Visit Mount Bromo Without A Guide
Mount Bromo is arguably Indonesia’s most famous volcano as well as the sexiest. Only a short plane, train, and automobile ride away from the relaxing beaches of Bali; it is an adventure that shouldn’t be overlooked on any trip to Southeast Asia.
Located on the eastern end of Java; Indonesia’s most populated island; between the cities of Yogyakarta and Surabaya; Mount Bromo is one of the many volcanos positioned along the tempestuous “Ring of Fire.” Often visited as part of a pricey packaged tour from said cities, it is by no means a budget adventure; that is unless you can find a way to go without a guide.
Fortunately, you can, and it starts by finding your way to a small village deep in the Indonesian countryside.
The Village Of Cemoro Lawang
Fixed along the edge of a cliff 6,500 feet above sea level overlooking an ocean of sand, is the village of Cemoro Lawang. Pronounced [che-mor-oh–la-wong]; it is the primary jump-off point for Mount Bromo as well as the best place to stay the night if you want to keep your adventure costs low.
The Village Of Cemoro Lawang
Finding your way to Cemoro Lawang is relatively easy as long as you don’t mind taking public transportation and waiting just a little while at each stop. The best way to book train tickets is on tiket.com or through your guesthouse. Below are the best routes from Yogyakarta and Surabaya.
Getting To Cemoro Lawang
From Yogyakarta – Take the nine-hour train ride at either 7 a.m. or 9 a.m. from the station to Probolinggo for IDR 74,000 – 94,000 or $5.50 – 6.75 respectively. Try to make friends with travelers along the way so that you can share the costs of the two-hour taxi ride from Probolinggo station to Cemoro Lawang. Alternatively, you can take the public bus for IDR 7,000 or $0.50, but be warned that the bus takes forever to fill up and the ride is nowhere near pleasant.
From Surabaya – Trains leave the station regularly throughout the day for a two-hour ride to Probolinggo. The price should be roughly IDR 58,000 or $4.50. If you are flying into Surabaya early in the morning and wish to catch the train straight away, then your best option is to take a Grab or Go-Jek for roughly IDR 75,000 or $5.40, to the Sidoarjo train station which is closer to the airport. Once in Probolinggo follow the same steps as if coming from Yogyakarta.
Our Experience: Myself and a few other travelers I had met at a hostel in Jogja (Yogyakarta) where able to find a taxi for IDR 405,000 or $29 shared by six other travelers who brought the cost down to IDR 45,000 or $3 per person.
Once you arrive at Cemoro Lawang and pay the IDR 10,000 or $0.75 entrance fee, your driver should take you directly to where you chose to stay; a decision that I will get into later in the post. The next question you have to ask yourself is just how long you want to spend visiting Mount Bromo.
How Long To Stay?
For most travelers, this question is answered with an overnight stay in order to rise early in the morning for a hike to one of the many viewpoints. They then hop on the first taxi out of town to Yogyakarta or Surabaya to catch a flight.
That plan is all well and good, but I can tell you from experience that spending just one extra day exploring the surrounding area and taking the time to relax, makes the trip much more memorable.
My recommended itinerary for a visit to Mount Bromo would include a day for hiking to the caldera of the volcano and later watching the sunset, as well as an early morning sunrise hike before leaving town.
Starting with the former will mean a late wake-up call around 9 a.m. to grab some breakfast at one of the local Warung’s (cheap eateries) and a trip up the hill to a secret path that will save you a boatload of money.
The Secret Path To Savings
How much money, you ask? Well around IDR 220,000 or $15. I know that doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but when the only thing included in the price at the main entrance is you walking and doing all the work, it’s a pretty big rip-off.
That is why us savvy travelers have found a way around this extortionary tactic and have learned to follow the local horsemen who crisscross down the cliff less than half a mile from the main entrance. A small opening just to the right of a guard shack in front of the Cemara Indah Hotel is your ticket to hiking Mount Bromo absolutely FREE!
Hike To Mount Bromo
Starting later in the morning to avoid being socked in by the dense fog that rolls through the valley; you will make your way down the cliff and onto an area known by the locals as Lautan Pasir or The Sea of Sand.
Crossing The Sea Of Sand
The way is long and hot but absolutely breathtaking. Dust tornados appear out of nowhere only to disappear moments later. Motorcyclists race past swerving in and out of the deeply rutted tracks, leaving you in a cloud of moon-like dust.
I realize now as I’m writing this that it may seem like an absolute nightmare, but let me tell you, it most assuredly is not.
After you’ve made your way across the void using your offline map app to guide the way; you will arrive at the base of Mount Bromo.
The walk up is lined with interesting faces carved in the sand and vendors trying to tell you that their heavily priced flower arrangements are tradition and must be purchased; DO NOT fall for it.
Faces In The Sand
Give A Horse A Break
You will most likely be offered a ride on a horse multiple times along the hike to Mount Bromo, and after a while of wheezing your way up the steep slope, it will start to sound like a pretty sweet deal.
