Mars, the fortress of solitude, the surface of the moon, Mu; the hidden lands of the center of the earth. All these tales could have origins centuries ago as our ancestors first hiked Kawah Ijen – the largest sulfuric lake in the world.
It is, simply put, one of the greatest hikes on earth. I first hiked Ijen in 2013 in the middle of a rainy day. On the back of a Gojek! (basically Uber for Mopeds), my moto driver stopped by a Kopi farm on the way up from Bonyuwani. There I sipped incredible freshly roasted Javanese coffee, grown, processed and roasted organically and biodynamically on the sloping hillsides of the Ijen Mountain range.
That cup of coffee half a decade ago still sits with me. Had I known how special that first hike to Ijen was going to be, perhaps I would have paid more attention to the tasting notes but that day this Kopi was fuel for a steep and challenging hike.
Almost every traveler hikes Ijen at night, so once in the crater they can see the famous Blue Flames, a visual annominally that is created by the inner workings of the sulfur mine. As it churns from within, the smoke dances out of the crater in a string of purple and blue flames, drawing people from around the world to witness the flames from 3am to 4:30, when the sun begins to rise and everyone is witness to the stunning beauty of what surrounds them.