Indonesia is the largest volcanic zone in the world: the country has more than 500 volcanoes, of which about 100 are active. If your dream is to see one day an erupting volcano, then plan a trip to Indonesia! That’s what happened to me when I went to see Mount Bromo (pictured above) and I’m not ready to forget that … Of course, it’s impossible to predict and the likelihood Dates coincide very much at random, but if there is a country where this eventuality is stronger than elsewhere, it is in Indonesia. It is located on the Pacific belt of fire, where the two Indian and Australian tectonic plates sink under the Eurasian continental plate. It is the magma generated by this volcanic activity that created the Indonesian archipelago, made up of more than 17,000 islands.
Image courtesy of Findadviser
During my trip to Indonesia, I saw two nearby volcanoes: Mount Bromo and Kawah Ijen, both located in the east of the island of Java. For this, I took a tour organized by a local agency in Yogyakarta (about 1 million IDR, or 70 EUR), including transport by minibus, accommodation and ferry transfer on the island of Bali Meals and entries at volcano sites not included). Warning! This is not the solution I recommend! All the tour packages organized by agencies, whether they are departing from Java or Bali to see these two volcanoes are of the same caliber: we spend hours and hours in mini-buses, we are dying to chain So quickly the two volcanoes, and we do not have enough time to discover the sites visited. It is better to organize yourself without going through an agency, but it requires to be able to negotiate and to remain zen face the bad practices of the speakers on the spot, local transport in particular, who do not hesitate to lie And to rip off unsophisticated tourists. In this article, I put the links of articles of travelers who have organized everything by themselves. Do like them, and especially not like me!
See the volcano Bromo in eruption
It was the big surprise of my trip to Indonesia! I never thought I would see an erupting volcano and yet that’s what happened. The Bromo volcano (2,392m) is one of the most active in Indonesia, and most of the time it leaks a plume of white smoke. But then it was a real eruption, with black smoke, much more important than usual. It was not a big rash, because there are two or three times a year, but all the same, it was impressive to see. The eruption started on the eve of my departure from Yogyakarta, and this is also what motivated me to take a tour organized by an agency. Because of this most of the accesses to the volcano area were closed and I felt safer to be taken care of. When an eruption begins, you never know how it will evolve .
Almost all organized tours plan to see Mount Bromo at sunrise, and that’s the problem … Usually, getting up early (3am in the morning in this case) Affluence and one can enjoy the sites with fewer people and the beautiful colors of the dawn. There was just the opposite: there was a crazy world! Personally, I would have benefited much better from the spectacle without the fatigue of a too short night and without this insane crowd. It was hard to make your way through the crowd to take pictures with no one in front.
The spectacle was nevertheless sublime, with the plume of smoke of the eruption. Normally one can cross the sea of sand and ash that surrounds the craters and climb to the summit of Mount Bromo, but this was impossible for security reasons of course.
Practical information and tips to go to Mount Bromo:
Rather than taking an organized tour as I did, I advise you to do it by yourself, as is very well explained on Mi-Fugue, Mi-Reason travel blog. From Yogyakarta, take the train to Probolinggo, then a mini bus to Cemoro Lawang, the closest town to the volcano where all the hotels are located.
Avoid going for a weekend or during the Indonesian holidays as there are even more people.
Spend two nights at Cemoro Lawang to have more time to enjoy the volcano.
Price of admission to the site of Mount Bromo: 220,000 IDR (approx. 15 EUR). It is possible to avoid paying.
Ijen crater and sulfur collectors
The kawah Ijen (green crater in Javanese) is an active volcano located in East Java, with in its crater, the largest acid lake in the world. It is one of the only volcanoes in the world where one can see blue flames, produced by the sulfur fumes that escape from the crater. This phenomenon is visible only at night, for as soon as it is light, we no longer see the color of the flames. So, if we want to witness the phenomenon, we must start the ascent of the volcano in the middle of the night …
With my organized tour, I had the choice between two options: departure at 1am to see the blue flames or departure at 4am. Very tired because of the rising at 3h the night before at the Bromo (and the 14h journey by mini-bus the day before …), I preferred to choose the 2nd option. I did not feel able to sleep so little and then had to walk several hours in the middle of the night to reach the crater. I did not regret my choice at all. The climb to reach the crater is not difficult in itself, but the ride is very steep: it takes 1h30 to 2h to make 3km. Then you must go down to the bottom of the crater, and there, on the other hand, the path is very steep. In the light of day, it is not obvious, so I was glad I did not have to make this journey at night in the light of a headlamp. All the more so because it is necessary to deal with the vapors of sulfur which can make the way even more trying. I had the chance to make the journey at a time when the wind was well oriented, but the situation may be different. It is absolutely necessary to go down with a gas mask to protect against toxic fumes. Last point: I was also very surprised to meet so many people in the opposite direction: all those who had climbed in the middle of the night to see the blue flames. As for the sunrise at Mount Bromo, all tours organize departures at the same time, so that there is a world of crazy. Finally, even though I did not see the blue flames, I am glad I chose the later option to enjoy the places with much less people and better shape than if I had to get up At midnight and a half. Those who made the trip in the middle of the night told me that it was very hard and that there was an uninterrupted queue of tourists going down to the tail-leu-leu in the crater.
The most impressive in this adventure is to see the exhausting work of the sulfur collectors who descend to the bottom of the crater to ascend with loads of 60 to 80kg. I felt a bit uncomfortable to come there as a tourist to admire the beauty of this place which is actually an infernal workplace for all these workers. They go down into the crater without a mask and without any protection against toxic vapors. Their life expectancy does not exceed 40 years. I invite you to watch this very interesting report of France 24: Indonesia, the convicts of the suffer.
Practical information and tips for going to Kawah Ijen:
To see the crater under better conditions, I advise you to follow the example of Benoit and Fabienne of the blog Novo-monde, who lodged with a former bearer of sulfur and discovered the volcano with him. They went through the agency Igen Miner, which offers truly different tours from other agencies and which I have heard only good by other travelers. To read also, the very good article (in English) on the blog Lili’s Travel Plan: In the footsteps of the sulphur miners.
Entrance fee to access the Ijen Crater: IDR 100,000
If you have been to see these two volcanoes in Indonesia, do not hesitate to share your experience and advice. Attention, there have been a lot of recent changes, including entry fees to Bromo and Ijen that have been multiplied by 10 in the space of one or two years. Much information published in paper travel guides is not up to date at all.
Other volcanoes to see in Indonesia:
Difficult to make an exhaustive list of all the volcanoes to see in Indonesia, but these are some of the most popular ones that I would like to include in my program on a future trip to Indonesia.
Mount Batur in Bali (easy ascent of 2 hours)
Mount Merapi in Java, on the heights of Yogyakarta. It is the most dangerous volcano in Indonesia. Its access is regularly prohibited for security reasons and this was the case when I was in Yogyakarta. It erupts on average every 5 years and its last eruption dates back to 2010.
Mount Rinjani in Lombok. It is the second highest peak in Indonesia, at 3,726 m. It is necessary to plan a climb of 2 to 3 days, rather difficult.