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Kawah Ijen - a trip to the bowels of the earth

Probably one of the most unusual volcanoes in the world, Kawah Ijen is well worth a visit. All the effort you will have to put in to get there will be well worth it. Let the show begin...

A site that is unique in the world

In the volcano's crater is a lake with the most acidic water on the planet (so if you want to dive, then come back later...) of the most extraordinary colour which really contrasts with the surrounding scenery. Kawah Ijen is the biggest natural sulphur reserve in the world. Which means that visitors can expect supernatural scenes: at night there are blue sulphurous flames that shoot out of the crater at temperatures over 200°C!

The "sulphur miners" as they are called, are as responsible for the volcano's fame as its incredible scenery. There are hundreds of them coming and going between the crater and the village, carrying more than 70 kg of the mineral on their backs (they are paid according to the weight they bring back). What is their life expectancy as a result of breathing the sulphurous fumes every day for years? 40 years...If you want to bring back a souvenir from Kawah Ijen then you could buy one of the little statues they carve from the sulphur and you can be sure that they will pocket the money themselves.

A sulphur miner in Kawah Ijen

Climbing it by night - a must-do!

Kawah Ijen may be an absolute must see during your trip to Indonesia but it is not the easiest place to get to on the island...Once you've organised your visit, opting either for an organised tour (often coupled with a visit to Bromo volcano, another unmissable site in Java) or by having taken lots of local transport to get there (tiring but a lot cheaper), you only have to climb the last 3 km to the crater. A short distance that is not to be taken lightly because the climb is difficult. Especially if you are going up at night in order to be able to see the crater's blue flames (which I highly recommend).

You'll meet lots of guides offering their services for a descent into the crater. If your budget is limited (or if you want to take your time) then you can quite easily do the descent on your own - the path is impossible to miss and there are so many guides taking tourists down that all you have to do is follow them!

Sunrise over the volcano is another magical moment that you shouldn't miss. If you went up during the night you will gradually see the scenery as the sun lights up the site....The acid lake, a sea of clouds, and the green valley that contrasts with the dead trees near the volcano: Kawah Ijen makes you feel like you are at the spot where the world began! Whether you are a nature lover or a geology fan, don't forget to charge your camera's battery - it's not every day that you descend into the bowels of the earth...


One day is all you need to explore the site, but as the "expedition" is quite energetic, think about staying another night in the area - there are lots of coffee fields were you can spend an afternoon!

Alexandra Maillet
8 contributions
Updated 14 November 2015
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