East Java, Gunung Ijen (Merapi)

Written by on July 16, 2012 in Java Mountains with 0 Comments

East Java, Gunung Ijen (Merapi)

Ijen (Merapi)


Ijen is Java’s largest crater lake and one of East Java’s most visited natural attractions. The actual highest point here is the top of the now-extinct Mount Merapi (not to be confused with Central Java’s volcano of the same name or Sumatra’s Mount Marapi). Both the peak and the crater lake lie within the Ijen-Merapi Maelang Reserve. Very few visitors hike further than the crater lake – usually less than ten a year – as it is fascinating in its own right. You can witness 400 of the worldʼs strongest and enduring people harvesting 70 kg of sulfur out of toxic smoking hot fumes, then carrying the load in two baskets on their shoulders up a steep, at times almost vertical 500 meter deep volcanic crater and then 3 km down hill to the collection point.

The ranger post at Paltuding (1,850m) is the place to arrange a permit and guides. From the post, it is just two kilometres and less than one hour to Pondok Bunder (2,214m) where the sulphur porters weight their heavy loads. From Pondok Bunder to the crater rim (2,350m) is a further kilometre. First the path climbs rather steeply for 300 metres, then it flattens and leads along and around the base of the actual volcano, ending on the rim of the volcano and unveiling a terrific new scenery. Straight ahead is the inner vent of the volcano – which is often filled with fumes from the sulfur vents – and the turquoise crater later. Here most visitors take a short break and witness how the porters slowly carry their loads of sulfur to the top of the volcano, ending their hardest part of their bone-breaking journey. Here you can turn left for the climb to the highest point of the crater rim (2,400m) which offers magnificent views. Alternatively, walk anti-clockwise along the crater rim to the point where you reach some ruins from where you have an even more expansive views of the lake.

From the crater rim, a steep gravely path leads down to the sulfur deposits as well as to the warm, poisonous waters of the lake. The walk normally takes about 20 minutes but you may well spend a long time taking photographs not only of the porters but also of the surreal surroundings. Take a lot of care at the bottom where the sulfur is harvested, and keep in mind that the fumes are poisonous making breathing impossible when sudden winds changes blow the fumes into the opposite directions. Here it is essential to wear face masks to protect you from the worst of the fumes.

From this point, the track to the summit is virtually non existent. After leaving the rim, the path leads for about 300 metres down a very bushy ravine that ends on the bottom of a rather steep grassy flank of the volcano. As there is really no track there is a lot of spiky and thorny undergrowth making long trousers absolutely essential. For the next hour the nearly invisible track is very steep and at times rather slippery. In less than an hour and a half you will reach a lightly forested ridge (2,650m) that offers plenty of protection to set up camp although you may need to chop down a few bushes to make enough space. You could just about make it to the summit and back in long day, but the most spectacular views are to be had at dawn so it is probably worth spending a night here.

From the makeshift camp it ought to take just over an hour to reach the highest peak for dawn. However, the vegetation is very dense and it may not be possible. Being the easternmost significant peak in Java, the views from the top to Bali’s Gunung Agung and Lombok’s Gunung Rinjani are fabulous at sunrise. Peaks to the west include the huge massifs of Gunung Raung and Argopuro. However, the most impressive view is the crater lake 500 metres below and deeply imbedded in the enormous, rugged walls of the volcano.

It takes two hours to descend to the crater rim and then a comfortable four kilometres down a gentle slope to Paltuding. It’s easy with just a rucksack on your shoulders, but think of the sulphur porters who have to bring a painful 70 kg of volcanic rocks down the hill in order to receive their meagre rewards of US$4.00. Amazingly, you may even find it difficult to keep up with their pace. If you do, I’m sure they would be most grateful for a gift of a packet of their beloved kretek cigarettes.

Bagging information provided by Heinz von Holzen


Getting there

Better approached from the north although the route from Banyuwangi is passable in a jeep.


There are plenty of places to stay nearby because Ijen is a leading tourist attraction.


A nightmare! Officially you are supposed to arrange a permit in advance from some office or other in Surabaya. The information on this office and why it is required is very unclear. There is normally not a problem just climbing up yourself but you may have to ‘tip’ the staff in the Kawah Ijen office.

Water sources

None available – take sufficient supplies with you.

Country: Indonesia

Subregion Name: Java (Indonesia)

Volcano Number: 0603-35=

Volcano Type: Stratovolcanoes

Volcano Status: Historical

Last Known Eruption: 1999 

Summit Elevation: 2799 m 9,183 feet

Latitude: 8.058°S 8°3’30″S

Longitude: 114.242°E 114°14’30″E

The Ijen volcano complex at the eastern end of Java consists of a group of small stratovolcanoes constructed within the large 20-km-wide Ijen (Kendeng) caldera. The north caldera wall forms a prominent arcuate ridge, but elsewhere the caldera rim is buried by post-caldera volcanoes, including Gunung Merapi stratovolcano, which forms the 2799 m high point of the Ijen complex. Immediately west of Gunung Merapi is the renowned historically active Kawah Ijen volcano, which contains a nearly 1-km-wide, turquoise-colored, acid crater lake. Picturesque Kawah Ijen is the world’s largest highly acidic lake and is the site of a labor-intensive sulfur mining operation in which sulfur-laden baskets are hand-carried from the crater floor. Many other post-caldera cones and craters are located within the caldera or along its rim. The largest concentration of post-caldera cones forms an E-W-trending zone across the southern side of the caldera. Coffee plantations cover much of the Ijen caldera floor, and tourists are drawn to its waterfalls, hot springs, and dramatic volcanic scenery.

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