Ijen volcano, know-how

Travelers wonder if it’s possible to climb Ijen independently, without any guides or tours. Our answer is: YES!

Travelling is only a fun when we can organize everything by ourself. It is not as easy as it sometimes seems to be and we have to ask around to check the best possibility to travel independently. If it was too easy, we would get bored with traveling… Tourist agencies are everywhere in South-East Asia. They offer everything, starting from transfers from/to airport, from one city to another, flight tickets, multi day treks or even whole packages: ”tourist attractions + transfers + hotels + food”. Most of the tourists neither have time nor will to organise holiday by themselves so they go to agencies and pay silly money for service (not so much when converted to pounds or dollars, but a lot for the country they are visiting, sometimes they pay average Indonesian salary for one-day tour!). Happy tourist is picked up from an airport, taken to the hotel with all the luggage carried by a porter, taken to all point of interest around, fed, and then taken back to the hotel… It’s ok when you are retired or disabled but when young and strong?! Selfies from tourist attractions taken, wallet drained but who cares? They are on holiday and doesn’t bother them. Moreover, they don’t care about interaction with local people, they don’t care how locals live.

Very popular tour in Indonesia is a tour to two volcanos Ijen and Bromo with all transfers, hotels and guides. Tourists don’t know or even don’t try too hard to find out about doing it without tours. Trust us, not only volcano is unforgettable, lands around are outstanding too. If you don’t want to be tourist zombie read all this post till the end. This time will be more practical and more guide-like. Maybe one day you will be in Java and would like to experience an adventure…

 

Routes leading to Ijen

There are two ways to Ijen volcano. One starts from the west side in Bondowoso and the second one starts from the east side of the volcano, in Banyuwangi. We heard that approaching Ijen from Bondowoso is more scenic but we entered Java from Bali so there was no point to go around the volcano (we were limited by 30 days visa and wanted to visit more places). Both ways meet in one place anyway – on Pos Paltuding car park where 2 miles long path to the top has its beginning.

ijen banyuwangi
There are two ways to get to Ijen, from Bondowoso and Banyuwangi.

 

1.How to get to Banyuwangi?

If you travel from the east (Bali) you should get to the bus to Gilimaniuk (ferry terminal on the west part of Bali) which leaves from bus terminal Ubung in Denpasar. Buses leave this place every 15-30 minutes and prices vary from a standard. The cheapest one without air-con (called ”ekonomi”) costs 30k rupiah per person ( below £1.5), one with air-con (”non ekonomi”) up to 55k rupiah (about £2.5). From bus terminal to ferry terminal is only a little bit over 70 miles but it takes more than 4h ride so we advise to start at early morning.

Bus drops passengers in the port not far from the ticket office ( “loket” in Indonesian) where you can purchase tickets for the ferry for 7.5k rupiah (40p!). It takes only 30 minutes to cross from Bali to Java and another 30 minutes needed for loading/unloading. Banyuwangi is located 5 miles away from the  ferry terminal and can be reached by local mini bus (yellow). Price to town shouldn’t exceed 5k rupiah per person (25p), and if the driver wants more, he wants to rip you off. 🙂 They always say more and ask to pay 30k rupiah so bargain (yes we know, still peanuts but we don’t like to be cheated and can’t see the reason why not to pay what locals pay?). Minibus (bemo) stops at Blambangan bus terminal which is nothing more than just a car park by the main road.

from bali to ijen
How to get to Ijen from Bali?

 

 

When coming to Banyuwangi from the west, you’re probably in Probolinggo after Bromo volcano sightseeing. From Probolinggo to Banyuwangi you can get by bus (economy-36k rupiah, non-economy 60k rupiah) or by train (60-160k rupiah, depends on car standard, train timetable can be found here: https://tiket.kereta-api.co.id/ ). Both, bus and train terminals are located away from Banyuwangi (north side of the town) and can be reached by a yellow minibus mentioned above.

ijen probolingoo
Probolinggo is about 120 miles from Banyuwangi.

 

 

2. Renting a bike/scooter

We walked around the centre of Banyuwangi looking for the place we could rent a bike and we found only one… The company called Tripoli located by the Blambangan bus terminal. 65K rupiah (~£3) for a 125cc scooter for 24hrs. Scooters are in good condition, our was almost brand new. They asked us to leave the passport as a deposit, but we managed to make their mind for photo ID and 1million rupiah (£46) in a cash deposit. We don’t like to use our passports as a deposit. Just for a piece of mind we took pictures of the scooter before renting it. The girl who works there is a nice person and very helpful so everything was OK.

 

3. Accommodation on the way to the volcano

The best time to start trekking to Ijen is in the middle of the night so good place to stay is somewhere between Banyuwangi and Pos Paltuding.

There are a few options:

– booking a hotel near Licin village; it can be done through agoda.com or booking.com; prices starts from 135k rupiah up to 2m rupiah (£6-£92 – it’s about one month Indonesian salary!);

– camping in Pos Paltuding near the entrance to the park, it’s possible to do it for free, there is an access to public toilets and cold showers; you need your tent and have to remember camping is on the 1850m.s.n.m so may be chilly overnight;

– night stay in bungalows in Pos Paltuding, prices between 100-250k rupiah (£4.5-11.5) for a room ( more info on an official site: http://www.ijenplateau.com/accommodation/paltuding-trekking-camp )

– night in a homestay – walk from a house to house and ask if they have room for rent. 😉

 

We found a place called Kawah Ijen Inn in a tiny village Tamansuruh near Licin. 135k rupiah (£6) for a room with breakfast.

