Mount Bromo is an active volcano found in East Java in Indonesia and there’s nothing quite like hearing it rumble as the sun rises over the 10km wide Tengger caldera that it sits within. To visit Mount Bromo without a tour is relatively easy, you just need to know where to begin. This guide will help you with arriving, experiencing, departing, and everything in between.GETTING THERE:
– If you’re already in Java you could be coming from many different directions and you’ll need to find a bus or train to Probolinggo. If you’re coming from Bali or another island like we did, fly into Juanda International Airport in Surabaya to begin your journey. We flew with Lion Air and we were happy with the service.
– Near the baggage claim you’ll see desks lined up offering taxis and one labelled Damri which is the shuttle bus from the airport to the bus port. Buy your ticket here as it is the same price as buying it on board and it means you won’t get hassled by taxi drivers as you walk out, bus tickets in hand. When you buy your ticket ask where to catch the shuttle, although you’ll see it as you walk out. Climb on board and enjoy the half an hour air-conditioned ride to the bus station.
– Upon arrival, you’ll have a swarm of taxi drivers surround you, just tell them you need a bus to Probolinggo and they’ll leave you alone and probably send you in the general direction. You need to walk through the market area and to the left to get to the bus station, however if you ask a few people along the way it’s easy enough to locate.
– As soon as you walk in there you’ll be asked where you’re going and be directed to the correct bus, make sure it says PATAS on the front which means it will be express and air-conditioned. Purchase your ticket when you board, but ensure you check the price beforehand – local price is 20,000IDR, tourist price seems to be 30,000IDR, but definitely don’t pay any more than that (they’ll probably start at 50,000IDR). There are multiple bus companies so if you’re told a higher price, just let them know you’ll use a different bus and they’ll soon drop their price.
– Put your luggage inside the bus behind the back seat and sit near them – do not put your luggage in the storage underneath the bus. The trip to Probolinggo should take around two hours.
PROBOLINGGO TO CEMORO LAWANG (MOUNT BROMO)
– This section of the journey needs its own explanation because this is where it can become confusing and make you feel like you’re never going to make it – especially if you’re not used to the way Southeast Asia often functions! You’ll get there in the end so don’t let it put you off.
– Upon arrival to Probolinggo you’re going to be dropped at a tourist agency. The local there will sit you down and try to sell you a tour to Ijen volcano (you’ll know it when he says ‘blue flames’) – although this is an amazing attraction, you can also do this by yourself so unless you want to book a tour, then either listen patiently and politely decline, or just move on immediately. You need to get yourself to the ‘bus station’ to take the mini van up to Cemoro Lawing which is the base of Mount Bromo.
– The owner of the tourist agency will tell you to wait there with him for the van to Bromo – it costs 50,000IDR and will be there within the hour – this is a complete lie. The vans to Bromo don’t leave until there are 15 people to fill it up or the people riding in it are willing to pay the full van fee of 525,000IDR. In theory, you could wait there with him but we would prefer not to get scammed, so we left him to it and made our way to the ‘bus station’ which is where his vans come from – he just makes a cut from charging you more (should be 35,000IDR per person if full).
– The best way to get to the bus station is to jump in one of the tiny yellow mini buses that will be constantly driving past and ask to be taken to the ‘bus station’ to go to Mount Bromo. They’ll drive you all the way down the other end of that same road (we walked and it was a long way in the heat with luggage so we wouldn’t recommend it!). The ’bus station’ doesn’t look like a bus station whatsoever – it is a line of blue and green mini vans outside of some food stalls but if you can see those then you’re in the right place.
– Now comes the waiting game. The tourist agencies the whole way down the road will be collecting confused foreigners telling them to wait there for the bus and charging them more than it should be. In reality, they will just get picked up by the vans that come from the ‘bus station’ – the driver of the van for the day will drive up and down the road periodically to see how many travellers are waiting. Once there are 15, then you’re good to go. We waited for three hours for our van to fill up but it was just the timing of when our bus arrived from Surabaya – there were others in our van that had only just arrived. In theory, we could have just paid the full price for the van, but we weren’t in any hurry and it’s all part of the fun! The entire time you’re going to feel like you’re in the wrong place, but if you’ve followed these instructions and the spot looks like the photo below, then you’ll be in the right place, you just have to be patient.
