How to do Ijen / Blue fire without tour! (Part 1 - Base-point of Ijen.)
January 1, 1970
**Readers can go to “From Karangasem to Ijen (without any tour)” if they are aware of Karangasem as the starting point to Ijen tour and how to reach there.
When I backpack, the first thing I always do is to mark out those places from my itinerary which comes under “only …… in the world”. Ijen is one of such destinations. It’s not just an active volcano but it is also one of the two volcanoes in world with very high sulphur content which emits blue fire (another one is in Finland).
It is a famous destination among backpackers around the world. Given the difficult accessibility of this volcano, it is not yet commercialized. Doing it without any organized tour is not a widely explored option. So, lets start from how to reach to the base town of Ijen which is Banyuwangi in Java Island.
Java is one of the best connected islands of Indonesia. The Island provides all sort of transport options- be it fully air-conditioned comfortable Buses, or train from any other major cities of Java. Banyuwangi as mentioned before is the nearest major town to gain access to Ijen.
There are two possible ways to reach Ijen that can be added in the itinerary:
If traversing through Java
– This is what I followed in my 3 week long itinerary. I started from Jakarta, reached Malang while enjoying my stay in Jogjakarta/Yogya, hiked Mount Bromo, and then reached Probolinggo. Probolinggo is the point everybody would like to consider for their entry point to Banyuwangi. Comfortable train(6-7 Hours Journey – Check the timetable at www.seat61.com) as well as Buses are available for onward journey to Banyuwangi. I prefer trains mostly and consider using them whenever and wherever possible. I took train to Karangasem, Banyuwangi, as Ijen is nearest to Karangasem area of Banyuwangi and luckily there is one train station in Karangasem itself. So, it is recommended to disembark at Karangasem.
If coming from Bali
– From the northern most port of Bali (also known as Gillimanuk), continuous ferry transport to Java Island are available. So, from any major bus station of Bali one can board a bus to Gillimanuk (Ubung is one of the major bus terminal in Bali and from many other points there are continuous bus services available).
- From Gillimanuk take the ferry to Ketapang (Harbour port in Banyuwangi area, Java). or
- Board direct buses available from Bali to Banyuwangi, the complete bus will also board the ferry and get transferred to Banyuwangi.
Second option of direct transfer/travel is more recommended as it save on any kind of hassle related to transfer/travel and is more or less equivalent in terms of cost. Most of the buses traverse from Banyuwangi to Karangasem which is the destination. This option is completely safe and much recommended. If coming by air from Bali to Java, follow the route given in option 1 after reaching Java.
Where to Stay in Karangasem?
I usually avoid recommending any specific Hostel/Home stay/Hotel in my blogs. There are lot of good options available in Karangasem area. Though, my stay was made special by this one bed and breakfast stay named “Cevilla Bed and Breakfast”. There are many reasons, why I should recommend it ;
- Rooms were one of the cheapest available in Karangasem,
- Surprisingly, they provided us with free transport from Karangasem railway station,
- They were very open. Their Ijen tour was undoubtedly one of the cheapest available in Banyuwangi. When inquired, they were ready to take us for 280 K IDR per person, with Gas mask, Guide, Ijen Entry Ticket and inclusive of all other transport services. (though cost for doing tour by ourselves was around 190 K IDR)
- Owner didn’t mind canceling the tour with them at the very last moment. He was highly responsive and understood that we were on budget tour and trying to save every penny.
- Mama, the caretaker, was keen towards providing us with every help she could.
Our stay was made wonderful, because of our accommodation as well.
From Karangasem to Ijen ( without any tour)
Here comes the main highlight of this blog post- how to do Ijen without any guided tour. Though I will always recommend this option when there are at least two persons in a group.There are two ways of doing Ijen without any guided tour:
By not staying in Karangasem area –
Surprising, but yes instead one can stay in another nearby town from Ijen called “Sempol”. And then use an Ojek (shared motor bike) to Ijen. But, I will never recommend this option as it can be done only when you are alone. And certainly this option turns out to be costlier than the tour arranged through various hostels (as mentioned above -300 K is the maximum price). Ojek needs to be arranged in advance and usually it can cost a hefty amount (60 K IDR one way), quoting the hilly road to Ijen. So, I will skip it here. Interested readers can follow another amazing blog post (Click here!!) to explore this option in detail. Though this option might be really good for someone coming from other side of the Ijen crater, i.e. Bondowoso.
By Hiring a Motor Bike from Karangasem-
Though this option will require to have more buffer time and hence one has to leave early for Ijen hike. There are only few available rental bike shops available in Banyuwangi. We hired from Tripoli Tour and Travel, which could be easily searched via Google. They were highly responsive and waited for us to take the bike even quite late at night. Make sure to tell your rental-Bike company that you are going to Ijen using their Bike and ask for their best bikes, as the path is quite steep though nicely paved. We faced some serious issues with the power that these bikes were providing. So, here is how your bike can be booked, and picked up:
- Ask rental-bike company to deliver you the best bike (if possible) to your hostel address.
- If not possible, call a taxi “0333-421535”.
- Take the bike on rent. Make sure you choose their best bike (specifically ask rental-bike shop for their best bikes for going to Ijen). The usual Bike rent charges are 65 K IDR as on September,2016.
- Make sure to leave for Ijen by 12:15 – 12:30 AM from your hostel. It takes at least 1.5 Hours to reach the Ijen parking point.
- It is quite windy and hence cold on the way. So grab a windcheater or jacket as well.
- Ijen trek is bit exhausting. Try to take at least one litre of water and some light snacks.
- Take a headlamp as well. I will prefer headlamp over mobile torch or other hand torch lights, owing to the comfort in usage.
Ijen tour starts late at night. When booked through any tour operator it usually commences at 12:30 AM (approx.). Just to reiterate again, the option of hiring a bike is more beneficial as well as recommended if there are at least 2 persons leaving for Ijen.
In my next post, in the continuation to this; I will explain how do we reach the Ijen base-point (parking point) and then trek to the crater. I will also give our price break-up for the complete tour and how much we can save as a whole.