INDONESIA – Minh Phung, a traveler from Da Lat, spent 5 days in July trekking in Java, a land known for its thousands of waterfalls, the largest acid lake in the world, and active volcanoes.

Java is the fourth largest island in the Indonesian archipelago and the 12th largest in the world. Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Java was formed by volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. The island is home to over 100 volcanoes, with around 40 currently active.

5 days of trekking to witness a thousand-stream waterfall and active volcanoes - Image 1

The landscape of the Tengger volcano on the island of Java (Indonesia).

During his 5-day trip (July 7-12), Tran Minh Phung (32 years old, from Da Lat) trekked the Ijen-Tumpak-Bromo route to admire two famous volcanoes, Bromo and Ijen, and the Tumpak waterfall. Bromo is one of the top 5 most beautiful active volcanoes in Asia, while Ijen boasts the largest acid lake in the world. Phung spent one day at each location, trekking and exploring.

The first trekking point was Kawah Ijen Lake, located in the Ijen volcano area, between the Bondowoso and Banyuwangi highlands in eastern Java. Sitting at an altitude of 2,300 meters above sea level, this is the largest acid lake in the world with a capacity of 36 million cubic meters. The lake’s surface is always covered by a thick layer of white smoke and the air carries the smell of sulfur compounds.

At 4am at the Ijen base camp, groups of people with flashlights and gas masks lined up to climb the mountain. The path to the summit of Mount Ijen is steep, with slopes ranging from 45 to 60 degrees. Despite heavy rain, Phung’s group decided to wear raincoats and trek the 4km distance in about an hour and a half.

When they reached the top, the rain had stopped and a beautiful purple-pink scene unfolded before their eyes. The pink and purple hues stretched across the sky, contrasting with the emerald green lake and the cold grey mountains and cliffs. In the distance, clouds and white smoke rose from the lake, creating a stunning and mystical landscape, Phung said.

After watching the sunrise, the group continued to descend 300 meters into the crater of Mount Ijen. At the bottom of the acid lake lies a natural sulfur deposit, which has a bright yellow color like fresh turmeric. Irul Nurulah, a local guide, explained that people often come here to collect and sell sulfur.

In conclusion, Minh Phung’s trekking journey in Java was filled with breathtaking views of active volcanoes, stunning waterfalls, and unique natural wonders. It was an unforgettable experience that allowed him to truly appreciate the beauty and power of nature.

  • Pink-purple sunrise over Mount Ijen, below is the world's largest acidic lake.
    Pink-purple sunrise over Mount Ijen, below is the world's largest acidic lake.

Ijen is one of the rare places on Earth where you can witness glowing blue sulfur streams in the dark, usually occurring between 3-4am. This phenomenon is caused by a chemical reaction between burning sulfur and oxygen in the air. Unfortunately, due to a late start caused by rain, Mr. Phung’s group missed the chance to witness this fascinating natural occurrence.

In the afternoon, the group moved to a nearby village near Tumpak waterfall for convenience in their upcoming journey. Upon arrival, they were informed that the area has been experiencing heavy rainfall, making trekking quite dangerous. It seemed like their trip would be disrupted, but luckily the next morning the weather cleared up. The group departed at 7am and reached the top of the waterfall at 8am.

Tumpak Sewu, also known as the “thousand waterfalls,” is formed by water cascading down into smaller streams. The waterfall resembles a soft silk fabric with white threads running parallel. “This is the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen,” Mr. Phung exclaimed. Due to the recent rain, the waterfall had a strong flow and could only be admired from above, not from below.

Leaving Tumpak, their next destination was Cemoro Lawang village, located near Mount Bromo on the Tengger plateau in East Java. The plateau was formed by volcanic ash from Mount Tengger’s eruption approximately 45,000 years ago.

Mount Bromo, along with Kursi, Watangan, and Widodare, make up a cluster of small volcanoes within the 16km-wide Tengger caldera, estimated to be around 820,000 years old. Surrounding the volcanoes is a sea of black sand and gray ash. Looking at the massive Mount Tengger from afar, with the black sand below and the sun and wind above, the scenery reminded me of the movie “The Knight of Time,” Mr. Phung said.

Waking up at 2am to prepare for their hike, Mr. Phung was surprised by the number of people already heading towards the mountain to catch the sunrise, with most of them being European tourists. To reach the sunrise viewpoint at Bromo, visitors must take a car to the base of the mountain and then trek about 500m. Similar to Ijen, the sunrise at Bromo has a pinkish-purple hue. As the volcano is still active, it continuously emits smoke. Thick white columns of smoke rise high into the sky, turning pink as the sun shines upon them.

The road from the viewpoint of the sunrise to the mouth of the volcano passes through a desert of sand with ridges and grooves that can only be seen in comics, according to Mr. Phung. The dinosaur backbones with dozens of saw-like ridges formed by volcanic eruptions are still intact. The stretch of road with towering cliffs on one side resembles Vietnam’s Ma Pi Leng Pass.

  • Sunrise over Mount Bromo seen from a distance.

After walking an additional 3 km, Mr. Phung reached the mouth of Mount Bromo, where carbon dioxide erupts from the depths of the earth into the air. Standing on the mouth of Mount Bromo is one of the most beautiful moments of his life because it was the first time he witnessed an active volcano in real life, he said. From Bromo, tourists can clearly see Semeru, the highest active volcano in Java.

The loud rumbling of hot rocks serves as a reminder to visitors that this is still an active volcano with molten lava flowing at thousands of degrees Celsius beneath the surface. The most recent eruption of Bromo in early 2011 claimed the lives of two tourists and caused many airports in the area to shut down.

In July, the island experiences quite a bit of rain, with average temperatures ranging from 12-14 degrees Celsius. If you plan on visiting, make sure to bring warm clothes and prepare physically for the trek as it requires endurance to constantly move and trek for three days.

Mr. Phung spent $650 USD on this trip, including 4 million for the tour, 6 million for round-trip flights, 2 million for accommodation, and the rest for food and other expenses.

This trip has brought many firsts for Mr. Phung. However, there were also many plans that he couldn’t fulfill, such as seeing the glowing blue lava in the night or going down to the base of the waterfall. There were many regrets on this trip, perhaps the reason for me to make a promise to myself to do this trek again, Mr. Phung said.