A solid 12-hour bus ride along the crazy streets of Java, waking up at 2:30 AM, braving the bone-chilling air that drops to 5 degrees, hiking in the dark for 1.5 hours – only a few places could ever be worthy of such lengthy effort for a day of experience. As I braced myself and tried to remain calm each time our driver narrowly missed a bus while overtaking a truck, I asked myself – am I crazy for doing all of these for a morning in Bromo?
FACTS ABOUT BROMO
Mount Bromo is an active volcano within the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park in Java, Indonesia. Standing at 2,392 meters, it may not be the highest in the region but is definitely one of the most well-known to tourists. The park lies on a sea of sand that came from the eruption of Mt. Bromo.
GETTING TO BROMO
The sunrise trek to Mt. Bromo, either by foot or by jeep, start at Cemoro Lawang – a small, peaceful town just 4 km from Bromo itself. It’s quite challenging to reach, but with enough patience to sit through day-long trips and a bit of sense to dodge scams, reaching Cemoro Lawang is perfectly doable.
- From Yogyakarta to Probolingo/Cemoro Lawang
Most travelers go to Mt. Bromo as one of the stops along the famous Yogyakarta-Bromo-Ijen-Bali trail. This can be done from either end but I started from Yogyakarta. Any trip to Cemoro Lawang goes through Probolingo. To get there, here are some of the possible ways:
- Take the train from Yogyakarta to Probolingo
- Take the bus to Surabaya then train to Probolingo
- Take a shared minivan from Yogyakarta to Cemoro Lawang (11-12 hours, 180,000 IDR)
- From Probolinggo to Cemoro Lawang
If you arrive at Probolingo via train, you still have to take an ojek (motorbike) to get to the minivan station. This is where the waiting game begins. The vans to Cemoro Lawang only leave when they are full, with a usual capacity of 10 pax. I’ve met lucky travelers who arrived to finally complete the puzzle, but there were also stories of those who needed to wait for six hours. If you get a bit impatient, you can try talking with other travelers to split the fare of the unoccupied seats. One trip costs 250,000 IDR.
The trip from Probolingo to Cemoro Lawang takes another 1.5 hours and if you’re lucky to travel this route before the dark, your eyes will feast on endless croplands nestled among the mountains. The road is steep and narrow, with barely enough room for two lanes. As the temperature drops by at least 10 degrees, you’ll realize that you have indeed gained an elevation of almost 2000 meters within the last hour.
We departed from Probolingo at 6:30 PM and imagine the suspense of snaking around the mountain in the dark, with our driver completely oblivious of the potholes and racing like we were along the freeway. Thankfully, I’ve gotten used to Indonesian driving and it was too dark for us to realize that we could easily plummet to our deaths. We arrived in Cemoro Lawang at 8:00 PM and the driver was kind enough to show me to my accommodation as most of them didn’t have signs.
I checked in, handed the payment and got myself settled. I initially planned to hike the entire length of the trail alone. Fortunately, I met a German girl who planned to do the same and we agreed to spend the next day together.
A visit to Bromo is divided into two parts:
Part 1 – Hike to the sunrise point at Mt. Penanjakan (1.5 hours one-way)
Part 2 – Hike to Mt. Bromo crater (1.5 hrs one-way)
If you’re arriving in Mt. Bromo during the night and have to leave early the next morning, the best way to do both hikes is to book a tour and transportation. A jeepney transfer costs 100,000 and this includes a ride to the sunrise viewpoint and to the sea of sand. On top of this, you’ll also have to pay 220,000 entrance fee to the national park. If you have an extra afternoon, you can avoid these fees altogether. Here’s how I did it.
