Written by Beverley Lennon
Having hiked (or rather, walked up) Mount Bromo twice, I wasn’t very apprehensive about ticking off Ijen volcano from my bucket list – in fact, I was rather excited and made sure to pack all of my necessities for the 9°C hike (yes even my gloves and beanie!).
I also spent a couple of days reading through blogs and travellers’ experiences, and they mostly warned about the terrible sulphur smoke down the crater (I now completely agree to that!). But while I read that many choose to stay at budget guesthouses and homestays and rough it out (read: cold showers and crappy beds), we were lucky enough to enjoy a comfortable beachfront hotel with magical views of Bali from our room balcony, along with a stunning oceanview pool prior and after our tough hike up the volcano, as well as a soothing session at their spa!
So perhaps if you’re also looking at exploring the volcanoes around Indonesia, I’d personally say that although Mount Bromo is a good option to begin with, the next best and most scenic wonder would definitely be Ijen Crater! What’s more, you can enjoy a relaxing holiday in Banyuwangi too and explore other natural attractions in the surroundings!
It has begun, ladies and gentlemen! You’re now ready for an adventure of a lifetime! This 4D3N itinerary will take you to uncover not only Ijen Crater but also the lesser-known natural wonders in and around Banyuwangi. Besides dining with a view, you’ll also enjoy stunning panoramas of the island of Bali from your room balcony!
Take a direct flight via Citilink from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Banyuwangi International Airport. Note: Flights are only available on Thursday and Sunday.
Flight duration: 2 hours and 50 minutes. (Total cost from USD $79/ RM 320)
Celebrate the start of holidays with an ocean-view dinner!
✈️ Note: There’s only two direct flights to and from Banyuwangi per week via Citilink. Alternatively, you can opt for a connecting flight via Surabaya too!
🚕 Note: Grab drivers are not allowed in the compounds of the airport, you will have to walk out to be able to meet your Grab driver. Alternatively, there are local taxis or you could check if your hotel offers airport-to-hotel transfers upon arrival!
First thing first, the international airport in Banyuwangi has only been operating since 2018, so do not expect extra modern architectures – in fact, it is the smallest international arrival hall I have ever been to, and all of the procedures take place within the same room (i.e. luggage claim, immigration and customs). Once you arrive, every passenger is subject to a body temperature check (they literally put some sort of gun on your forehead and well you have to guess that this is a thermometer).
To my utmost surprise, you are also asked to sit and wait until the staff takes out your luggage from the plane (all done manually) – it’s a funny experience all in all, it felt like I was thrown back to the 50s, oh and chances are they’ll open your luggage to check what you’re bringing in (yes, they even unfolded my bikinis!).
Kick off your ultimate adventure with a scrumptious seafood feast. Head to Three B and indulge in freshly caught seafood at affordable prices! A feast for both stomach and eyes as you get to enjoy stunning views of the ocean dotted with sailboats as you dig into perfectly marinated crustaceans.
Photo Via Cindydwiaprilli_, Dickyrevanfauzi
Stepping into Dialoog Banyuwangi is like arriving in Sri Lanka. The well-manicured lawn outlined with tall palm trees reminded me of my tropical escape to the gem of the Indian Ocean. Put it shortly, the view from the lobby is breathtaking but wait until you see it from your balcony (or your bed).
Once I took a sip of their comforting welcome drink, I walked through the expansive garden and god knows how I enjoyed being transported to a tropical world where stress simply melts away! With its direct black-sand beach access, stunning infinity pool, ocean-view rooms and suites, Dialoog Banyuwangi felt like the ultimate spot for a perfect island getaway!
What’s more; its position is also ideal to catch East Java’s magnificent sunrises. Depending on the season, sunrise can be as early as 4.45am but luckily it only rose by 5.45am when we were there!
Now, the best bits – the rooms. We were booked in their spectacular ocean view room which felt rather intimate. The best part lies, of course, on your balcony as you open up to endless views of the ocean with the island of Bali in the backdrop!
However, I would recommend you to share a room with someone you feel comfortable with as you have to get dressed outside the shower since the concept is rather ‘open’. And if you’re in for a treat, their suite room category does not fail to impress too – it even comes with a bathtub that’s beautifully set overlooking the sea!
Something to note (in case you’re wondering whether your A/C is down), there’s a sensor in the room that turns off the air-conditioning every time you open your balcony door; talk about sustainability!
If you’re someone who loves a good morning swim, I truly recommend you to make it to the pool at sunrise. It turns out to be a magical scene as the rest of the world is still asleep and we relished a real ball of fire rising over the ocean and Bali in the background. We thoroughly enjoyed sitting and taking in morning views from their Instagrammable cabana too!
(Enjoy 10% discount on your hotel stay and activities if you book directly on the website with promo code: ijennighthike) *Note: The promo code is valid until end of Sep for stay period till Dec 2019*
Day 1: Route
Explore Banyuwangi’s natural attractions and conquer Ijen crater!
