Bucket List: Ijen
The day before we hiked up to Ijen, we had visited Mount Bromo and that same afternoon took a train from Probolinggo to Banyuwangi. We arrived at our accommodation at 9pm, extremely miserable and tired just to find out that our room still wasn’t ready. So while we were waiting for our room, we booked our tour to Ijen. A group was going the following morning for sunrise, so we joined them. Easy as that. The only drawback, the tour was leaving at 12.30am, allowing us about 2 hours sleep. The price was significantly cheaper than Bromo so we weren’t feeling guilty that we didn’t do it independently. Plus, sleeping in the minibus on the way there and back was a major bonus.
Anyone who plans to do Bromo and Ijen, we’d recommend having a rest day in between for a good night’s sleep, as we were absolutely shattered.
Another painful wake up call and on to the mini bus we went with as many layers on as possible – our sunrise experience at Bromo taught us well! We arrived at the parking area of Kawah Ijen at 1.30am but the trail to Ijen doesn’t open until 2am – perfect time to down a few coffees. Despite the layers, Hayley’s shivering was obviously noticeable as our driver was an absolute angel and offered a huge, padded coat for the trip.
When it was time to begin the trek, our group met with the tour guide who gave us our gas masks and led us to the entrance to begin the hike. The first half of the walk is seriously steep! We were determined to stick together as a group but whoever was setting the pace was making the whole ‘together’ thing a difficult task. There isn’t much of a need to stay together as obviously you’re all heading to the same place on the only path up and ypur group will wait for you near Ijen so you can see the blue flames together. Once you reach the halfway point (a little pop up selling snacks and drinks), the walk becomes a lot easier thankfully.
Those of you that are suckers for a starry night, remember to keep looking up. With little light pollution there, the sky is spectacular!
Once you reach the top, you’ll see that Ijen’s crater lake looks impressive even in the dark. Being totally honest, when we planned to do Ijen we weren’t too fussed about the blue flames. However, there’s such a huge hype regarding them that we hoped that they’d surprise us and prove us wrong but hey just didn’t do it for us. Hayley decided not to get close and personal with them but Luke still slid his gas mask on and climbed down into the crater with the group. The sulphur fumes were incredibly strong and at one point, the wind changed while Luke was by the flames, covering the area in smoke. At this point the gas mask gave little help for his breathing so it was a case of closing his eyes and holding his breath until fumes cleared up.
If you go independently make sure you rent a gas mask, you can either get one before your trip at the car park before the hike or anywhere on the crater edge as there are lots of people offering them out.
At 5.30am, the group reunited and we walked up yet another steep path to watch the sunrise. While everyone watched the colours change above Ijen’s crater. The colours were absolute magic.
The walk down is a brilliant finish as you can appreciate all the forests and mountain peaks that you previously missed in the dark.
Our Ijen hike is one of our favourite experiences (despite being unimpressed with the blue flames). We found all the views breathtaking but our peaks were the visibility of the stars and the incredible sunrise. If you have to choose between Bromo and Ijen, we’d say to definitely visit Ijen due to the experience and cheaper price.