Mt Bromo: Get up there without a guide!

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View of Mt Bromo

After a very cultural stay in Yogyakarta and, although I literally fell in love with that city, my whole body was itching for a bit more action and motion. Luckily the next stop was all about exactly that! Drumroll please… We were going to see the active and ash spluttering Mt Bromo in East Java.

Travel from Yoyakarta to Mt Bromo

This journey can be done perfectly well by bus and train (with a stopover in Surabaya). You can either stay in Malang, Probolinggo, or directly in Cemoro Lawang a little village next to Mt Bromo. If you’re, however, under time pressure you can also catch a plane from Yogya to Surabaya. That’s what we did.

So, after a very worrisome flight (not related to the aircraft company but to bad weather conditions and which almost made me not get onto airplanes anymore… like EVER) we landed in Surabaya from where we hitched a ride to Malang (+/-2h30), where we stayed overnight.

On our way up to the Bromo Tengger National Park

Mt Bromo and the tour packages (on the map)

Mt Bromo sits impatiently waiting for its next eruption in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. Click To Tweet The name Bromo comes from the Javanese pronunciation of Brahma, the Hindu creator god. And oh boy, is he creating!!! … Heaps and heaps of ashes!
Typical tour packages are either organized guided tours lasting a few days or the “Bromo Sunrise Experience” day tour, where you’ll find yourself crammed into a bus or minivan and ditched among great hordes of tourists at the viewpoint (Penanjakan 1) with tiered seating to shiver your way through the sunrise. And that’s exactly what we wanted to avoid!

Visit Mt Bromo outside the box

So, if you don’t care about seeing the sunrise and if you want to enjoy a trek up and around Mt Bromo without a guide, the masses of people and sidewalk vendors, then just book round trip to Mt Bromo. Tell the agency it has to be during daytime and that you don’t want any guide and any meals included.

We booked the trip through our hotel and were lucky that the receptionist was a nice young Indonesian guy (with a dubious fake English accent, though) who understood perfectly well that we didn’t have the nerves for mass tourism.

Here’s a summary our trip to Mt Bromo:

Arriving at Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park

First of, you obviously have to pay the entrance to the park. The entrance fee is IDR 220.000 on weekdays and IDR 320.000 on weekends (that at least was the price in 2016).
Here you can also ask for some further information if needed. As we explained that we would do a trek without a guide, we first got “open-mouthedly” gazed at, but after a while the receptionist unveiled the map of the park in front of us. During 20 minutes they where eager to explain the route to us, but I’m still not sure if I understood everything they said, I just remember hearing the words : Sea of sand – steps – dust mask – Bromo – Savannahhhhhh. So, with a picture of the map, a lot of nodding and smiling, they saw us off to our adventure

Crossing the Sea of Sand and climbing up Mt Bromo

King Kong Hill (Bukit Setya), which is another strategic viewpoint of the Bromo Scenery, is the departure of the trek.

Note that, if it’s a cloudy day, you won’t probably get a change to sneak a peak at The VIEW from either viewpoint. I read some really bad reviews from outraged visitors complaining about the cloudy sky and how they couldn’t see anything at all. Well, that’s just bad luck. And by the way, if you really want to see Mt Bromo, just move your ass, and get up there on your own!

At the start you have to dabble and hazard your way down a surprisingly lush slope through a small village to join the Sea of sand (ashen volcanic sand).

Rice Field next to a small village
On the way down to the Sea of sand

Mt Bromo’s temper

From there, you will get the first hint of Mt Bromo’s violent nature through the rumbling noise escaping from the volcano’s insides at intervals. The Sea of sand is a bit of a surreal apocalyptic sight, which makes the walk even livelier and leads you straight to the infinitely steep and staggering steps up to Mt Bromo’s Crater culminating at 2.329 m.

The Sea of Sand (beautiful picture taken by my husband, Fernando)
Mt Bromo loudly huffing and puffing away

Before letting your enthusiasm take over and speeding towards the steps, recall to put your dust mask on otherwise breathing will become a problem.

Anyway, the whole “getting up an active, ash spitting volcano” is a dodgy enterprise. But the little concerns that ranged from the health hazards that could be induced by inhaling the sulfur toxins and ashen dust, to the lack of a security ramp that prevents you from falling down the crater, where quickly forgotten. They just made this adventure even more fun! How often can you tell people that you looked right into the devil's den while getting showered… Click To Tweet

A quick picture of me standing on the crater before the next ash cloud
The perillous way around Mt Bromo’s crater

It is possible to walk around the whole crater, but be aware that there really is no existing security ramp. Moreover, the dust clouds cause poor visibility and you might have to stop and close your eyes for a few seconds. It can be quite scary at times.

Trekking around Mt Bromo

Getting down the distressingly steep set of steps is another story. The feeling of vertigo will throw you aback at first, but it gets better with every step towards the comforting Sea of sand. At that moment, while trying to master the steps, the ash-spluttering volcano will be the least of your concerns.

Looking down the steps covered in dust

Next, you’ll make your way through ashen dunes disrupted by crevices. It’s an exquisite walk on soft, warm ground; you will feel all happy and bouncy!
The sand slowly turns into a savannah like scenery. After a few hours of trekking around you’ll be back, safe and sound, at the car park (or Auto Parkir as the Indonesians say).

Great walk through the dunes
Dunes around Mt Bromo

What should you bring

  • Walking shoes
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Dust masks (either buy them beforehand or ask your driver to buy them for you)
  • Water bottles
  • A snack
  • A hat
  • Your camera

All in all, the whole adventure lasts about 4 and half hours and really is great fun… From running through the sea of sand to escalating Bromo’s steps and hopping up and down the dunes you will definitely love this refreshing walk it was a whale of a time. The only downside, if it really is one, is that after hours of walking on sand you’ll experience quite some muscle aches. So, all in all, if you really want to see Mt Bromo, then just do it without a guide!

Selamat jalan! (Bahasa Indonesia: have a nice trip)

Planning a trip to Yogyakarta? Have a look at these two posts:

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks Ariane for that enjoyable read. Pretty amazing to walk up to an active volcano. It was dormant when I was there in ’85, I can’t recall “the dunes” at all. But there have been quite a few eruptions since then. I’ve just written a piece on Mt Bromo and posted photos from my trip on my website.
    Cheers, Mike

    • Yeah, I guess the landscape must have changed since ’85. But I’m looking forward to reading your post about Mt Bromo and your experience of the national park. Will have a look at it later today 😉

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