Not screwing up Mount Bromo without a tour

by johnsmith

Mount Bromo is one of the most famous volcanoes in Indonesia, located in Eastern Java. Given its popularity as a tourist destination, you would think it pretty easy to access solo but sadly that isn’t the case. As with much of the country, public transport is not as easy to navigate as some of its neighbours.

On first look, it may seem easier to jump on a tour from Bali or one of the big Java cities such as Yogyakarta or Surabaya. In reality, doing Mount Bromo without a tour is relatively easy with a little planning and the perfect stop before or after visiting Borobodur and Prambanan temples.

If you want to make it to the famed ‘viewpoint’ for the sunrise that the crowds descend on then you need to rise early. When I woke up at 4 am, cursing at my alarm clock, I knew it was too late to make it to the top.

Suddenly, rocking up late the night before to do Mount Bromo without a tour seemed a bad idea.

But as the sun crept out, lighting up the mist and clouds that were now below me, I realised perhaps this was going to work out better than planned.


The Bromo Sunrise View

So at 2:30 am when I should have been up and hiking to the top of Mount Penanjakan with everyone else I was blissfully snoozing away. By 4 am I realised that the two-hour trek to the top to see sunrise was not going to happen.

This is the same viewpoint all the jeeps head to on the tours, also totally doable by foot or asking a local with a bike to zip you up. I ended up wandering as far as I could before the sun started appearing and made it to the first viewpoint of the handful that marked up the Mountain.

There were three Indonesians and two tourists to make up the crowd, a bit different from what I have heard the view at the top is like. Needless to say, I was pretty happy with the photos and sunrise I got and managed to avoid the battle for best photo spot that many online reports summarise the highest summit like.

The Sea of Sand

To get to the actual crater and peak into it, you need to cross the ‘sea of sand’. After walking back down the Mountain, or grabbing a lift on a bike, you will arrive back to the village.

From there you can actually walk over the sea of sand in under an hour by taking the path the local horsemen use (right next to the main hotel looking onto Bromo).

Alternatively, for 80k IDR I grabbed a local bike driver to whizz me over there and back. There is meant to be a ticket to enter (about 300k IDR I believe at weekends) although, I totally missed where this was meant to be paid and as such didn’t.  This isn’t the most organised, or regulated attraction, so don’t go expecting any orderly queues for ticket offices.

The crowds taking the stairs to view the crater were insane. As such, others and I just climbed up the sand to get there avoiding the stairs. Just step to the left or right of the main staircase and power through the sand to the summit. Once there get ready to knock a year or two of your life breathing in that stinky sulphur goodness.


Getting There

The train network in Java is pretty affordable and easy to master. You can book tickets online and check timetables here.

Taking the train into Probolinggo from Yogyakarta after seeing the temples there, or from Surabaya is easy enough. Transferring on a bike to the bus station quickly and then grabbing a local bemo (bus) to Cemoro Lawang is simple. Ok, maybe not quite that simple when you throw in the odd scam and lack of information but trust me, it is totally doable.

Getting out can follow the same process, most buses leave the village around 9:30 am from the top of the hill near the main hotels and can take you into Probolinggo (though it might be cutting it fine for the 11 am train transfer). Alternatively, grab one of the share buses that can take you as far as Bali and occasionally leave directly from Cemoro Lawang.

On arrival to the village, you will have to pay the 10k IDR village entrance fee which is fairly common, it was the same as when I visited Dieng Plateau in Central Java.

Getting Around

Once you are in the village, getting around is as easy as walking on foot as there is not a whole lot here. You can take some treks through the fields and explore the small plots around but ultimately you are coming here for Mount Bromo and a one night visit should be plenty.

Bromo Sunrise

Where To Stay

There is a fair bit of accommodation in Cemoro Lawang with plenty of (slightly overpriced) homestays and guest houses as well as a couple of larger hotels. As with much of rural Indonesia, online booking has not spread to all accommodation providers. I usually recommend due to their loyalty scheme, though the selection does seem to better on Agoda in this part of Java. If it is not peak season, you should be able to rock up and arrange something on arrival but be mindful, this is an early to bed town.

Want a tour?

If you do decide the logistics or timings, are just easier with a tour there are local operators in most big cities that can arrange this for you. Viator offers an overnight trip from Surabaya which is over priced but which can at least be booked online.


Top Tips

Don’t ride the horses: Another way of getting across the sea of sand is on a horse, however, I am very against animal tourism, especially when it involves breathing in that shit day in all day. These guys look miserable and it’s a practice that needs to stop in Bromo.

Do visit Ijen as well: If you are also interested in visiting the famous Sulphur Mine and Blue Fire of Ijen then my friend Liesbeth has a great guide on doing Kawah Ijen with or without a tour – Most people pick one or the other, but both are unique and well worthy of your time.

Got any more Questions or want to chat adventures? Find me over on Instagram and ask away! Safe travels, Dan

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