Kawah Ijen. You’ve probably seen pictures of miners carrying baskets of sulfur from the crater of a volcano. If you have, these pictures were taken at Kawah Ijen. It is an AMAZING place. Trust us, we have seen a few in the region (50+ as we speak) but this one really is unique and ranks very high on our favorite destinations list.

Combine the beauty of the landscape and the pain of the workers, the quietness of the surrounding with the violence of an active volcano, the colors of the lake and the sulfur and you get an amazing cocktail and a unique experience. Truly. Getting there is not simple but it’s definitely worth every minute you spend on the plane, bus or car.

How accessible is it from Singapore?

With the new flights timing, it is now almost impossible to go visit Ijen over a regular 2 day weekend (since there is no more affordable flight back to Singapore on the Sunday evening. You can go discover Kawah Ijen on a 3 day long weekend. Fly on Friday night, sleep at Surabaya airport, take a car early morning, and reach the Ijen plateau in the afternoon. Go climb the volcano the Sunday morning (3AM). You could spend another night and come back to Singapore on Monday.

The total door to door journey from (your home/office in) Singapore to your hotel close to the Ijen will take you about 11 hours (mainly due to the 7,5 hour drive from Surabaya airport to the volcano) . This estimate does not include the night in Surabaya airport (although we would recommend you spend a night there).

Singapore to Kawa Ijen  journey details

How much is this going to cost us?

This trip will cost you about SGD 520 return for 2. This estimate includes the flights and car transfers. Accommodation wise, you can find cheap (SGD 25 per room) and very (very!) basic accommodation close to the volcano or nicer options a bit further away.

What about the kids?

The destination is not kid or baby friendly. If an active volcano with sulfur smokes does not scare you, then the 7,5-hour drive probably will. Or maybe the wake up alarm at 3AM?  The trek to the crater is not technically difficult so that’s not an issue if your kids are old enough to bare the ride. We would not recommend going down the crater with kids (and for sure, it would be insane with a baby!)

How remote and risky is it?

The trek to the top is relatively easy (1 hour walk with some steep sections but overall OK). Going down the crater is more difficult (the path is not good and depending on the wind, you might get caught in a sulfur cloud). You will actually see a sign saying that this is forbidden for tourists). Now, imagine going down into the crater on an uneven path, by night (if you are going for the blue flames). Some may say it’s easy and miners do it every day wearing flip flaps and carrying 80 kg of sulfur on their back. Most will feel that this is pretty dangerous. If weather conditions are good, then it will not be an issue for majority of people.

There is no reliable medical infrastructure anywhere close the volcano. You don’t want anything to happen as it will take hours to get medical attention in case it does. Take a first aid kit with you.

When should we go?

The best period to visit Kawah Ijen and avoid the rain season are the months of April, May, June, July, August, September and October. Refer to the chart in the sidebar for details about the monthly average rain volumes and rainy days.. Note that the temperatures are cooler than the ones indicated on the weather chart (there is no data available for the Ijen Plateau). It’s the same type of climate as in Denpasar (Bali) or Malang. 

Connections from Kawah Ijen

Bromo + Kawah Ijen 

You can combine this trip with a trip to Mount Bromo since both volcanoes are accessible from Surabaya airport. However, note that they are nowhere close to each other (about 7 hours drive between the 2).

If you are really short of time and are prepared not to sleep much in a bed, you can do both in a 2 days weekend from Singapore: Fly on the Friday night and go direct to the Bromo. Get there for sunrise and then head to Ijen that same day around noon. Arrive at the Kawah Ijen in the evening; go visit Kawah Ijen early morning (3AM) and leave to go back to Surabaya around 11AM to catch the late flight. This is the fast & furious option that will require pre_arranged transport.  A 3-day (or more) trip seems more reasonable (and a must if you are planning on using public transportation).

A lot of tours are also arranged from Bali and you can combine your trip to Kawah Ijen with a trip to South Bali or North Bali.

Getting from Singapore to Kawah Ijen

There are 2 main ways to get to Kawah Ijen: via Bali or via Surabaya. Both routes take about the same time. The route from Surabaya involves less changes (no boat).