– Once there are enough travellers waiting in various places along the road then they’ll load you all into the van, luggage strapped to the top, and start the hour and a half to two hour ride through the mountains. Once you start seeing those views you’ll forget all about the waiting game you’ve just played.SUNRISE JEEP:
– There’s no need to try to arrange your jeep before arriving in Cemoro Lawang – you’ll be spoilt for choice once you arrive. Chat to any local around and he’ll either be a jeep driver or pull one out of thin air for you. Try to arrange it yourself as your hotel will probably overcharge you. Chat to other travellers and see if you can share a jeep as they can hold six.
– Arrange pickup time which your driver will suggest – it’s normally 3:30am but it depends on the time of year and therefore what time sunrise is. It’s about an hours drive up to the viewing point/s.
– You’ll wake up very quickly during the dusty, bumpy, pitch-black ride up to the view points. We had read about the masses of crowds at the highest point, so we asked if there was somewhere else we could watch the sun rise. Our driver assured us he could take us somewhere much quieter just not quite as high – he called it ‘King Kong’ – we have no idea if this is the official name for it but it seems the locals will know what you mean if you ask for it. There certainly wasn’t a worry of crowds – we were the first there and were only joined by a maximum of 20 others. There can be hundreds at the top view point at one time.
– Your driver will show you the path which is paved and doesn’t take longer than five minutes to walk so don’t pay the local who tries to ‘guide’ you to the viewing point. The first location is okay but if you follow another path you’ll get to somewhere with fewer trees in the foreground – it’s easy to find but hard to explain in writing! Ask a local or just look around a bit with your torch – it’s all paved and easy to walk. Set yourself up for the best seat in the house to watch the sun rise over the caldera.
– If you have an unusual 4:30am craving for coffee or snacks there’s a local selling them just nearby.
– Once you’ve experienced possibly one of the most amazing sunrises of your life, head back to your jeep and you’ll be taken down into the caldera where you can hike to the rim of the crater of Mount Bromo. The steps are steep and there are a lot of them so take your time. Standing next to the billowing smoke and the rumble of the earth is indescribable.
– There are locals offering horse rides to the bottom of the volcano for 50,000IDR. We would not advise taking one as it appears the horses are mistreated.
– You’ll return to your jeep around 8am and be back in town just 15 minutes later.SUNRISE HIKE:
– Go to Cafe Lava and ask at the desk for directions to the hike. It’s just down the hill and to the left and there’s no way of taking a wrong turn.
– Begin early – there’s quite a few viewing points on the way up so it depends on your fitness level and where you want to view the sunrise from, but if you want to make it the whole way to the top, two hours is recommended. The first viewing point can be reached in around an hour.
– There will be plenty of others taking the same route so you won’t be alone.
– To our surprise, the majority of the hike is a paved road and it is very easy to navigate. Make sure you take sufficient water.
– We actually chose to do the hike for sunset and it was beautiful, we saw how the locals lived on the way up and we were able to enjoy the sunset with just three others. Not many people choose to do this but we would highly recommend it.
– If you do the sunrise hike then you’ll have to then do the seperate hike into the caldera and up to the rim of the crater. If you’re just going for one night, this should be done the afternoon you arrive as you don’t want to be trying to leave Cemoro Lawang in the afternoon – there’s a very slim chance of those mini vans filling up after 10am.DEPARTING:
– The mini vans congregate at the base of the road that leads towards the hike up to Mount Bromo. If a driver spots you with your bags they’re sure to round you up in the hope of filling up their van. Generally if you’re ready for 8:30/9am you won’t have any problems with getting a space on a bus and leaving quite quickly as the jeeps normally return around 8:15am and many people leave immediately.
