Formed by a series of eruptions some 3,500 years ago, Kawah Ijen is a massive volcanic crater located on a plateau between three towering volcanoes towards the very eastern tip of Java. To the east the plateau is backed by Gunung Ijen and Gunung Merapi with Gunung Raung to the far southwest.
Kawah Ijen is famous both for its acidic aquamarine lake and for the laborious sulphur mining industry which is played out beside the lake. Men from all around the region come here to mine sulphur with the resulting haul transported in bamboo baskets weighing up to 115 kilograms slung over their shoulders to waiting trucks. The trek out of the crater is gruelling with an ascent of 300 metres up one side and a descent of 400 metres down the other along a three kilometre track to Pos Paltuding.
The trail both the labourers and travellers follow is steep, gravelly and slippery. The trail quality, when combined with the swirling sulphur fumes and clouds, can be overpowering and excessive care (and a guide) is recommended.
Aside from witnessing this amazing display of human strength and perseverance in the face of hostile conditions, views of the surrounding areas also add to this Indonesian highlight.
Kawah Ijen can be approached from either Banyuwangi to the east (and six kilometres from the port for ferries to Bali) or from Bondowoso to the west. In both cases the transport situation is relatively straightforward, though Banyuwangi is the closer starting point.
By Adam Poskitt