Kawah Ijen – called by Javanese people a “Lonely Mountain” is a place unlike to find elsewhere in Java. The phenomenal experience to see the Blue Fire and close contact with raw Nature will leave you speechless – that’s for sure!
Depending on your next destination after Kawah Ijen, you can make your way to the crater starting from Bondowoso or Banyuwangi. If you are in Probolinggo – it’s possible to take a bus or train to Banyuwangi and set the village as a transfer point before Bali.
Once in Bondowoso, we found really cheap accommodation at Ijen Bamboo Homestay. Friendly and welcoming staff offered us really good deal for sunrise hike with a transportation, private guide and included entry fee of 150 000 rupiah. If there would be more folks to join the tour costs would be even smaller – in the end we paid the price of 600 000 rupiah (37£) for both of us.
We left our homestay around 1am and we drove around one hour to reach the starting point. The first part of 3 km hike was quite steep and we did many stops to rest. We wish we could have made a picture of that beautiful sky filled with thousands of stars that night. Not to mention about Milky Way!
Our tour guide Edi was a really nice and warm person. He made sure we had extra jackets, gas masks and torch. We made the hike to the top and noticed that many people are following a rocky path down to the crater. It was truly surreal to see the turquoise lake and even the sulphur fumes from all around were not that bad to handle. We decided not to walk down and instead we walked to the summit and waited there for the sun to come up.
When you climb up to the top and walk around the lake it is easy to notice miners who are carrying sulphur in bamboo baskets placed on their shoulders. Their profession is considered as one of the most dangerous and toxic jobs on Earth. Most of them will usually do two trips per day, loaded with 90 kg of sulphur down to the base and sell it for ridiculous price of 1000 rupiah (~0.05£) per kg. Remember to give them the way,let them pass or support buy buying a little sulphur souvenir.
We slowly continued our walk to (according to what our guide said) the best view point. As the sun started to appear over the horizon everything became brighter and we witnessed something incredible. That was one of the highlights while being in Java. Surrounded by such a volcanic scenery often makes you realize how small you actually are.
After an easy and quick trek down we felt really tired. Our lovely guide took us to local warung (small eatery) where we had an delicious lunch with tempeh, rice and lots of veggies for less than 1£!
Few good tips before starting the hike:
- Get a travel insurance and make your experience secured!
- Do yourself a favour and get a proper hiking shoes,
- Warm clothes are essential – it’s freezing up there,
- Rent or buy yourself a torch and gas mask.
In the afternoon we took a bus to Probolinggo and from there got another transfer to Malang. There isn’t much to do in Malang but we made it as our stop along the way to Yogyakarta. We randomly bargained a driver next to the train station and decided to check a couple of places a bit outside of this city. Making a few stops and admiring country side in the early hours of the day we visited Grogojan Sewu Waterfall and Coban Rondo Waterfall on the way.
The real gem of the area is Tumpak Sewu waterfall. After 2.5 hours of drive we reached Sidomulyo village located in the highlands of East Java. This 120 meters high and wide water tumble pouring from the cliff of the mountain can be seen from both sides – either top or bottom. Tumpak Sewu in local language means Thousand Falls. You certainly won’t find a view like this anywhere else in the world. As usual we do recommend to visit in the early morning as this place becoming more and more popular.
Malang turned out to be noisy so we only stayed there for two nights before taking a train to Semarang. If you get hungry don’t hesitate to visit Lafferie Eatery – probably one and only vegan place in town. We were very surprised when we discovered Noch coffee shop – great tunes, huge selection of indonesian coffee and comfy sofas – perfect for that “laptop work and research”.
Trains in Java are the cheapest transportation but need to be booked in advance. After 7 hours trip we made it to Semarang. First things first – COFFEE! Java is should be definitely a destination for those who are exploring coffee flavours. The variety of beans and amazing coffee shops will make you drink at least three cups a day! Using GRAB we saved lots of time while getting from one place to another.
