Category Archives: Indonesia

Volcano Sulfur Mining at Kawah Ijen

Did you know you can hike a volcano and visit a sulfur mine?  Hike up to the top of the volcano at Kawah Ijen volcano in Indonesia. There you’ll find volcano sulfur mining. I found it fascinating!

Firstly, I’ll explain how it works and where you can find it. Next, I’ll explain what sulfur is used for. Then, I’ll provide some photos from my experience.

Where can you find Sulfur Mining?

Visit Indonesia in eastern Java, Indonesia. Upon arrival you can hike up to the top of Kawah Ijen volcano. Start your day early.

Also, ideally you’ll want to choose a clear day, since it’s overlooking the turquoise acid crater lake.

This sulfur mine has been active since 1968. There’s a labor intensive sulfur mining operation there with about 300 miners.

How Sulfur Mining works?

Miners extract the sulfur and carry it 8,660 feet up and down the mountain. These miners face excruciating heat, toxic fumes, and heavy loads.

In exchange the miners are rewarded with only about five dollars per trip.

Volcano Sulfur Mining photo tour

Sulfur Mining photos from our Kawah Ijen volcano adventure are below.

photos from Sulfur Mining at Kawah Ijen volcano in Java, Indonesia | Visit50.com

What is Sulfur mining used for?

The main use is in making chemicals for agriculture, mostly for fertilizers. Other uses of sulfur include refining petroleum, metal mining, and the production of organic and inorganic chemicals.

Sulfur mining at Kawah Ijen volcano | Java, Indonesia
looked like fire

Sulfur is called “Devil’s Gold” by some

Man carries sulfur up from the sulfur mine, around the mountain, and then down
Can I help you carry something?
miner carries sulfur down the mountain
guess not.

new friends from the Kawah Ijen volcano hike | Java, IndonesiaStanding in front of the sulfur mine at Kawah Ijen volcano | Java, Indonesia

fun at the Sulfur mine at Kawah Ijen volcano | Java, Indonesia 41

What does sulfur look like?

Sulfur is yellow in color. Sulfur’s odor is the most distinctive feature.

Holding sulfur at Kawah Ijen volcano | Java, Indonesia

the yellow brick road leads to... this -- a sulfur mine at Kawah Ijen volcano | Java, Indonesia
the “yellow brick road” leads to… this.

Why is sulfur in volcanoes?

Sulfur is produced by volcanoes because it’s common in our crust and upper mantle.
“Sulfur readily comes to the surface of our planet because it is a relatively light element. The sulfur is kept in a liquid form at the higher pressures within a magmatic body prior to eruption.” (Quora)
"eating" sulfur deposits at the Kawah Ijen volcano Kawah Ijen volcano
note – I don’t recommend eating sulfur deposits

Kawah Ijen – I certainly don’t recommend eating sulfur deposits

Sulfur is VERY heavy

"Carrying

Kawah Ijen - sulfur trek

Hike up Kawah Ijen volcano

As you hike up towards the peak of the Kawah Ijen volcano crater, visibility gets worse with each step.

Hiking up to see Kawah Ijen
Hiking up to see Kawah Ijen. Visibility declined rapidly – at one point I couldn’t see 5 feet in front of me!

Visibility and colors change with each step. The air gets more difficult to breathe you get towards the peak due to the sulfur.

Zero Visibility at the volcano

Kawah Ijen, turquose crater lake

Visit Kawah Ijen for the view of a turquoise crater lake surrounded by Volcanoes. After seeing this photo of Ijen I knew I wanted to visit! It looks gorgeous – a turquoise crater lake in the middle of a group of volcanoes.

Kawah Ijen

But manage your expectations, because you might end up with zero visibility like my experience.

We took a red-eye road trip to the base. Then, a difficult 2-hour drive up the mountain to the base. Next, a hike up where air that became more difficult to breathe. Additionally, the overcast sky became nothing but fog, with visibility only a few feet in some places. All we saw was this:

View from the top of the Ijen volcano
View from the top – you’ll have to use your imagination because this is all we saw.

More sulfur mining volcano photos

My favorite photos of Kawah Ijen come from the on the Boston Globe website, as well as photography of the sulfur mines at Ijen here, and here.

My favorite volcano experience was volcano boarding in Nicaragua. You can actually hike up the and go volcano sledding!

Spontaneous 7-hour Road Trip to Kawah Ijen Volcano Indonesia

Have you ever taken a spontaneous road trip? This is a story about our spontaneous road trip to Kawah Ijen volcano in Java Indonesia.

The Plan: Road trip to Bromo

Our plan was initially to visit Gunung Bromo, but that trip is canceled. Ahhh!  Bromo’s an active volcano, and it’s been particularly active recently, so we were told it’s just not safe. Roads are closed off and you can’t get anywhere remotely near to see it.

[Note to Indonesia: please set up a website that gets updated with this sort of information. It would go a looooong way towards making you a tourist-friendly country. Thanks.].

Plan B: Road Trip to Kawah Ijen

Plan B was to go to Ijen, a group of stratovolcanoes on the same island of Java, in Indonesia.  Our target was Kawah Ijen, a beautiful volcano with a turquoise-colored acid crater lake. Also, it has sulfur mining too.

Kawah Ijen turquoise crater lake
Kawah Ijen

Red eye road trip to Kawah Ijen

At 11pm we – Nadya, Dina, and Dina’s friend Afit – all hopped in the car. Now there’s a slight language barrier so perhaps I didn’t completely understand. I thought we were heading out to get food, and it turns out we had started driving towards Kawah Ijen. It’s a 7 hour drive!  5 hours just to the base of the mountain where we’d change cars.

Again on the drive I pause for a moment to appreciate the situation. We all just met within the week. I met Nadya a few days ago Bali. Then, I met her cousin and friend that night. After that, they decided to just hop in the car for a 7-hour road trip, on a Monday!  Yes they both have jobs – but worked it out. Spontaneous!

portrait of Afit during our road trip to Kawah Ijen
I met Dina and Afit in the afternoon, and that night he was kind enough to drive us 7 hours so we could see Kawah Ijen volcano.

The plan was to meet up with Dina’s brother near the base of the mountain, since he has a more powerful car and you’d need it to get up the steep mountain.  Her brother said he’d have a friend drive us up. Again, this is exceptionally nice when you consider this is a difficult 2 hour drive.

What I didn’t realize was that her brother was Indonesian military!  We pulled into an Indonesian military base that morning, and Dina’s brother’s friend drove us up in his military jeep.

military escort for our road trip to Kawah IjenIndonesian Military portrait - enroute to the Ijen volcano in Java