Indulge in a remarkable breakfast with good views – Casabanyu Restaurant & Bar at Dialoog Banyuwangi (1 hour)
Breakfast at Dialoog Banyuwangi is no typical affair. The hotel’s breakfast offerings depend on the occupancy and when we were there, they had their mini-buffet, but trust me, it’s more than enough!
Every meal at Casabanyu Restaurant & Bar comes with complimentary ocean views. The restaurant gets quite packed in the morning so we made sure to come extra early (right after our sunrise swim in the pool) to secure the best seats! Mind you, it gets scorching hot once the sun is up so if you don’t fancy getting tanned, we’d recommend you to sit indoors.
The breakfast spread is reasonable; with a variety of pastries – they make waffles on the spot and they are absolutely amazing! You’ll also find a good selection of Asian dishes alongside fresh baguette, fruits, cereals, as well as an egg station. We’ve been so grateful to take breakfast every day at Dialoog Banyuwangi as it was a good way to start our adventures with good food and great views!
Revive the coffee lover in you and lunch by the pool – Agrowisata Kalibendo + 1911 Cafe and Resto (2 hours)
Take a trip to the Costa Rica of Banyuwangi at Agrowisata Kalibendo as you visit the region’s iconic coffee plantation! Whether you brew a basic pot each morning to get you going before work, or you have tried dozens of coffees from across the globe, you’ll absolutely love exploring the plantations and taking a peek at the factory.
Due to its proximity to Ijen Crater, you’ll notice that the air here is actually cooler – it is considered as the highlands of Banyuwangi and features a hidden waterfall too! At the plantation, you may wish to roam around using their bicycles or by foot as you get to learn about coffee production. Besides, they also have rubber plantations too and the perfectly-aligned trees look rather Instagrammable if you ask me!
From the plantations, you might want to walk down to the bridge over the river before reaching Kalibendo Waterfall. It’s a rather short and smooth walk to reach the waterfall so you barely have to get prepared physically. If you’re an avid waterfall chaser, this might not be one that will leave you speechless but nevertheless, it’s quite a nice place to enjoy Mother Nature’s natural wonder, so why not take a dip in!
For lunch, enjoy the peacefulness of nature at 1911 Cafe and Resto (located in the same area as Agrowisata Kalibendo) as you indulge in traditional Indonesian snacks and dishes by the pool. When we dropped by, the place seemed to be famous for its coffee and cassava snacks (yes, we did stalk the tables)! Although we did not personally try those, we thought it was a lovely place to escape to. Plus, the chilly weather makes it perfect for a warm cup of coffee too!
Photo Via 1911, Alfa_prima
Before we set off for this magical place, I asked my fellow Indonesian colleagues, “Do locals actually spend their money to come and only take pictures here?” Well, little did I know that the place had such whimsical vibes that I myself wouldn’t mind coming over just to take pictures!
What’s more, I imagined it to be one single photogenic tree but it was a whole plot of land with mystical ferns and trees (and well maintained!), with alleys and the cutest tribe of sheep!
I imagined how magical it would be to set up a picnic here; it’s like taking a jump into Alice in Wonderland with elves and fairies hiding in the bushes – a forest of fantasy!
If you’re a ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan, you will also enjoy wandering into what will remind you of the Forest of Fangorn. As we were here during sunset, we got to relish magical golden rays piercing through the canopies, and trust me, you might not want to miss this show!
You might want to stay in and order some in-room dining for the night as you’ll have an extra-early wake-up call (read: 11pm) to leave for the hike to Ijen by 12 am! Yes, midnight! Trust me, you’ll be forever grateful to tuck into bed as early as possible after indulging in a comforting meal at the hotel – dinner in bed or at their on-site restaurant? You choose!
🌋Note: The recommended departure time from the hotel is 12am (midnight) but note that the tour offered by Dialoog Banyuwangi is fully customizable.
It took about 20 minutes after starting our hike up Ijen Crater to realise that this was a terrible idea. Similarly, it took us about 10 minutes to realise that it was all worth it! Of course, I am not necessarily fit so I might be exaggerating here!
Though some claim they can do it in 1 hour or even 45 minutes; we took a good 2 hours (nearly) to reach the crater, before going down to the blue flames and battling through thick clouds of sulphur smoke!
You’ll begin very early in the morning (around 1am) so I recommend you to pack some snacks and drinks or you could settle down at the local eatery at the entrance for a comforting bowl of instant noodles and fried banana.
We began our walk and it was pretty easy at the start until the several steep roads which had my emotions completely mirroring an actual volcano – peaceful and quiet at times and rumbling (or rather exploding) with boiling frustration at other times!
What made it even more challenging was the cold wind and the sight of several hikers giving up. But we indeed made it to the top. What brings people to Ijen isn’t necessarily its greenish lake but also its unique blue flames down the crater (however, according to government officials it is illegal and rather dangerous to go down).