Via Bali:  you can reach Kawah Ijen from Bali (but this means combining taxis and boat).  From Bali, we won’t go into details but you need to fly to Denpasar and then take a car for 3 to 4 hours to reach Gilimanuk Ferry Port (western tip of Bali), then take a ferry for 1 hour to reach Ketapang Ferry Port in Banyuwangi. You can then either stay there and leave early in the morning to go to the Ijen or take another car and stay closer to the Ijen.

Getting from Singapore to Surabaya airport

There are direct flights from Singapore (SIN) to Surabaya Juanda International airport (SUB).
Jetstar, Valuair, Garuda, Tigerair, China Airlines and Airasia fly there.

Getting there: China Eastern – Singapore to Surabaya: 9:45 PM – 11 PM (2h20 flight)
Coming back: Jetstar / Valuair- Surabaya to Singapore: 1.15 PM – 4.3 PM AM
Return tickets from SGD 250.

You can also fly there on the Saturday morning (Tiger 11.40 AM).

Get your ticket NOW to enjoy the best fares.



There are 2 terminals at Surabaya airport.

Terminal 1, the old terminal, offers some limited food options. The only international brands are KFC and Dunkin Donut. Money change is available. There is only one bar after checking in. Free and slow wifi is available after check in. There is a new Hotel Ibis budget in the airport (convenient if you want to sleep there and take a car early the next morning). The great news is: there are Roti’O outlets!

Terminal 2, the brand new (2014) terminal. There is no sitting area before check in but you can find a food court, a Carl’s Junior, a Roti’O and a Starbucks before checking. As often in Indonesia, the airport seems to be quite popular with locals who come and enjoy the shops and restaurants. A Burger King and a Starbucks are located after check in. Free (and slow) wifi is available after check in. There is a small duty free area with some international brands (Lacoste, etc). There is a pre paid taxi counter where you can arrange your transfer. You will also find drivers who offer you to go to the key attractions (Bromo, Ijen).

If you need to transfer between the 2 terminals, let’s stay to go sleep at Ibis Budget in terminal 1,  you can take a taxi (counter in terminal 2). The transfer will cost you IDR 45,000 and takes about 15 minutes.

Getting from Surabaya airport to Kawah Ijen

From Surabaya airport, you have 3 options to reach a hotel or guesthouse in the area of the Kawah Ijen. From the fastest to the cheapest:

1. Fly to Banyuwangi

Garuda Indonesia flies daily from Surabaya (SUB) to Banyuwangi (BWX). Flights are early morning (SUB to BWX) 8.40 AM -9.30 AM. It can be a good option to get there. Flights are about SGD 55 one way per pax.

From Banyuwangi you can hire a car or motorbike to your hotel or guesthouse or directly Pos Paltuding (trek starting point). The road was in bad condition but has now improved (Feb 2014). It takes about 1 hour 15 minutes:

  • IDR 400,000 by jeep
  • IDR 200,000 by ojek (motorbike with driver, 1 passenger)
  • IDR 60,000 by motorbike (no driver, for experienced drivers only as the road is difficult).

On the way back,  the flight timings are pretty bad (BWX to SUB 7.25AM – 8.05 AM). So, you will need to take a car if you want to reach Surabaya the same day you visit the Ijen. Alternatively, you can stay another night and catch the very early flight from Banyuwangi to Surabaya.

2. Take a private car: 7,5 hours, IDR 1,400,000 for the return trip.

You can contact Rani info@raniadventure.com / +62 341 787329. She can arrange for a driver to pick you up at the airport. She will give you the name and number of the driver. The driver can take you all the way to the Kawah Ijen and also take you from your guesthouse to the trek starting point. It’s an expensive option but covers all your transportation costs. You can split the cost if you travel with your family and friends. She can also arrange larger vans.

3. Use public transportation. Involves a few changes and will take a while but the cheapest option by far.

  • Bus from Surabaya to Bondowoso (180km): hourly; 5 hours; aircon, IDR 50,000 per person.
  • Option 1 (faster): Ojek from Bondowoso to Sempol: IDR 200,000, about 2 hours.
  • Option 2 (cheaper): Bemo (van) from Bondowoso bus terminal to Sempol (60km): IDR 15,000, about 3 hours, last departure around 4PM.