DIY Hike to Mt. Bromo
Part 1: Hike to the sunrise point. I did both hikes on the same day but with a few hours of interval. At exactly 3AM, we ventured into the dark and traced the concrete road that goes up to the viewpoint. I looked up to check the sky and I was mesmerized to see the sky full of stars and the Milky Way clearly visible with our naked eye. Every few minutes or so, a shooting star would fleetingly pass. I would have kept my gaze above if not for the potholes and puddles that dot the road. I was so naive to initially think that I would hike this path alone, thinking that a lot of other travelers would do the same. Bu no, we were the only ones walking that morning and the darkness was only occasionally disturbed by a handful of jeeps carrying other tourists. There were also locals offering a ride with ojek for 20,000 one-way. For the 4×4 jeepneys, the sunrise + Bromo transport costs 110,000. Since we walked the entire route, we didn’t have to pay for anything.
The hike up to the viewpoint took us 1.5 hours. We came across different viewing platforms and we use MAPS.me to determine if we could find other points with less crowd. Most of the tourists stay at the concrete platform but we decided to hike a little further up until we found a clear spot that we got to enjoy without the crowd.
The sun rose at 5:30 and while it wasn’t directly in Bromo’s direction, it was still a spectacular sight to watch the sky change its hues within a few minutes. We stayed for half an hour until our hearts were satisfied. While most of the tourists were about to head to Mt. Bromo’s crater, we hiked down to our guesthouse to catch a few hours of rest and to wait for the crowd to die down before continuing our adventure.
Part 2: Hike to Mt. Bromo Crater. Since most of the tourists immediately proceed to the crater after going down from the viewpoint, the hours between 6 to 9 in the morning are the busiest time to do this. By doing so, they are able to fit both hikes in a short time and still catch the minibus to Probolinggo that departs from Cemoro Lawang at around 9 in the morning. Since we had the whole day, we rested in between two hikes and only started to proceed towards the crater at 10:30 in the morning.
At the start of the trail, there was a gate that was supposed to serve as a ticket checkpoint. Since it was already past the typical time of visit for tourists, it was no longer manned and we were able to pass through without any glitch even if we didn’t have any ticket. There were a handful of ojek drivers offering a ride near the crater for 50,000 IDR but considering that wanted to enjoy the sea of sand, we still opted to walk the entire length of the trail.
The hike to the crater has several segments: 20 mins along the paved road, 40 mins across the sea of sand, and another 20-30 minutes on a rugged terrain as the final stretch to the crater. The last half hour was quite challenging due to the high slope but the crater view that greeted us was beyond mesmerizing. It was possible to walk around the rim of the crater and observe the boiling waters of Bromo as it spews its volcanic gases. However, the amount of garbage haphazardly thrown around was very disappointing to witness. The park still lacks proper waste management and strict implementation of park guidelines to its visitors. The tourists themselves also need to be educated on the protection of the national park to further preserve the beauty of Mt. Bromo.
By 2 o’clock in the afternoon, we were already back in Cemoro Lawang. With the time left, it was still possible to leave the town on the same day but we decided to spend another night and explore a bit of the surroundings. My friend was covering the same trail, but we started from opposite ends so I was about to head to Mt. Ijen where she came from, and she needed to travel to Yogyakarta, where I had been. We were able to exchange tips and travel information and while I was sad when we finally needed to said goodbye, it was still an amazing experience to spend my days in Bromo with a fellow traveler.
To summarize, here’s what I did for my DIY hike to Mt. Bromo:
- Catch a shared minivan from Yogyakarta to Cemoro Lawang
- Hike to Mt. Penanjakan to see the sunrise (3AM to 7AM)
- Hike to Mt. Bromo crater (10:30 AM to 2:30 PM)
Where to stay in Mt. Bromo
There is a wide range of budget accommodations in Cemoro Lawang. I stayed in Bromo Otix Guesthouse where I paid 150,000 IDR per night for a double bed. This place is perfect for a DIY hike in Mt. Bromo since it is located just at the start of the trail. Take note that the the accommodations are very basic, most with a shared bathroom. Also, I didn’t see the need to look for an air-conditioned room since the temperature remains chilly throughout the day.
The hike took us to the famous sea of sand.