The Bromo Volcano without a tour: how to do it yourself

The Bromo Volcano without a tour: how to do it yourself

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We already hear a low rumbling as we walk up the hill. With a mix of anticipation and excitement we slowly climb to the edge of the crater. As soon as we reach the top we can see dozens of meters down into the crater, smoke rising from its depths. The noise at the top of the volcano is so loud that we feel it vibrating through our entire bodies. It’s like standing really close to an airplane engine. The view and sound are intimidating and humbling at the same time.

What I’m describing is our climb of one of the most famous touristic sites in Java: the Bromo volcano. We visited Bromo without a tour company, saving us money and giving us the possibility to do everything at our own pace. In this post, I will tell you how we did it, including what we would’ve done differently if we ever did it again.

Getting to Cemoro Lawang

Cemoro Lawang is the mountain village that is closest to Bromo and the most logical place to stay while visiting the volcano. We came from the west of Java by train and arranged a private driver from Surabaya to the Bromo volcano (and after Bromo to Kalibaru, in the west of Java). Yes, we indulged ourselves a little bit.

An alternative to hiring a private driver is to take a train to Probolinggo. It’s about four to five hours from Banyuwangi in the East, and seven to eight hours from Yogyakarta in the West. From the Probollingo bus terminal you can take a bus to Cemoro Lawang. Just be careful that you don’t fall for the Probolinggo bus scam, where locals will try to scam you into paying a high price for a bus ticket.

While researching the interwebs about these scams we read some pretty scary backpacker stories of the scammers becoming quite intimidating and even downright aggressive. This was the main reason for us to book a driver specifically for this part of the trip. We payed a little bit more, but we enjoyed the comfort very much and were happy to avoid Probolinggo altogether.

Staying in Cemoro Lawang

We stayed at Bromo Homestay Rudi, paying 200.000 Rupiah for one night, but we would not recommend it. The room itself was old and scruffy. The beds were not that clean (thank god for our own sleeping bag liners) and the bathroom was very basic and also dirty. Big advantage of Bromo Homestay Rudi is the location, being in the center of Cemoro Lawang. This makes it a good starting point for your hike to the viewpoints.

Hiking to the sunrise viewpoints

Before climbing the Bromo volcano itself you can enjoy a beautiful sunrise from one of the viewpoints on mount Penanjakan. Most tours also include a visit to one of these viewpoints. They drive you up there with a 4×4 jeep. As we didn’t book a tour, we had to reach these viewpoints another way; so we walked! Leaving our hotel at 3 AM (yes, that’s early…) we started walking towards mount Penanjakan.

We heard about travelers having difficulty finding the path, but actually it’s quite easy! From the center of town, you walk towards Cemara Indah Hotel. You’ll pass some kind of radio tower on your right. Just before you reach the Cemara Indah Hotel, go right at the fork in the road. You’ll pass another radio tower after about 100 meters, this time on your left. Next, just follow the paved road all the way up. I’ve added a walking route below.

The red route brought us to Seruni Point 1 and 2. It took us about one hour. You can walk even further to ‘King Kong viewpoint’, which is the highest view point. However, you’ll have to take a dirt path from Seruni Point, further up the hill (blue route). It took us another hour. Make sure you have a flashlight (or even better: a headlight) for this part of the path; it gets steep and quite dangerous to navigate without it.

We decided to stay and watch the sunrise at a smaller viewpoint, just below King Kong viewpoint. We sat down and enjoyed the view while the sun shed its morning light on mount Bromo and the Sea of Sand. It was very beautiful! The sun rises between 5 AM and 5.30 AM, depending on what time of year you’re visiting.

Getting to the Bromo Volcano from the viewpoints

After sunrise you can go two ways. First off, you can walk back to Cemoro Lawang the same way you came. From there, you can take the horse trail down to the Sea of Sand (green route). The entrance of the horse trail is right next to the Cemara Indah Hotel. It’s about a one hour walk across the sandy flats to the foot of the volcano.

The other way is the lazy way (and the way we did it)! At the viewpoints there are usually several motor taxis. These guys are happy to take you across the Sea of Sand to Bromo and, after your visit, back to town. We paid two motorcycle drivers 70.000 Rupiah each and they took us in about half an hour to the foot of the volcano. Just beware: this ride is not for the faint of heart. These taxi drivers will drive at breakneck speeds through the loose sand. I liked it, but I can imagine it’s not for everyone!