But having come all the way here, we decided to explore further and get an up-close-and-personal look of the iconic blue flames. Hear me – you will need a proper mask if you do not want to suffocate. A proper functioning torch would be of great help too as you’ll be going down the crater while it is still pitch dark!
Personally, I still consider the sunrise view as the highlight of the hike – conquering Ijen Crater rewarded us with some of the most fascinating views that we have ever seen. At around 5.30am, the sky slowly enlightens with beautiful shades of purple, blue, orange and pink. At this moment, all pain and exhaustion were forgotten.
As the sun slowly rose, the scenery turned out to be beyond incredible to behold, and we found ourselves snapping numerous pictures in an effort to capture the beauty.
Without a doubt, hiking Ijen Crater was one of the most physically and mentally challenging things that I have ever done. The incline, the loose pebbles and the altitude contributed to all challenges and the way down wasn’t easier either.
Day 2: Route
Come close to unique animal species on land and in water!
After breakfast at the hotel, we decided to take a short rest to catch up on all the sleep we missed the night before. I highly recommend you to do so too, and why wouldn’t you anyway as you can enjoy the comfort of your beautiful room at Dialoog Banyuwangi. If you choose the right category (Deluxe Ocean Room or Suite), you’ll even enjoy endless views of the ocean with the island of Bali in the background!
Once well rested, why not treat yourself to a soothing massage at the hotel’s spa or embark on more adventures with a trip to the nearby Menjangan Island?
If there’s one thing you’ll be grateful for after your hike, it will be the spa at the hotel. Both the cold and inclines had my legs extremely sore and all I ever wished for was to be in some expert’s hands as they worked their magic on me!
Though the treatment room comes with no particular view, it seemed quite inviting – especially if you’re one who often dozes off throughout your massage. On arrival, you’ll be greeted with a comforting cup of hot ginger tea and cold towels before being directed to your treatment room. They offer both single and couple rooms with beautiful traditional Indonesian feels and vibes while you get to enjoy an outdoor bathroom too.
I wouldn’t say that the treatments offered are necessarily affordable but it surely is a treat when you’re crying or rather begging for some muscle-melting action! To add, it’s one perfect moment to enjoy some intimate time with your partner too!
I recall escaping to Menjangan Island some time ago and as a ‘thalassophile’ who’s jumped right into various waters around the world, I can tell you that this marine oasis is one I am not ready to forget – an underwater sight that will make your jaw drop (if you aren’t breathing through a snorkel, of course!).
From Bangsring in Banyuwangi, you can reach Menjangan Island within a 40-minute boat ride. What’s unique about the island is it’s a savannah terrain that is home to unique Javan Rusa deer known as ‘Menjangan’, which is how the island received its name.
With such crystal clear waters and coral gardens, it is no wonder that the island is considered a haven for divers and snorkellers!
Photo Via Timur_angin
Note: If you’re willing to explore on your own (without a tour), you can opt to rent a boat from the locals at Bangsring at any time of the day!
Pack a picnic lunch and catch sunset with deer and monkeys in the savannah-oh-na-na – Baluran National Park (2 hours)
With the sun setting as early as 5.30pm in Banyuwangi, we made sure to catch it somewhere rather special. At Baluran National Park, we stepped right into “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King!
As we drove in, it felt like we were in an African savanna. We had the greatest (or not so) idea to set up a picnic under the tree, only to be chased by monkeys within a few minutes! Hear me: they’re quite an aggressive species so you might not want to mess with them! Besides the silly monkeys, the national park is known to home deer, peacocks, bulls and we had the chance to spot some of them, along with stunning herds of toucans on their dinner mission.
Since there was time until sunset, we drove to the end of the Route 66-like road and made it to the beautiful hidden Bama Beach. Cross over after the mangrove forest and you’ll get to enjoy a quiet stretch of white sand with very few locals!
As the sky slowly got ready for the night to fall, we went back to the national park and relished the ball of fire setting low behind the stunning mountain range. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy at sunset time but who knows, you might be luckier than us and get your ultimate African sunset right in East Java!
Day 3: Route
Immerse in the local culture and head back home!
As you sleep in on your last day in Banyuwangi, grab a late breakfast (or early lunch) at Casabanyu Restaurant & Bar. We absolutely love their tomato soup, pizza selections and the steak was delectable as well! We also tried their soft shell crab, lumpia (traditional spring roll) and a scrumptious chocolate soufflé for dessert!
Stop by this traditional village and learn how indigenous Osing tribes preserve their ancestors’ traditions that date back to the Majapahit Kingdom era! Get to know how locals cultivate their coffee, master the culinary secrets of Banyuwangi, practise their traditional dances and instruments, or why not join the farmers in the rice fields?
The village offers an array of packages for travellers who want to experience authentic Osing culture.