unbelievable as the blue flames spread over the surrounding rocks.
Ijen Crater acidic lake.
This whole scenery is so unbelievable that it’s hard to notice when it’s getting bright and the day uncovers the beauty of the acidic lake. Ijen volcano contains the world’s largest acidic volcanic lake. The acidic lake has a green-blue lagoon color and boils constantly at 300 degrees. We climbed back to the top of the crater to admire magnificent view. Only now you realize how huge is the crater and so is the lake. In the bottom of the crater local miners are digging sulphur from the active vents at Ijen. The whole area is covered with a smoke coming form the underground, as the liquid red sulphur erupts from the vents and in contact with air cools to a yellow color. The smell of the smoke is terrible and choking. This is where most people wear face masks.
Sulfur mining at the Ijen Crater.
The miners spend their life probably in one of the hardest working environment on earth. Starting their labor at dusk to hide from a scorching sun they barrel through the rocky paths of the crater carring sulphur stones on their back to the city. They are paid crazy small money for the toughest work in this planet. They climb the caldera two to three times a day carrying 80-100 kg on their back. From the top of the caldera they still need to walk 3 km one way to bring the stones and get paid. All the minors are so tiny that it’s actually hard to believe that they can be so resistant. We asked them to tell us about how they cope with this activity and what are the health consequences. Some of them avoid deeper conversation but some eagerly uncover their bodies to show us their shoulders and back deformations. Their bones are covered with a crust skin from the heavy stick holding the baskets. They are constantly in back or spine pain but have to work. They try to sell small figures made of sulphur but it’s ok to give them small money for sharing the story or simply to support their effort or just to take a photo. It is also possible to take a walk around the caldera to stay with the view for a bit longer.