Mt. Bromo is the most famous volcano in Java and arguably whole Indonesia. As a matter of fact it has been on the cover of Lonely Planet Indonesia for years, and we couldn’t help but setting it as featured image of this post too. Hiking Mt. Bromo (Gunung Bromo in local language) is becoming more and more popular lately – this means it can get very busy and overcrowded – but don’t let this scare you away from enjoying one of the best sunrises you could ever see.
CAN I DO IT MYSELF? YES!
As all places in the world, there’s two ways to do it: by joining a guided tour or doing it yourself. If you know us a bit, you should know that we always prefer to do things on our own, so here we are to explain you how to go and get the best experience. Bromo National Park, officially Taman Nasional Bromo Tengger Semeru, can be visited all in half day or just over 12 hours, arriving in the evening, waking up early for sunrise and reaching all the points of interest in the morning. Clearly you can spread the activities over two or more days, for example going to the volcano caldera within the National Park in the afternoon or at sunset, and heading up to the viewpoints in the morning, or even trying the viewpoints both at sunrise and sunset.
HOW TO REACH MT. BROMO STEP BY STEP
- Arrive in Probolinggo early in the day
- Shuttle bus to Cemoro Lawang mountain village/base camp
- Find a guesthouse and plan your excursion
- Bromo National Park jeep entrance vs hiking trail
- Where and when to start your excursion
- Seruni Point (viewpoint 1) – mt 2200
- Penanjakan – radio antenna (viewpoint 2) – mt 2700
- The Sea of Sand
- Mt. Bromo volcano caldera and crater rim
- Back to Cemoro Lawang and Probolinggo
Mt. Bromo is located in Eastern Java, some 40 km from Probolinggo, the nearest city. Probolinggo is reachable by train or bus from various destinations including Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Banyuwangi (coming from Bali). Read our dedicated article on how to book and travel by train in Java.
1. ARRIVE IN PROBOLINGGO EARLY IN THE DAY
The best advice we can give you is to get to Probolinggo as early as you can, in order to reach the village of Cemoro Lawang, base camp to Bromo, when it’s not dark yet, and get a first impression of the surroundings. Consider spending a night in Probolinggo to reach Bromo earlier the following day. Obviously, we were late and got to Cemoro Lawang at night time, this didn’t help us to have the best idea of where to go the next early morning.
2. SHUTTLE BUS TO CEMORO LAWANG MOUNTAIN VILLAGE/BASE CAMP
At Probolinggo train station, it is guaranteed that some touts will be waiting to offer you rides to Cemoro Lawang. They will likely ask for 50,000 rupiah, you can try and bargain to 30,000 if you wish, but 3$ is a fair price to cover the 40km uphill, don’t waste too much time for just a dollar.
Other than a shuttle bus ride, they will try to sell you whole packages: a room in Cemoro Lawang, a bus back to town, entry tickets to Bromo National Park, tours to your next destination, etc. It is totally up to you. Here follows our advice and experience for each aspect.
3. FIND A GUESTHOUSE AND PLAN YOUR EXCURSION
You can try and book a room online, however the choice is quite modest, reviews are not very convincing, and you can save a good amount of money by showing up at any place rather than booking it in advance. It really depends whether you mind having a secure base before getting there or not. As any place in Southeast Asia, you’ll always find a solution eventually, at worst you’ll be sleeping in a storage closet, what pretty much happened to us! But hey, that’s part of the fun right?
4. BROMO NATIONAL PARK JEEP ENTRANCE VS HIKING TRAIL
Mt. Bromo is part of Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, this means there’s a checkpoint where you need to pay for a ticket to get in. As of June 2018, a ticket is 200,000 rupiah on weekdays, and 300,000 on Sundays, when it gets busy with locals. However, we didn’t pay for a ticket at all, read below to know how we did it! Ergo, don’t pay for an entrance ticket in advance unless you are 100% sure you’ll be walking through the main entrance or using a jeep to go up to the viewpoints. When booking a jeep tour, you’ll pay the car and driver fee plus the ticket price to enter the National Park. Hiking on foot outside the park saves you some money and keeps you fit!
EXCURSION PACKAGES PRICES
We actually have to say thanks to the tout for offering us a ride to Mt. Ijen the next day, another famous volcano in East Java, which we didn’t plan to visit in the first place. Here’s the crazy deal we got: Probolinggo-Cemoro Lawang shuttle bus, room in Cemoro, bus to Ijen, room in Ijen base camp, entrance to Ijen plus gas masks and guide, bus to Banyuwangi pier, ferry to Bali, all for 2 people: 900,000 rupiah, 30$ per person. (To be fair the room in Cemoro was crappy and the guide in Ijen disappeared quickly, but all in all we were lucky as they probably lowered the price to fill up the last places on the bus. We met some guys who booked everything through a hostel in Yogyakarta, train to Probo, buses, rooms, transfer and rooms in Ijen, for something like 3,000,000 rupiah!).
As said we got up to Cemoro Lawang at night time, we were unloaded to our tiny room and told to be ready at 9 am for pick up the next morning. We visited the popular Cafè Lava Hostel, unfortunately the kitchen was already closed but they were very kind to give us useful info. We had dinner at the warung next to the entrance point to the National Park.
Some guards are there 24/7 to check on trekkers. We tried to get info from them too, it was hard to understand each other, they suggested us to get tickets immediately to avoid the +100k surcharge for the Sunday.
5. WHERE AND WHEN TO START YOUR EXCURSION
We decided to risk it and that we would try to hike on foot the trail external to the National Park. So we set up our alarms at 3 am and after a few hours sleep we were ready to go. Walking in the complete dark with our headlights, we were hoping to be on the right way, and when after about half an hour the first jeeps started overtaking us, direction Seruni Point, we knew we were good.