– You’ll be dropped outside a tourist agency in Probolinggo – not the same one that you were dropped outside of on the way there but it is opposite the ‘bus station’ from where you took the mini bus up to Cemoro Lawang.
– To take a bus back to Surabaya cross the road and you’ll see a large carpark and building – behind the building is the bus port. It will be easy enough to locate as there’s constantly large buses driving out of the area – walk the whole way around the back and look for the PATAS (air-conditioned and express) buses again.
– As you head over there will be plenty of locals trying to sell you bus tickets for more than what you should be paying, ignore them and continue to walk until you find a bus in the right direction. The locals will never tell you the wrong bus, just the incorrect price, so as long as you can locate the correct bus then you can negotiate the price (should be the same as on the way – no more than 30,000IDR).
– If you are returning to the airport, upon arrival to Surabaya look again for the Damri – they’ll be easy to spot and being an airport service there’s no worry of being scammed for price. Ask the driver which is the correct bus as they go to two different terminals.COST PER PERSON (prices as at September 2016):
Shuttle from Juanda International Airport (Surabaya) to bus port: 25,000IDR
Bus from Surabaya to Probolinggo: 30,000IDR (locals pay 20,000IDR, random people in the area will try to tell you it is 50,000IDR to make a cut, we managed to get it to 30,000IDR so if you can get it down to the price of a local then you’re doing well!)
Mini van from Probollingo to Cemoro Lawang (the base of Mount Bromo): 35,000IDR per person if the van is full (15 people), if not, the cost of 525,000IDR for the entire van is split between passengers.
Entry into Mount Bromo: 220,000IDR
Sunrise jeep ride: As with everything in Indonesia, you will need to negotiate, but we got a jeep between four of us for 100,000IDR per person (400,000IDR total)
Accommodation: You can find anything ranging from a homestay at 150,000IDR per night to Lava View hotel for 700,000IDR per night. We stayed at Cafe Lava as it’s in a great location to begin the hike – to book you must email them directly.
TOTAL: 500,000IDR (approximately AUD$50) excluding accommodation
– Most visitors only stay for one night, however we chose to take our time and stay for two nights, and we’re so glad we did. There’s so much more to the area than just Mount Bromo – beautiful green mountains, local farmers to chat to, and being the relaxed town that it is, simply an amazing place to read a good book in the sun.
– Be prepared to leave covered in volcanic ash – it gets everywhere and there’s no stopping it.
– Take warm clothes, the early start to see the sunrise either in the jeep or hiking comes with very chilly air. A scarf and beanie are definitely advisable although if you do forget, there’s no shortage of locals trying to sell you supplies! We also heard you’re able to rent warm jackets although we didn’t see for ourselves.
– Wear comfortable walking shoes even if you’re intending on taking a jeep, you’ll need them for walking up to the rim of the crater.
– Take a head torch, some of the areas of the hike can be uneven and there’s only a scattering of lights along the way.
– The food in Cemoro Lawang is limited and not great quality. Cafe Lava offers the only Western-style breakfast for 40,000IDR per person however if you’re happy to have a local breakfast you can grab noodles or rice for closer to 20,000IDR at smaller restaurants. Lunch/dinner options are hit and miss – our best meal was street food just up the hill from Cafe Lava – a huge steaming hot bowl of chicken noodle soup for a grand total of 18,000IDR each.
– If you’re shooting with a camera with interchangeable lenses try to choose your lens before you head out – as we said above the volcanic ash gets absolutely everywhere and that includes inside of your camera when you’re changing lenses which isn’t ideal. We would suggest a wide zoom – something within the 16-35mm range (10-24mm APS-C) as it covered 90% of what we wanted to shoot.
– Take photos but remember to stop and soak up what you’re experiencing, it is truly magical.This may all sound rather hectic and confusing but it’s really not at all once you arrive. All the locals are friendly and willing to help and there’s definitely no concern for safety – the worst that’s going to happen is you lose a few hours of your life and 20,000IDR here and there, but that’s really not the end of the world! Mount Bromo is truly spectacular and an incredible experience that can’t be missed if you’re visiting Indonesia!
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