See “what to do” for details about the segment between Sempol and Pos Paltidung (trek starting point)

Where to stay to visit Kawah Ijen?

If you come through Bondowoso, you can either stay in Bondowoso or continue higher up on the Ijen Plateau and stay at the Arabica Homestay, in Sempol. That’s basically the closer you can stay to the Ijen. From Sempol, you will have to get a ride for 45 minutes to Pos Paltidung (trek starting point, see “To do & See” section for details). The homestay is located in the coffee plantation with a great view on the Kawah Ijen crater. The guesthouse is basic and not so clean (bring sleeping bag liner) but it’s bearable for a short night. Food wise, it’s the same menu for all. There is no other restaurant or hotel in the area. A room will cost you IDR 220,000 a night. It’s better to call to book in advance before you go as it can get busy in the high season (and there is nothing else around). Communication in English can be a challenge. The little village nearby is great if you have a few hours to kill in the afternoon. There are a few other options in other villages. Catimor homestay, in Catimor, is also popular with backpackers. Take a look at the Ijen Plateau website for more options

If you come through Banyuwangi, you can stay there at the very basic Hotel Baru or try your luck somewhere else…

Note that these hotels and homestays are usually not available on the major online booking platform and that the contact details you will find on the Ijen plateau website are not always up to date. But after a few calls, you should be able to get someone who speaks English and can help you book. Good luck.

As always, we recommend you book early to secure a room as some hotels fill up quickly!

or, if you prefer, with

To see & to do in Kawah Ijen

Kawah Ijen

Yep. Mr Kawah Ijen. That big monster, its acidic lake and its sulfur. It’s an amazing experience and we would definitely recommend that you go down the crater if the conditions are good. Because we struggled to find clear information about the trek, we have tried to be pretty detailed below and we have broken down this information into 3 sections: 1. Getting to Pos Paltidung (trek starting point), 2. Trek to the crater (from the starting point to the top), 3. Going down into the crater to see the miners extract the sulfur. If you buy a full package from your guesthouse, make sure what is covered and what is not.

Getting to Pos Paltidung

Pos Palditung is the trek starting point. It can be reached by ojek, jeep or car. If you already have a car + driver,  ask your driver to take you to the Pos Paltidung car park (make sure you discuss this point when you hire your driver) and to wait for you there.

If you don’t have a driver, you can arrange the transport through your guesthouse. You can either arrange the whole tour (transport + guide) or simply the transport (and then arrange the rest once you reach the car park or crater).

A full package (transport + guide to go up and down in the crater) will cost you about IDR 150,000 per pax.

If you just want an Ojek (motorbike with driver) to get from Sempol to Pos Paltidung, it should cost you around IDR 30,000.

If you want to see the blue flames, you will have to leave at around 1AM depending on how far you are staying from the starting point (check with your guesthouse). If you don’t plan to see the blue flames, you can leave around 3AM to get on the crater for sunrise. You can also leave later to start the trek in the night but arrive after sunrise, once most tourists will be on their way back.

Trek to the crater

Once you arrive at the car park you will have to pay a fee (IDR 15,000 per visitor, IDR 30,000 per camera). Make sure you ask for a receipt as there is a high risk that your money does not end up where it’s supposed to… There are very basic toilets and a place to get a nasi goreng (what else…) and buy water and basic snacks.

If you don’t already have a guide, you will also see miners who will offer to guide you (or will simply follow  you, assuming you will buy their services, be clear with them on the price to avoid surprises at the end). IDR 150,000 per pax seems to be the standard price, but you negotiate a lower price if you are a larger group.

You do not need a guide to go up to the crater so you can politely decline and follow the clear path that goes up (especially if you don’t plan to go down the crater). You will see people on the way and can simply follow them. Overall the path is good but can be very steep at times.

After 45 minutes or so you will reach the station where miners weight the sulfur. You can buy (hot and cold) drinks and snacks there. That’s the last stop before the crater.

After the station, you can continue all the way up to the crater. It’s another 20 minutes on a good path with great views on Gunung Raung and the surroundings.

At the crater

You will see paths that go both ways around the crater. They start from the main path. You can get great views from the lake if you take these. Stop when you feel that it’s not safe anymore and keep an eye for smoke clouds coming up from the crater.

