Bean in Transit - Mount Bromo

Mount Bromo in East Java is definitely one of the most incredible places to visit for mountain enthusiasts. This active volcano is one of the five volcanoes in the middle of the Tengger Caldera that draws so much attention from all over the world. This mountain and its neighboring mountains, Mount Batok and Mount Semeru, are often the familiar images that you see on books, travel magazines, and travel websites when you are looking for places of interest in Java, Indonesia.

Many years ago, I printed a picture of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park and placed it inside my diary. “One day, I am going to visit this incredible place,” I told myself. I was 18 years old at that time and was working in sales. It was a stressful job, but one that paid me a decent wage and sent me to places I wanted to visit. I had planned on visiting this mountain with an ex-boyfriend back then but all our travel plans kept on getting canceled. Eventually, I forgot about this travel plan and moved on with life.

Years later, I planned on visiting Mount Bromo again but had to cancel it twice due to unforeseen events. It was around that time where there were so many earthquakes in Indonesia. But 2018 was really a lucky year for me. After traveling around Mindanao for a month, my friend and I decided to book a flight to Indonesia and thus, the start of a two-week adventure in this beautiful country.

3 flights, 1 train ride, 2 bus rides, and a lot of walking

I have to tell you; traveling to this part of the world is no easy task. It was a hell of a long transit that involved 3 flights, 1 train ride, 2 bus rides, a lot of walking.

My friend and I flew from Cebu to Manila and then took another flight from Manila to Jakarta. From Jakarta, we took another flight bound for Yogyakarta. Upon reaching Yogyakarta, we got on a train bound for Surabaya. And then from Surabaya, we rode a bus going to Probolingo. And lastly, from there, we chartered a minibus bound for Cemoro Lawang.

That’s literally traveling from West Java to East Java, Indonesia!

It took us 4 days to get there. Had we not changed our plans and itineraries prior to visiting Indonesia, I think our transit would have been better. So if you are planning to climb Mount Bromo and your starting point is Jakarta, book a flight directly to the nearest airport which is in Surabaya. Cemoro Lawang, which is the nearest town to Mount Bromo, is just two bus rides away.

An Ultimate Guide from Probolingo to Cemoro Lawang

There are two routes going to Mount Bromo: from either Malang or Probolinggo City. Malang is a little closer, but if your goal is just to visit Mount Bromo, Probolinggo City is a better option because the routes are more direct. However, if you are planning to visit the beautiful waterfalls in Malang, it’s definitely the route you should take.

We chose the route from Probolinggo City. Now, this is where it gets exciting. My friend, Charlyn, told me in advance that we should be careful once we arrived in this city to avoid getting scammed. Scams are rampant in this area especially to tourists who have no idea how to get to Mount Bromo. True enough; upon reaching the city, we were dropped off by our bus driver from Surabaya to a place several meters away from our supposed destination. We were led to a small shop which I would assume was a travel agency that offers tour packages to Mount Bromo.

Probolinggo to Cemoro Lawang

Thankfully, Charlyn did all the research and we knew in advance that climbing Mount Bromo is possible without getting a tour package. We just have to find our way to the right bus stop where we can ride the minibus bound for Cemoro Lawang. Cemoro Lawang is the nearest village to the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park.

But the man who talked to us tried to force us to book the package he was offering because he said there’s no other way to get there. He was very persuasive and wouldn’t even answer our questions about the bus terminal we were supposed to be in.

But we were adamant to follow our original plan. The man, sensing our lack of interest to his offers, suddenly turned sour. We decided to just walk and find the terminal ourselves. Luckily, an old man in a becak offered us to bring us there.

The name of the place is Warung Nikmat. I couldn’t find a landmark near it but below is a map of the exact location on Google Maps.

Transportation to Cemoro Lawang

Once you reach Warung Nikmat, you will see the minibus bound for Cemoro Lawang parked right in front. This is where the locals go. Now, they don’t follow a specific schedule so you will either have to wait until the bus is full or negotiate with the driver to charter the entire minibus to yourselves. If you don’t mind waiting around, this is the cheapest option to Cemoro Lawang. The whole minibus usually costs 500,000 IDR and can fit 15 people. If the bus is full, you’ll only have to pay 35,000 IDR to Cemoro Lawang.

At that time, there were only a few locals coming with us so the driver made a bargain and asked us if we’re willing to pay 100,000 IDR each so we didn’t have to wait. It was a good price so we agreed.

