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From Bali to Kawah Ijen by Scooter

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Kawah Ijen, or Ijen Crater, had been on my bucket list for as long as I could remember. From the turquoise crater lake to the blue fire, it’s one of the most accessible volcano hikes, if not also the most popular. Even though I had already seen a beautiful crater lake at Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, I felt this one was different.

During my 2022 Bali trip, I learned to ride the scooter with the intention of riding my way from Bali to Ijen, and possibly Bromo. As usual, instead of booking one of the many tours that go to Ijen, I chose to find my own way there and DIY it instead. Thankfully, Ijen didn’t require a guide and is easy to do by myself. I had scoured the internet to be sure of this.

But I wasn’t alone. I had some friends who had done it before and were keen to do it again with me. They were even ready to take a motorbike from Bali too. With their advice, I figured out where to book my hotel and was more ready than I would ever be for this trip.

The long ride from Bali

I woke up just after 6am to depart from my hostel in Seminyak, hoping to get an early start and cover more ground before my friends. I was also able to avoid much of the morning traffic before getting onto the highway leading up to Gilimanuk. I wasn’t fast, but I did become accustomed to the ride more quickly as it was just a straight road. Eventually, I arrived at Gilimanuk in less than 5 hours.

We purchased our ferry tickets prior to boarding the ferry, and then it was smooth sailing from there. I had been a little worried, as I understood that we weren’t supposed to drive rental motorbikes to islands beyond Bali. However, nobody stopped us from boarding anyway, and we got off at Banyuwangi without any problem. From there, it was another hour’s ride to Licin. Thank goodness my little Scoopy survived the uphill ride!

Best stay ever

My friends booked an upscale hotel in Licin, but I needed an affordable option. I wasn’t expecting much in Indonesia with my budget, but I thought I had struck gold when I found Bamboo & B. They have just a few private rooms and a dorm, all built in a very sturdy treehouse. From the solid structure to the bamboo shower, from the comfortable lounges to the surrounding nature, I was thoroughly mesmerized by the charm this accommodation exuded.

While I did encounter a big spider and a little gecko outside, the place was wonderful. The best part is that there weren’t any mosquitoes despite the rooms being open. I enjoyed a nice breeze during the day, chilling in the hammock. And while it rained heavily when darkness fell, the rain was very soothing, allowing for an early bedtime. 

Here’s the fun bit about staying in Licin: most tours start from Bali or Banyuwangi, which is the closest town to Ijen. However, Licin is the village that sits at the foot of Mount Ijen. There isn’t much to do around here, as it’s more of a miner’s village, but it’s becoming something of a resort town in recent years. That means you would expect lounging by a pool overlooking a nice mountaintop view.

Since it’s also close to Ijen, you don’t have to factor in an extra hour of sleep earlier in the evening. From Bamboo & B, it takes less than half an hour to get there on a jeep. I booked a shared transport from the accommodation host, who had been the nicest by introducing me to fellow lodgers who were also going to Ijen the next morning. The transport was paid per ride, so we got to share costs.

I had a good rest that night, sleeping to the sound of rain, which stopped by the time I had to get up and head out. It was a shame because the bed was actually so comfortable that I didn’t want to leave. I promised myself that I would be back just to stay here for a full night.

The early morning hike

We arrived at the foot of Mount Ijen to a massive crowd in the wee hours of the morning and paid the entrance fee. With the amount of tourists, it’s hard to imagine getting lost on the way up. The hike was not difficult, taking us only an hour to reach the top, before heading down into the crater for another hour. The climb down was more treacherous, with narrow paths and uneven rocks, making it difficult for the faint-hearted.

Thankfully, my companion gave me the courage to reach the bottom and see the glow of the blue fire. After getting my turn to take a picture, I was eager to get out of the suffocating sulfur cloud despite already wearing a gas mask. I couldn’t understand how the local miners could stand the environment without one—all the more reason to sympathize with their difficult work just to earn pennies.

Beautiful dawn

By the time we ascended back to the crater rim, dawn was upon us, and we were treated to a magical view of blue crater lake against the brightening sky. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good camera to capture it in all its glory, thanks to an earlier misfortune. But I’m satisfied to have at least ticked Ijen off my bucket list.

Just as beautiful was the view beyond. Java Island is full of majestic peaks, so it’s no wonder we could see a few in the distance peeking through the morning clouds. I didn’t have plans to climb them, as I already have another mountain in mind immediately after this Ijen trip. But that’s a story for another time.

Behind the trip

I’m Angie, a traveller, web developer and blogger behind A Head Full of Travel. I’m here to document my adventures through words and photography, kindling a love for life. You can trust that all content and advice shared here is genuine and from my own experiences.

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