What you should know before even considering this option is that the horses used to carry tourist to and from the volcano are often underfed, overworked and beaten with whips when not acting correctly.
Plotting His Sweet Revenge
The choice is entirely yours, but after you see the scars and the dead look in their eyes, you might opt to suck it up and keep walking. A choice which will be hard to make once you see the staircase you’re about to climb.
Stairway To The Top
A daunting set of 253 steps lie between you and the crater rim of Mount Bromo. Run it, walk it, or crawl it; either way, it’s the only path to the top.
Looking Into The Crater Of Mount Bromo
However, the reward is well worth the work as you stand along the crater’s rim looking down into the belly of the beast.
The Bromo Crater
Steadfast believers of many religions around the World usually have at least one story of a judgemental god residing in a volcano, and Mount Bromo is no different. Its Javanese name is Brahma which also happens to be the name of the Hindu creator god. And being one of the most active volcanoes in the World, it makes sense why the locals would believe in its raw divine power.
Although, there was one guy who didn’t seem to mind testing the patience of the gods along the volcano’s inner rim.
The Courageous Crater Cleaner
I couldn’t believe my eyes as I came up over the lip of the crater. What could this man be doing? It turns out that he was cleaning up all of the flower arrangements and miscellaneous trash left behind by previous visitors to the caldera.
Maybe that’s why he had no fear.
View From The Top
Watching the motorbikes race around like ants across the Sea of Sand under the watch of Mount Bromo and neighboring Mount Batok is a pretty amazing experience. It won’t seem like long at all before you look at your watch and a few hours have passed.
As the sun starts to fade and the temperature drops it’s a good idea to begin your journey back to town. However, the day’s adventures aren’t over quite yet. There is still a magnificent sunset to be witnessed from the top of the cliff only a few feet from where you started your hike to Mount Bromo.
The Sun Setting On Mount Bromo
A Mount Bromo Sunset
As the shadows creep along the valley floor slowly bringing in the night and the winds begin to die; you will be in the perfect spot to see the sun setting on some of the most beautiful volcanos in Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park.
Darkness comes early in eastern Java, around 6 p.m.; which gives you ample time to grab some dinner and hit the sack before waking up early to experience one of the best sunrises in Indonesia.
The Final Chapter
When the clock strikes three, it’s time to wake, dawn your warmest clothes, and head out the door for the hike up to one of the many viewpoints overlooking the volcanoes.
The final chapter of your trip to Mount Bromo will undoubtedly be the best, but your experience will largely depend on two factors; did you spend any money? And did you have to fight a crowd of people to get a good view?
The former can be easily accomplished by foregoing the jeep tour and walking up the mountain yourself; using an offline map app to guide the way. The latter is where some pre-planning comes in handy. With a little effort and searching; you can get a view similar to this one.
The best Sunrise Viewpoints
The viewpoints #1, 2 are extremely crowded as they are the easiest to get to for the lazy hikers and tour operators. The King Kong Hill viewpoint came highly recommended, but once we got near, we started to hear the low rumble of hoards of tourists that would have surely ruined a peaceful sunrise.
We eventually settled on an un-named clearing halfway between viewpoint #2 and King Kong Hill. There was no one there, and the view was perfect.
As we watched the rising sun light up Mount Bromo and the surrounding volcanoes, the landscape began to change; resembling that of Iceland rather than Indonesia. It was a photographers delight and; dare I say; the best sunrise that I’ve seen after almost two years traveling the World.
Where To Stay
Finding the perfect place to sleep in Cemoro Lawang can be a difficult task. The primary goal is to stay as close to the trailheads as possible; making the early morning sunrise hike less of a chore.
It doesn’t help that there are tons of overpriced hotels and guesthouses looking to take advantage of the big spending two-week travelers while leaving us budget backpackers scouring the town for a good deal. Lucky for you I’ve already done the research and here are a few of the best places to stay in Cemoro Lawang.
Cafe Lava Hostel – Probably the most famous establishment in Cemoro Lawang; Cafe Lava is known as the only place in town that will tell you how to hike to Mount Bromo for free instead of sending you to their tour operator cousin. They also rent jackets and hats for the cold hike up to the viewpoints. Prices range from IDR 150,000 – 1,000,000 or $10.75 – 75.50 per night.
Ana Tengger Homestay – Surprisingly not so popular are the homestays around town. They offer the same amenities as the high priced hotels but have the added joy of staying in a local home. Our taxi driver pointed us towards Ana Tengger, and, of course, at first we were skeptical, but once we took a look around and saw the amazing view from the back patio it was a no-brainer. The price for a single double-bed room is IDR 150,000 or $10.75 per night.
The View From Ana Trengger Homestay
And that’s pretty much all you need to know in order to have a fun and cost-effective time visiting Indonesia’s sexiest volcano.
If you see something that I’ve missed or are still confused about the logistics, feel free to leave a question in the comments below.