We didn’t have to wait until 4 or 5 PM which is the last trip to Cemoro Lawang.

Staying in Ngadisari for the night

While we were still in the Philippines, I made sure to book our accommodation in advance so we didn’t have to worry about it once we arrive. Moreover, I was looking for a good place with a reasonable price. While doing my research, most of the homestays in Cemoro Lawang are quite pricey considering that it’s the nearest village to Mount Bromo. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money for a place we were only going to stay in for a night.

Thankfully, I found a beautiful homestay in Ngadisari – a village which is just a kilometer away from Cemoro Lawang. It’s called Elen Homestay and I highly recommend staying there if you plan on climbing Mount Bromo.

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Oh, I absolutely loved the place! It was like a garden in the middle of nowhere. From the house, you will clearly see the beautiful mountain ridges and the lush green farms that surround the village. I was so glad we didn’t spend the night in Cemoro Lawang where all the tourists were staying.

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The host, Elen, is also very warm and kind. She can only speak a little English but we didn’t have a hard time communicating with her. She uses Google Translate all the time and we were able to understand each other. Her home is absolutely a home away from home.

From Ngadisari to Cemoro Lawang

We woke up at 2 AM the next day to prepare for our climb. At 8°, it was extremely cold. I was thinking, “How cold is it going to be at the top if it’s already this cold here?”

We prepared some eggs and drank coffee at set out into the dark. We turned our headlamps on and walked towards Cemoro Lawang. You might think that it was a scary situation that we were just two girls walking in the dark, but it wasn’t. It was dark but there were already so many 4×4’s heading towards Mount Bromo. After a few minutes of walking, a guy in a motorbike taxi or locally known as Ojek, approached us an offered us a ride. We originally planned on just walking but he offered to bring us as well to the jump-off point for a much lesser price. It was a reasonable deal so we agreed.

The entrance fee to Mount Bromo is 217,500 IDR during weekdays and 317,500 on weekends and peak season. This, of course, is subject to change so make sure to research in advance for the exact cost.

Climbing Mount Penanjakan

There’s one thing you should keep in mind if you opt for a sunrise view of Mount Bromo; you are going to climb two mountains in one day. First, you need to climb Mount Penanjakan and then after sunrise, head down towards Mount Bromo.

Mount Penanjakan is one of the seven mountains that surround the Tennger massif in East Java Indonesia. It has an elevation of 2770 meters above sea level. Its peak is one of the most popular places where you can witness a bird’s eye view of five volcanoes in the Tengger Caldera.

Tengger Caldera
Image source: asiaforvisitors.com

There are two ways to reach this mountain. The first option, which is the easiest way, is to ride an Ojek or a 4 x 4 jeep directly to Penanjakan Hill viewpoint. The second option is to climb the mountain and reach the viewpoint in 2-3 hours.

Since we didn’t book for a tour package and we wanted to avoid the crowd in Penanjakan Hill, we asked our Ojek driver to drop us off directly to the jump-off point. We were determined to climb Mount Penanjakan.

Fighting the cold towards the top

It was already 3 AM when we started to climb. It will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour to reach the first viewing point in this mountain which is called Seruni Point. When we reached there, it was flocked with so many people. We didn’t stop there because we were aiming for the next viewpoint which is King Kong Hill.

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Seruni Point

This is where the adventure starts. You see, most tourists and locals would stop in Seruni Point because that’s where the paved trail stops. If you opt to climb to King Kong hill, you will have to climb an hour or two more. The trail is well-established but it’s quite a moderate climb considering that it is steep and some of the areas have loose soil. In fact, I almost lost my footing while scrambling my way to the top. It was scary. Suffice it to say, it is not a preferable option to those who don’t want to endure climbing in these conditions.

It was dark and cold but Charlyn and I were determined to reach King Kong Hill. I didn’t mind that there were no other people coming with us and that we had no guide because we have GPS. If you plan on climbing Mount Penanjakan, make sure to download an offline map so you will not get lost. That’s how we did it and I am absolutely sure you can do it too.

The long wait in King Kong Hill

The climb was not that difficult. I would say that the only enemy that I had to face was the cold. It was getting colder each step and when we finally reached King Kong Hill, I almost couldn’t feel my fingers. That may sound far-fetched but it’s true. The weather in December at the top is really cold.

We reached King Kong Hill at around 4 AM. There were only a few people there. We had to wait for a few more hours before sunrise.