Semarang has couple of legendary coffee shops:
- Reunion Coffee; no.1 for all the coffee lovers, super friendly baristas,
- Tekodeko Koffiehuis; delicious coffee delivered from all many regions in Indonesia plus their own signature coffee,
- Kofinary Espresso Bar; industrial style coffee shop with variety of brewing methods
What’s more about Semarang? If you want to see the most splashy neighbourhood of the city take a walk through Kampung Pelangi. The idea behind Rainbow Village was to help the local community. All the transformation from poor slum into vibrant housing made this place to look like a fairytale.
If you feel more adventures you can visit Brown Canyon. These volcanic hills can be only reached by car and it’s a bit tricky to find it. GPS usually fails so make sure your driver knows the area.
As mentioned before we got absolutely spoiled with GRAB in Java. Prices were so cheap so we easily afforded transfer from Semarang to Yogyakarta. It didn’t take long to find a driver who would be happy to give us a ride. We paid the amount of 350 000 rupiah (~17£) for almost 3 hours drive.
Yogyakarta was our last stop and we chose wisely the best and secluded accommodation in Sewon village just 10 minutes drive from Yogyakarta’s centre. After all the hikes and struggles with vegan food options we thought we need a reward in the end of our trip so our only issue could be the sound of frogs and crickets.
Yabbiekayu Homestay gave us authentic experience and we couldn’t imagine better place than this hidden paradise. Every morning they cooked us javanese vegan breakfast upon request and our bungalow was just stunning. The staff were lovely and they ensured our stay was as perfect as possible. No hesitation in recommending this lovely eco village!
Beautiful surroundings like paddy fields, passionfruit and pineapples growing just outside and small organic farm right next to made our stay truly magical. We were reading, watching movies, taking baths in our outside tub and basically doing nothing for few days!
Jogja is totally different than any other city in Java. The cultural heart of the island attracts many travellers for it’s famous hindu and buddhist temples – Prambanan and Borobudur. At some point we even thought we will visit those magnificent monuments however overpriced tickets and touristy vibe made us feel that we want to skip it. Instead we rented a scooter and explored beaches and local villages from all around. For those who are seeking a little break from the city we can advise two beaches: Ngrenean and Pantai Drini.
If you base yourself in the city don’t miss the opportunity to stay a night or two in Greenhost Boutique Hotel. It does sound fancy but it’s affordable for each backpacker’s pocket. It’s an amazing concept of sustainable and eco-friendly hotel. On the top floor there is a garden full of herbs and little vegetables which are used everyday to provide vegetarian meals for guests. There are plenty of vegan options too! Visit their rooftop bar for an amazing cocktails and charming bartenders!
By renting a scooter we saved a lots of time and made couple of tours out of town. Here are few getaways – the best is to go in the early morning and probably not over the weekend:
- Becici Peak; for all the pine tree lovers,
- Hutan Pinus Pengger; during the night this place becomes a fairytale, however to get a picture on their famous “hand” you have to queue which was not something we were willing to do!
- Songgo Langit; javanese version of hobbit houses.
Furthermore we marked a few amazing coffee shops and we were really enjoying eating at great vegan/vegetarian restaurants Yogyakarta has to offer:
- Simetri Coffee Roaster; manual brew options, good place to bring your laptop,
- Tekoff Coffee and Tea; another gem filled with soul,
- EPIC Coffee – this coffee shop used to be a showroom/store for furniture that they produced locally so expect a huge space and insane interior! They also have outstanding varieties of beans, not only that numero uno coffee that are locally produced in Indonesia, but also the ones from other countries who produced great coffees.
- Blanco Coffee And Books; small and artsy, they do milk alternatives!
- Move On; popular and probably the most hipsterish cafe in the beginning of famous Prawirotaman street, great selection for coffees during the day and lovely espresso martinis during the night!
- Simple Plant Vegetarian Resto; delicious and cheap vegan foodies,
- Milas; the best vegan place in town, amazing concept, lovely outdoor sits, tempeh steak and sambal goreng curry were our top dishes,
- Fortunate Coffee; outstanding menu, variety and lots of options, they are selling homemade vegan bread
- Warung Kita; small eatery with selection of organic products.
Indonesia is also really famous for an ink craft. Right before heading back to London we decided to get this particular souvenir! If you are willing to get an awesome piece of art on your body in Yogyakarta we are happy to recommend two talented artists – please say hi from Monika&Gaile!
You can check some of their achievements below;