For many years, people have been fascinated by the famous story of the Ijen miners mining the ‘devil’s gold’. TV channels and magazines like Telegraph, CNN and many other magazines published the story and National Geographic has listed the miners job as one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.
The trip starts at 07.00 pm and finishes around 07.00 pm the next day, so it’s a 24hours trip. Please note that during Indonesian national holidays, the waiting time for the ferry ride can take longer because of the heavy traffic.
Our driver will pick you up at your accommodation in Bali at around 7.00 pm. The car ride from Bali to Banyuwangi, the city where the volcano lies, takes around 5 – 7 hours including the ferry ride and vice versa.
Arrival is at around 1.00 am. From the car park at Pos Paltuding, the 3 km (1.5 hour) hike to the rim of the Ijen crater is well marked and not particularly difficult, but it is all uphill so you need to be at least a little bit fit.
It’s best to hike early in the morning to catch the sunrise from the summit. You will meet the miners during their commutetrip to collect the sulphur.
The first section of the hike is on a wide track and travels through a tropical misty forest. After around 2 km, you will reach a small shelter that is used as a sulphur weighing station and rest stop for the miners. Beyond there, the trail narrows but the view opens up to lush forest slopes and the volcanic landscape of the Ijen Plateau.
You’ll notice the distinct sulphur odor as you approach the crater’s rim. It is suggested to rent a mask or bring a thick bandana to cover your mouth and nose. You can rent the mask at the entrance on the foothill of the volcano where you hire the guide.
The view from the rim is beyond expectation. The 200 m deep lake sits inside the Ijen crater and the blue-green colour contrasts sharply with the sheer, grey crater walls. If you wish to get a closer look at the bottom of the crater, we strongly advise you to go with a guide or approach one of the Ijen sulphur miners and ask for their guidance down the steep, rocky path that leads into the crater and down to the sulphur deposits and steaming vents of acidic gases. It is dangerous to go beyond this point.
Down in the crater, miners work in hell-like conditions to harvest the sulphur. The miners use crowbars to break the sulphur into small chunks that they load into large bamboo baskets that they carry on their back. Despite the highly toxic smell of sulphur, the miners use no protective equipment. Most wear only t-shirts, random pants, and rubber boots. Not even a mask! When the baskets are filled, the miners walk back up to the rim on the steep trail carrying 60-80 kg loads. They deliver the sulphur 3 km down the mountain, and then they walk back up and do it all over again. The Ijen miners are paid by the weight of sulphur they transport each day. Their daily wage is around 10 USD/day.
The Ijen crater gives an insight in how nature meets the harshness of life. You can see the incredible scenery of the volcano and at the same time you witness how the miners earn their humble living here, you’ll think twice before ever complaining about your job back home. These men are