Going down the crater and see the miners extract the sulfur

The crater is the kind of places that can be very easy but could also suddenly turn into a dangerous trap. The weather and wind direction can change very rapidly one way or the other. So be careful. Don’t worry if you cannot go down because you are not comfortable or if the conditions are not good. You can always get a great view from the top. Check with the miners and see what they say and do. Don’t go down the crater on your own.

You will need a guide to go down inside the crater. A sign says that tourists are not allowed but, as often in Indonesia, everything becomes possible for a few rupiahs…If you don’t already have one, you will find miners at the weight station or at the top that will offer you to bring you down the crater.

Going down will take you 30 to 45 minutes. The path is not very good and can be tricky. Also, you will see a lot of miners going up and down the path. You cannot cross all the time so you will have to wait sometimes that they go through the narrow passages.

Once you reach the bottom, you will see where the miners extract the sulfur on the left. You will see that the area actually expands on the left. You will see the miners break the sulfur and load it into their baskets. Being there with them in the middle of the crater is just a unique experience.

Be careful of the smoke and stay away. If you are caught in a cloud, make sure to put a mask or wet scarf or tissue on your mouth. Don’t touch your eyes as they will get irritated. You will also get a great view of the lake and the crater from the bottom. Plan to spend a couple of hours there if the conditions are OK.

It is NOT a good idea to take a swim in the lake. It’s very acidic and you would not survive long.

If you are have more time

If you have time the day before or after the crater, you can visit:

  • Coffee plantation

On the way up to Pos Palditung, you will see coffee plantations and many of its employees. If you have some time, why not wander around?

  • Sempol Village

If you stay at Arabica Homestay, take some time to go visit the small village nearby (walking distance). It’s very nice and well maintained and the small houses look great. You will catch everyday life moments with the villagers.

  • Ijen Plateau

The plateau looks beautiful from the Ijen crater. If you have time, try to arrange a trek in the area or why not go climb Gunung Raung?

More info to prepare your trip

Wifi is not available in the guesthouses, and no, there is no wifi access from the carpark or crater (…)

What to pack for Kawah Ijen

Kawah Ijen is 2,386 meters high. This means nights are cold so you should pack some warm clothes. It is cold in the morning but gets OK once the sun is up. Of course, if you get rain and strong wind, it will be cold as well. Also, given the conditions, it’s better to pack your trekking gear. You should also take some masks. N95 are convenient (light and disposable) but they will not protect you from the gas. If you don’t have any mask, you can ask your guide to arrange for some. Some of the guides are able to provide gas masks (the military type) if you are concerned about the smoke.

Bring few pack of kretek cigarets and Indonesian snacks to give them to miners when you get down the crater.

Trekking pack

If you are going to trek, chances are you will have to carry all your stuff all the way. So you want to be pick all you need but just what you need. Every gram in your bag is a extra weight on your back. 