When looking for the correct way leaving Cemoro Lawang, reach the main street facing Southwest towards the National Park, make a right turn at the Y shaped junction (highlighted on our map) and stay on the paved road going up to Seruni Viewpoint 1.
6. SERUNI POINT (VIEWPOINT 1) – MT 2200
Everything went according to our plan, we got to Seruni Point at about 4 am, way in time to climb some more. Stopping at Seruni for sunrise is an option for those who are less keen on hiking for more than two hours. From here the trail becomes tortuous, a bit challenging but absolutely doable. We had read and we were warned not to try that as it was dangerous with steep and slippery parts but we were fine, and we are not even so fit or professional trekkers. Still, for safety reasons, we urge those of you who are not fit or prepared to face a challenge, not to take this trail in the dark if you are not aware what you are doing. (And always remember to have your travel insurance up and active when going for this kind of trips.)
HOW BAD IS THE TRAIL?
The worst part of the trail is a few dozens meters of muddy stones where you need to crawl and get dirty. Tip: wear proper hiking shoes, not trainers like I did! After this little effort, you’ll find yourself in between the two viewpoints Seruni Point and Penanjakan (radio antenna). From Cemoro Lawang to Seruni Point, it took us roughly 45 minutes walking at good pace. Plus about 15-20 minutes to find our spot past the tricky part of the trail. You’ll notice that not many will make it to this part of the trail at 4 am, which means it’ll be up to you to find the best spot and admire the sun light rising over Mt. Bromo, the Sea of Sand, Gunung Batok, and Gunung Semeru in the far background.
Despite realizing only at this point that we took the wrong backpack and left our camera in the room (Tip 2: don’t forget your camera! And bring a headlight too), we got over our anger and later thanked our phones for being a decent back up plan. We were totally in awe for around an hour, with the colours changing and blending literally every single minute.
7. PENANJAKAN – RADIO ANTENNA (VIEWPOINT 2) – MT 2700
The early you get past Seruni Point, the more you’ll be able to walk up and get closer to Penanjakan, the highest viewpoint. You can actually trek all the way to the top, this will take another good hour from Seruni Point. But the view is unique and spectacular from any point really, we thought that being alone made the difference for us to appreciate it at its best, and Penanjakan will be busy with people who got there by jeep.
At about 5.30 we had to take a decision, since we had the pick up at 9 am from the village. We were already in for a day of madness and improvisation, so we decided to continue our way up to the top and see what happened next! When we got to an intermediate view point (King Kong Hill on the map, where the wooden railings are, another suitable spot for sunrise), about 6.30 am, our only chance was to start walking back soon.
Instead some local guys approached us in a friendly way, of course they wanted to sell us something, but they were very kind and not annoying at all. We told them our (crazy) plan, they had just the perfect solution for us! They offered to take us on the back of their motorbikes down the road that all jeeps use to reach Penanjakan, to reach the Sand of Sea and the actual crater of the volcano. (see our map to understand better).
We negotiated for 150,000 both and the deal was up! If you are scared or don’t like riding a bike, you’ll find jeeps available at the top too, only more expensive.
We started heading down the road, with our newly hired impromptu guides stopping by at every viewpoint, describing us the views and even taking photos of us.
8. THE SEA OF SAND
Down at the Sea of Sand they didn’t miss the chance to speed up and take some bumps, we had the best of times! They dropped us off at the base of the crater, about 7.30 am, only 1 hour and a half to go for us.
We didn’t have time to waste and immediately made our way up to the steep stairs that have been built to reach the caldera. The climb takes between 5 to 15 minutes, if you have enough breath and manage to dodge the flocks of people! Now, the number of tourists was enormous, as if everybody we had avoided so far got together in the same point.
9. MT. BROMO VOLCANO CALDERA AND CRATER RIM
But once more, as we stepped on the crater rim and everybody was just standing there, it was enough to walk the extra mile (200 meters really) to escape the crowds and have an unbelievable view in front of us: the very alive crater of Mt. Bromo was right there rumbling loudly before our eyes.
We’d never expected such a loud noise! It was scary, thrilling and left us speachless for a while. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to cover the entire crater rim, but we recommend to do it if you are not rushing and you’re brave enough (only the closest part to the stairs has railings, the rest of the rim is not protected at all, so be careful).
10. BACK TO CEMORO LAWANG AND PROBOLINGGO
We started heading back through the Sea of Sand towards Cemoro Lawang, which takes some 45 minutes on foot, finding it hard to believe how many things we managed to do in just few hours! We were now walking through a lunar landscape, a never seen before beauty for us.
As we walked past the National Park entrance, glad having not paid 300k each, and even more glad having given some pocket money to those local nice guys, we got back to our room in time to have a quick shower and board the shuttle bus for our next coming adventure in Java!
WHERE TO STAY IN JAVA:
- For Bromo and Ijen volcanoes, walking into guesthouses may be your best chance to save money, you can check online but the choice is little and modest.
- Clover Homestay is the most popular place for spending a night in Probolinggo.
- Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Resort & Spa: a dream place to use as base to leave from for day trips around Yogyakarta. During medium-low season it’s rather easy to find rooms at affordable prices. Check our full review here.
- In Jakarta, Yello Hotel Harmoni is perfect and cheap to spend the night coming or going to the airport.
- You can pre-book all your accommodation in Java and Indonesia with free cancellation here.
HOW TO GET AROUND:
- Train to Probolinggo from Java main cities. Book your train ticket in advance here.
- Shuttle bus to/from Cemoro Lawang: 50k per person, 1 hour.
- You can book flights to Indonesia here.
- Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Even if you trust yourself, you can’t always trust others. Better safe than sorry! Get your quote here.