Ever heard of a blue lava volcano? Travel to the extremely populated Indonesian island of Java and one will see one of the most remarkable geological sights. Ijen is famous for its sulfur that burns creating the illusion of "blue lava", no other place in the world is quite like it.
This is not the only unique volcanic attraction in Java. The island is also home to the devasting Sidoarjo mudflow or Lusi mudflow - a mud volcano - that has destroyed many homes and was likely manmade (locals give tours of it). The Lusi mud volcano is likely to continue erupting for many years to come. Iceland has the only volcano in the world that one can actually descend and venture inside its depleted magma chambers.
What Is Blue Lava?
Blue lava is not really blue, instead, it is the blue fire or sulfur fire that results from the sulfur being released as it burns. It burns as an electric-blue flame that has the illusory appearance of lava.
- Reason: Sulfur Burning With an Electric Blue Flame
- Lava: Not Actually Lava Or a Volcanic Eruption
- Lava Color: Red-Orange
- Ignition: Sulfur Ignites at 360 °C (680 °F)
This is a rare phenomenon in the world with the Kawah Ijen volcano in Indonesia being the world's most well-known and documented in the world. The fires there burn regularly.
Sulfur burns as it comes into contact with hot air (combusts at temperatures above 360 °C (680 °F), the resulting flames are energetic and blue. For lava to actually be blue it would need to be at least 6,000 °C (10,830 °F) which is far hotter than anything naturally possible on the Earth's surface.
Other Locations For "Blue Lava":
- Ethiopia: Dallol Mountain
- Yellowstone National Park: During Wildfires As They Burn Large Amounts of Sulfur In The Area
- Kīlauea, Hawaii: During The 2018 Lower Puna Eruption (From Burning Methane)
About Ijen Volcano
The Ijen volcano is a volcanic complex of a group of composite volcanos in East Java in Indonesia. It is famous around the world for its blue fire, acidic crater lake, and labor-intensive sulfur mining.
- Location: East Java, Indonesia
The highest point of the volcanic complex is the Gunung Merapi stratovolcano while the caldera Ijen is about kilometers (12 miles) wide. Ijen is to the west of Gunung Merapi and has a one-kilometer wide or 0.6 miles wide turquoise-colored acidic crater lake. This lake is recognized as the most acidic crater lake in the world
- Acidic: The Crater Lake Is The Most Acidic In The World
- Name: Gunung Merapi Means "Mountain of Fire" In Indonesian
It is also known for sulfur mining here. Laborers carried sulfur-laden baskets by hand from the crater floor.
- Largest: Ijen Has the World's Largest Blue Flame Area
As the sulfur from within the volcano breaches the surface, it can get up to temperatures of as much as 600 °C (1,112 °F) - much more than the 360 °C (680 °F) needed for sulfur to ignite.
As the sulfur encounters lower temperatures and pressures it ignites and bursts into blue flames. These flames can rise up as much as 5 meters or 16 feet into the air.
The sulfur then melts and as it does so it sometimes flows down the face of the volcano while carrying the flames with it. This is a stunning spectacle creating the illusion that blue lava is flowing down the volcano.
- When To See: At Night (May Not Be Visible In The Day)
If one would like to see these blue flames, one really needs to see them at night - they are not particularly visible in the daylight.
Visiting Ijen Volcano With a Guided Tour
There are a number of guided tours to Ijen Volcano and some of them leave from nearby Bali. One can take a ferry across to the island of Java. The viator.com listed "Mount Ijen Crater Volcano Midnight Trekking Tour from Bali – Full Day" is one example of a guided tour to the stunning volcano.
This tour begins with a 4-hour drive to the ferry at Gilimanuk Port in Bali. Here guests have a local dinner and then set off for Mount Ijen’s blue fire. It's another 1.5 hours to the base of the mountain and everyone will arrive by midnight.
At midnight the group treks up to the summit - that takes around two hours. Once the party has reached the summit, they head down into the Ijen Crater (another 40 minutes) where everyone will be able to see the mesmerizing electric blue fire from the volcano.
- Duration: 7 Hours
- Admission Ticket: Included
- Price: $145
- Included: Pickup and Drop off From Hotels In Bali
- Hiking: To Access The Crate Requires A Few Hours Of Hiking