If there’s one thing I regret in this climb, it’s that I should have brought an extra jacket. I really thought one jacket, a bonnet, and gloves is enough. I didn’t realize that the waiting was a lot harder than the climb itself.

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King Kong Hill viewpoint

The long wait was truly grueling. When the fog finally lifted and the sun had risen, I almost wanted to cry out of joy. Ah the beauty of the mountains in front of me was indescribable. After all the canceled plans for so many years, I finally saw these mountains with my very own eyes.

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Towards the Sea of Sand

We didn’t stay in King Kong Hill for long. We proceeded to hike towards Penanjakan Hill and looked for an Ojek so we can proceed to the Sea of Sand.

The Sea of Sand is a vast plain that covers the whole Tennger Caldera. This sand sea is protected area inside Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. The ride towards there is absolutely adrenaline-pumping. You will pass steep cliffs and unpaved roads on the way down. It’s quite a dangerous drive that’s why they only allow one passenger per Ojek. Driving on sand is quite a challenge too. The whole ordeal was a whole new experience for me.

We didn’t immediately climb Mount Bromo. Upon reaching the sand sea, we went inside one of the make-shift tents so we can warm our bodies and fill our stomach. It was still cold and we were not in a hurry anyway.

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The beautiful, Mount Batok, at the background.

This is exactly why I don’t like booking a tour package. I like the freedom to choose my own activities and follow my own schedule. Charlyn and I spent a good two more hours in the sand sea before we proceeded to the crater of Mount of Bromo.

Climbing towards Mount Bromo’s crater

From the sand sea, it’s quite a long walk towards the base of Mount Bromo. There are horses in the area but I do not recommend riding one. The horses looked starved and you can literally see the distress in their eyes. They looked too fragile and unfit to carry a person towards the top. It was a heartbreaking sight.

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I know that the locals have been using horses as a means of transportation for so many years, but I highly advise that you think twice before riding one. Maybe, it’s due to cultural differences or ignorance that this is a norm in this place, but it really bothered me. It’s such a cruel thing to let these poor animals carry people all the way to the top. Think about the welfare of these animals.

If you ever plan on going to Mount Bromo, walk towards the top. It’s part of the adventure.

The last few steps to the crater

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The stairs towards the crater of Mount Bromo is knee-breaking. I was literally catching my breath and when I finally reached the top, I was welcomed with the burning smell of sulfur fumes. I choked and coughed so hard. The smell is almost unbearable which is why most people would only spend a few minutes there. You shouldn’t spend too much time at the top because inhaling sulfur can really pose alarming effects on your body. It irritates your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.

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I don’t know if you can tell, but my eyes are watering in this photo.

You could hear the scary sound of burning lava below. It’s as if there’s a force calling you beneath the earth.

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Mount Bromo is a sacred place for the Javanese. It is where they worship God and their ancestors. You can leave flowers on the crater rim and offer a prayer.

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The perfect cinder cone of Mount Batok

A lot of people asked me if the view was worth it at the top. If standing on top of an active volcano is your goal, it is worth it. And you will be able to see the vast view of this massif. Mount Bromo and it’s neighboring volcanoes Batok, Kursi, Watangan, and Widodaren are the five volcanoes that emerged inside an ancient volcano – Tengger.

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Climbing Mount Penanjakan and Mount Bromo without booking a tour is possible. And I would say it was the best decision we’ve ever made on this trip. We were able to avoid the crowd and even save a lot of money in the process.

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Important info:

  • From Purabaya Terminal in Surabaya, look for a bus heading to Probolinggo City. Bus fare is 36,000 to 40,000 IDR. Inform the driver to drop you off at Warung Nikmat.
  • Look for the minibus in Warung Nikmat bound for Cemoro Lawang. Bus fare per person is 35,000 IDR or you can also charter the whole minibus for 500,000 IDR.
  • Motorbike Taxi or Ojek fare from Ngadisari to Cemoro Lawang usually costs 50,000 IDR per person.
  • Motorbike Taxi or Ojek fare from Cemoro Lawang to Mount Penanjakan jump-off point is 150,000 IDR.

I spent a total of around 700,000 IDR or roughly PHP 2,500 for this leg of our trip in Indonesia. This includes our accommodation in Ngadisari, all transportation fees from Surabaya to Cemoro Lawang, food and other miscellaneous expenses.

Soon: My First New Year's Eve Experience in Yogyakarta

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