The blue lava volcano
The most unexpected trip we could ever have imagined we would be doing. And all it happened while having a chat with out driver we got to show us everywhere in Bali island, where the subject of blue lava came as a thread. I must be honest in saying I’ve never ever heard about this to be real or that any place in the world would exist with this but hey! The surprise kept us on a high knowing we were in fact not that far from one of the only 2 places in the world with blue lava! Yet things get even more thrilling after learning Mount Ijen is in fact, the only accessible of them 2. Merely for information, the other such volcano is in Iceland and it is inaccessible.
Giving up the splendid beach and pool at the resort we stayed in Bali was hard and kept us thinking if we should go ahead in doing this trip or not. Once I keep telling you then you will know why. This was not just getting there at any time and that’s all, but instead it required travelling in the night, and spend the entire night awake, hiking at terribly unsocial odd hours in the middle of the pitch black night. Then after sunrise, thinking on the same way back with a much longer driving time due to the heavier traffic. It took almost 24 hours since we were picked at the hotel and until we were dropped off.
Now if you ask me if the terrible tiredness, and extreme danger we were constantly when hiking up and down to the caldera of the volcano, I can tell you YES! Do it. Never think twice or you will regret not doing this. It is something so unique you might never have another chance in your lifetime, unless you travel back here on purpose.
For more information about Mount Ijen National Park check the Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites (a very little note in this last site about it). Indonesia’s currency is the Rupiah (IDR, or you can see it as Rs). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
How to get there
This was the trickiest part of the entire trip. It was a lengthy and very tiring journey. But again, I suppose this depends from where you are planning to come from. Here I can only talk about accessing from Bali.
Tour operators offer this as a package trip, but you do not need to be on a tour. Have a driver instead to take you there, this is by all means much faster and much fun. Contact me if you need a very good recommendation for a driver while you are in Bali. He can take you everywhere you wish and his day price is one of the most competitive you will find. Don’t let yourself to be rip off or paying more than it really is. Our driver was one of our highlights in the entire trip! Also it depends if your wish is to see the blue lava in its full, for which you will need to be on a night excursion, or if otherwise you just want to admire the volcano in daylight (but the blue lava will be way less visible).
From Nusa Dua where our resort was we departed at 20.00pm arriving around midnight at Gilimanuk port at the north-westernmost point of Bali. Then was a 1 hour ferry crossing to Ketapang port in East Java. From there, and already after 1.00am, was still around 1 more hour until reaching the entrance to the National Park.
It is very important you know that from the base before entering the National Park, you are “forced” to switch transport and continue the way up to the gates in a 4×4, a journey of little over 15 minutes where you are charged Rs 450000 (per 4×4 not per person). The more you are the cheaper of course. There is however a way to avoid this but you will need to be with a driver as we were, whose friend took us there. His friend is a guide specialized in Mount Ijen.
Entrance fee to the national park
There is a fee of Rs 100000 collected at the entrance gate of the volcano. This gate opens at 3.00am. Anytime before is when people start to arrive. There is a bar and kiosk which is open all night so if you arrive early don’t worry, you can have a coffee while waiting. Here you can rent a gas mask if you do not have one or if your guide did not provide it. Ask your guide just in case, but MAKE SURE you will have one now or later.
What to see and how to plan your visit
Arriving to the main gates of the volcano before they open at 3.00am is the key. In fact when we were there, they opened at 2.40am. It is an almost 2 hours hike up in the pitch black of the night, only aid with the light of the torches your guide will provide you. There will be many more people all climbing at once so if you stick to a group it might be easier, but can be slower. As you will see the people disperse quite quickly with the fast ones taking advantage, and the slower one taking their time. We were too excited so our hike was done in an impressive 1 hour and 15 minutes, a record as our guides told us. It was such that they even struggled to keep our pace!
Remember the way up is entirely over dust and sand. Have good shoes and under no circumstance take flip flops.
Also EXTREMELY IMPORTANT at this point, there is a rest post half way. Here you can rent a gas mask if your guide did not provide you with one or if you forgot to rent it at the base where the bar was.
Once you reach the top rim, the hardest part comes. Heading down to the caldera. Still, pitch black and on a tiny path where if you fall you’ll probably won’t survive to tell. Half way down you will be already rewarded as you get to see some of the blue lava flames.
At the caldera you must wear the gas masks. The smoke is extremely poisonous and can make you blind. It will be hard to get some visibility still, as it is matter of minutes before sunrise, but you can get near the stream of blue fire.
After sunrise, take a look up from where you descended and you will be shocked how could you do it! Then look around you and to the huge smoke streams everywhere. The blue caldera lake (it is the largest most acid caldera lake anywhere in the world), and the sulfur everywhere you. Quite an awesome sight, very worth once in a lifetime. You are right in the middle of an active volcano.
Please refer to Bali travel guide since this is from where we came here as a day trip. There are however, many other options or places from where you might be coming to Mount Ijen where you are likely to have your accommodation since this is almost 100% a day trip from elsewhere within Java or Bali islands.