Another advantage of hiking to the viewpoint and taking a motor taxi to the Bromo volcano: we didn’t pay the entrance fee to the park. This saved us 317.500 Rupiah per person (weekend rate). During weekdays the entrance fee to the park is 217.500 Rupiah.

After arriving at the bottom of Mount Bromo, you can walk your way up the mountain (about half an hour), until you reach the stairs that lead up to the edge of the crater. The stairs can be very crowded (it was when we were there) because a lot of people want to go up the mountain and there’s only limited space at the edge of the crater. If you want to skip the long cue at the stairs you can either walk up the mountain next to the stairs or visit the volcano at a later time during the day when the crowds are gone.

Sea of Sand, seen from the edge of the Bromo Volcano

A note on horses:

It’s also possible to pay a local to take you to the stairs by horse, but please don’t do that. The horses are badly taken care of by their owners. They have to bring tourists up and down the mountain in the scorching hot sun. If they don’t listen, they get whipped. We even saw a heavily overweight tourist get on a horse that was way too small for her, buckling the back of the horse. They went up nonetheless.

If you don’t have the fitness to walk up yourself, don’t go up at all! As long as tourists are paying the locals to take them by horse, this abuse won’t stop!

When we finally reached the edge of the crater, it was really overwhelming! The rumble of the Bromo volcano is so loud that you really have to shout to understand each other. The constant rumbling, smoke and sulfur smell coming from the crater reminded us about the very active state the volcano is in. This activity has lead to several eruptions and closure of the area (most recently from Nov 2015 to Feb 2016) and even the death of two tourists in 2004. They say: “barking dogs seldom bite”. Well, this volcano barked a lot and we were happy it didn’t bite when we were there!

View into Bromo Crater

After our walk down from the crater the motorcycle drivers brought us back to the village (about a twenty minute drive). Here we reunited with our driver who brought us to our next destination, Kalibaru, in the west of Java.

Tips for hiking the Bromo volcano

When hiking Bromo there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.

Layers!

Make sure you wear layered clothing that keeps you warm when hiking at night (and sitting still while watching the sunrise) but that you can easily take off. After sunrise it gets hot very quickly.

Headlight!

Use a headlight instead of a flashlight when hiking up to the viewpoints. This way you’ll have your hands free to help you climb when the hill gets steeper.

Water!

Make sure you bring enough water. We forgot to buy water the evening before and at 3 AM at night everything in town was closed. The first bottle of water we were able to buy was well after an hour into the hike and we were very thirsty by then.

Haggle!

When you want to take a motor taxi down, haggle for the price. It took us about 15 minutes of negotiating but in the end we were able to bring the price down by half!

Face protection!

Bring a scarf (or facemask) and sunglasses to cover your mouth, nose and eyes when crossing the Sea of Sand by motor taxi. If not, you will have a very hard time crossing the dusty and dry Sea of Sand. We bought two facemasks from our motor taxi drivers .

Sunscreen!

After sunrise it gets hot very quickly and there is no shade on the Sea of Sand and the Bromo volcano. Make sure you bring sunscreen so you don’t get burnt.

Breakdown of the costs of a DIY Bromo Volcano tour

Here’s what we spent on our Bromo tour (excluding food):

Private driver (2 days; Surabaya – Bromo – Kalibaru) – 1.500.000 Rupiah
Parking fee – 5.000 Rupiah
Toll roads – 10.000 Rupiah
Homestay – 200.000 Rupiah
Motor taxis – 140.000 Rupiah
Total – 1.855.000 Rupiah

What we would’ve done differently

The climb to the Bromo volcano was very crowded, with long cues at the stairs up the mountain. If we would do it again, we wouldn’t visit Bromo in the weekend. This is the busiest time of the week. Also, we would have climbed Bromo in the afternoon, the day before our sunrise hike. The volcano is practically deserted in the afternoon because of all the tours being in the morning. Unfortunately, we arrived at Cemoro Lawang late in the afternoon, so we weren’t able to climb the volcano the same day.

Have you climbed the Bromo volcano or are you planning to do so? Let us know in the comments below!



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