  • Short sleeves tops: your main outfit. Everybody will see them on all your pictures. You really want to take that old Mickey Mouse T-shirt?
  • Long sleeves tops: to protect yourself from the sun or to enter religious buildings or to protect yourself from mosquitoes in the evening.
  • Pullover. Temperatures can be freezing when you climb up volcanoes or mountains. Above 2000 meters, even in the hottest countries, it is usually cold.
  • Short/skirt (you should be able to chose the appropriate one by yourself).
  • Trousers for the same reasons you need to take long sleeves tops. Jeans are usually not a good option. They are heavy and keep you too warm. They are also not comfortable to walk. Trekking pants are best.
  • Underwear: Cotton is good.
  • Shoes: take a pair of flip flap on top of your of (good) trekking shoes. Remember that you are going to spend most of the time on your feet. If your shoes are new, make sure you use them before you go for your trek.
  • Swimsuit: even if you don’t plan to go to the beach, you never know. A nice river, a swimming pool, a heavy rain? Always have one with you.
  • Rain / wind jacket
  • Jacket inner fleece or dawn
  • Cover for your bag. Even if you are visiting the country during the “best season”, you never know what the sky will be like.
  • Torch / lamp: head or pocket lamp with you. It comes handy when walking by night or in a tent.
  • Toilet bag: Shampoo, soap, toothbrush & toothpath, deodorant, sun screen, tiger balm, wet tissues, . Ideally, all these in miniature formats.
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Warm sleeping pants, jumper and socks if you plan to camp in altitude.
  • Your IT stuff: iPad, eBook, laptop, memory card, batteries, etc. Check if you will have power on the way to size the battery you need.
  • Camera and its protection.
  • Dryer sheets: they will help keep a fresh smell in your bag.
  • Your passportcashcredit cards and other life saving items like your insurance card with emergency contact details. 
  • Your driver licence if you plan to rent a car or a motorbike (some countries are quite particular about this so take it with you in case you are not sure, even for a motorbike rental).
  • Your emergency medical kit: painkillers, mosquitoes repellent, dressing/plaster, disinfectant, anti diarrhea, eyewash, blister tape
  • Tissues and toilet paper (you will thank me later). Remember that in a lot of countries, you will not be provided napkins when having a meal.
  • Water – plastic bottles are a good option as they are lighter than a gourd/flask.
  • Biscuits (always buy some before you go when you are not sure what you will find. Always have “emergency” biscuit  and water in case you cannot find food around and need to recharge batteries)
  • Sunglasses: you’ll need them. Take them even if it’s raining. Weather can change very fast in the region.
  • Scarf (krama, or any kind of fabric that you can use to put around your neck, put on your head to protect it from the sun, cover your shoulders in temples, dry your sweat, etc). Can come very handy in some situation. It will not stay clean for long so it’s wise to pick a dark color…
  • Hat protect your head and face from the sun and heat or cold
  • Gloves (only if you plan to stay in high altitude or cold weather)
  • Trekking poles if you are going for a serious trek. If you don’t have some, ask the guide or porter if they can make some for you out of wood or bamboo.

It’s a good idea to put your key documents and IT equipment in freezer bags (zip-lock bag)  to protect them from the rain in case you get drenched. Pack a few plastic bags. They come handy to pack your dirty laundry

You will probably adjust the content of you bag after a few trips. Remove the stuff that you have not used and add the one that you missed. Post a comment to share your tips! Happy packing (it’s the worse part of the trip but it’s worth it…) and travelling!

Indonesia

Flag of Indonesia

  • Language: Bahasa Indonesian
  • Time zone: Jakarta, Sulawesi: GMT + 7, 1h ahead of Singapore;
    Bali has no time difference with Singapore
  • Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
  • Phone: + 62
  • Electricity: 220V 50 Hz

Immigration and airport taxes on arrival

  • If you are eligible you will need to pay for a visa on arrival. The price is USD 25 or the equivalent in other currencies. It is valid for 30 days. Check as it may vary (some airports charge 22 EUR, some others 25 EUR).
  • If you travel to Bintan, Batam, or Karimun, you can get a 7 day Visa on Arrival for USD 10.
  • On busy weekends, expect to wait for quite a while at the immigration counter.
  • Make sure your notes are perfectly clean and without any note or stain. USD bills must be from 2003 or more recent. Coins are not accepted. Change (if any) is given in Ruppiah.
  • On departure, you will need to pay the airport fees. These fees are not included in your tickets when you book your trip (hence the price difference between the inbound and outbound flights to Indonesia). They vary from one airport to the other. They are usually around IDR 150,000 per person. You need to pay these in Rupiah

National Public Holidays in Indonesia

2015

Day Date Holiday
Thursday January 01 New Years Day
Saturday January 03 Maulidur Rasul
Thursday February 19 Chinese New Year
Saturday March 21 Hari Raya Nyepi
Friday April 03 Good Friday
Friday May 01 Labour Day
Thursday May 14 Ascension Day
Saturday May 16 Isra Miraj
Tuesday June 02 Waisak Day
Thursday July 16 Cuti Bersama
Friday July 17 Hari Raya Puasa
Saturday July 18 Hari Raya Puasa
Monday July 20 Cuti Bersama
Tuesday July 21 Cuti Bersama
Monday August 17 Independence Day
Thursday September 24 Idul Adha
Wednesday October 14 Muharram
Thursday December 24 Cuti Bersama
Friday December 25 Christmas Day

* check the exact date as it varies from one year to another, check this website for other years.When Public Holidays falls on a Sunday, the following day will be Public Holiday.