Ok, but what to do with backpacks when on a scooter? Anna had hers on the back and Chev was holding his with legs. 😀

 

Trust us, overloaded scooter is nothing weird here and nobody was surprised:

overloaded scooters in asia
Overloaded scooter with “restaurant” at the rear

 

Our homestay turned to be a very nice place. We could live with a true, Indonesian family! We had one of the rooms that belonged to their youngest son. We were welcomed with tea, biscuits and whatever they had to eat. There weren’t many tourists in the village before us and everybody wanted to take a picture with us:).

Our hosts on the terrace:

 

With random farmer on rice paddies:

 

With a nice couple near our homestay:

 

Surroundings of Licin aren’t polluted by zombie tourists yet. It was nice to be in such a lovely place.

 

We had some spare time to ride around the places near our homestay.

We found one of the favorite local spots. Two waterfalls: one was overcrowded, great place for a swim and the other one with not so many people, but very tall and with a lot of water which was hitting the ground and forming clouds.

 

We also found coffee plantations. That’s how coffee looks before it is ready to get to our cups. The owner of the plantation was joking at us and said it was edible as a raw seed… We were naive like little kids and we chewed it up. Didn’t taste very well but kind of sweet. 😀

coffee plantation
Your coffee! 🙂

 

It was entirely worth to stay in Licin overnight! 🙂

 

4. Ijen volcano (9,183 ft)

a) What time to start ?

It depends on how far you are from Post Paltuding. 🙂 We woke up at 1 at night because to get on the scooter from our homestay to the trekking starting point was about 1h ride. There were moments that scooter was going to die, but at the end managed quite well. We were climbing on it faster than off-road cars. 😉 It was freaking cold and we were like two icicles on the bike. 😀

It is good to start 2 miles of trekking between 2:30-3am to manage to get to the top and see blue fires visible only at night time and then after see a nice sunrise. Trekking takes between 1-2 hours (depend on how fit you are, obviously).

 

b) How much does it cost?

There is a paid car park in Post Paltuding but whoever was collecting money wasn’t there so we got away without paying. 😉 Probably nobody was expecting two foreigners coming on the scooter. We left ours with other scooters that belonged to the workers.

You must pay if you want to enter the park, the ticket office is by the car park.

Price: 100k rupiah (~£4.5) per person (foreigner),10k rupiah (~45p) (Indonesian).

 

d) How does the path to Ijen look like?

The path goes steep up but is easy and there are many flat parts too. 600 yards before summit you can rest on the benches. We have seen whole families with kids going up so going there wasn’t a big deal. It is impossible to get lost on the way up because there is only one path and you will never walk alone. There are hundreds of people climbing up there with you the same day!

 

On the benches before the last part of walk:

 

Path to the edge of the volcano is a little bit more demanding and rocky:

 

The view from the bottom of crater:

 

c) Masks

Near the edge of the crater, there are miners who rent masks for 50k rupiah (£2). You have to make a decision if you want to wear it or not. We didn’t rent them as there was no point. Masks are knackered with filters that probably were never replaced since new. Tourists wear masks while their guide wears bandana only. Down in the crater, we could smell sulfur, but it wasn’t any worse than we could smell on hot springs that were used for spa… So we wore bandanas only. Sulfur dioxide is poisonous but only a regular breathing would make any changes in our body. We think it is worse to live everyday life in big cities that going down the crater once without masks. (The other thing was hygiene, who knows who was wearing those masks before us?)

 

e) What’s a blue fire?

Blue fire is a burning sulfur dioxide. Visible only at night time. For those views is worth to start trekking at night!

 

f) Sulfur mine

On the way to crater is more than likely you will see many sulfur miners that are collecting sulfur from the crater, put it in the baskets and with 80kg of load they come back down the collection point near benches used for the last stop. Then sulfur is transported on the trolley to the Post Paltuding carpark. Miners work 12h a day, from 1am until 1pm and they pay day is 115k rupiah (£6). A growth of tourism made their life a little bit better and they can make extra money by selling souvenirs made out of sulfur or they rent mentioned gas masks. On the way up we were walking with one of them. He told us a little bit about his work. He even invited us to his house after the climb. 🙂

 

f) Sunrise

It was hard to see a blue lake in the crater in a total darkness, so it’s good to find a nice spot and wait for the first ray of the sunlight. One more advantage of climbing without a guide is you can sit there, wait and enjoy the view without a rush – we’ve seen many tourists rushed by their guide!

 

g) Something extra!

On the way up in the night we could see glowing volcano eruption next door. It was Raung which paralyzed air traffic in Indonesia on July. On the way back we did see only ashes but still breathtaking. First time and probably the last time in our life we’ve seen a volcano eruption!:)

 

5. Way back

The way back is exactly the same as you climbed up. It is a day time so views are completely different. After one hour on the scooter again we picked our backpacks and went to the coast to Banywuangi.

 

What to bring with you?
  • comfortable shoes (trekking shoes are not essential);
  • warm clothes;
  • waterproof jacket;
  • bandana or a surgical mask from pharmacy (many people used them there);
  • headtorch;
  • money for tickets and for a carpark;
  • some food and water;

 

If you are planning to climb Ijen we are happy to help you do it by yourself, it is more fun!

 

* £1=+- 21.700 rupiah (31.08.2015)

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