Without a doubt, Mount Bromo is the most photographed natural attraction in Java, attracting foreigners and Indonesian’s by the tens of thousands each year. At 2,329m high, it’s not the highest of the volcanoes comprising the Tengger massif but it is the most active.
Before climbing to the edge of the Bromo crater rim to stare down into the seething heart of the volcano, most people head to a viewing point at the top of the adjacent Mount Penanjakan where there are unobstructed views of the entire Bromo caldera including the volcanic Sea of Sand which surrounds Bromo, the adjacent peaks of Mount Batok, Mount Widodaren, Mount Watangan and smoking Mount Semeru in the distance. It’s an amazing sight and even better if you make it for sunrise.
The standard Bromo tour begins with a 3:30AM jeep pick-up from your accommodation in Cemoro Lawang village to take you up over the caldera rim then a bumpy ride across the Sea of Sand and a steep climb up the Penanjakan mountain side to various viewing points. After sunrise, you return to your jeep for the return journey, stopping this time to climb Bromo itself and if you like, visit the adjacent Hindu temple Pura Luhur Poten. Near the temple a steep path culminating with around 250 stairs will lead you to the edge of the crater where you can take in sights of the bubbling sulphurous crater from a meter-wide ledge.
The return trek to the top of Mount Bromo is around 3km and takes around 45min each way. If you’re unable to or don’t feel like walking you can hire a pony which will take you to/from the parking area to a point about halfway up the crater rim. When you’ve had enough, your driver will return you to your accommodation for a well deserved late breakfast, the entire trip having taken between 3-4 hours. It’s great fun and even though we (stupidly) visited during a busy holiday weekend, our Bromo trip is still one of our all-time favourite Indonesian adventures.
Although the vast majority of visitors use a jeep, you can hike to Bromo or the Mount Penanjakan viewing points. From Cemoro Lawang village to Bromo is 3km and takes about 1.5 hours. Access to the viewing points is via a trail along the caldera rim from Cemoro Lawang. It’s 3km and 1.5 hours to viewpoint number two or 2 hours to the summit viewpoint. Obviously, this will mean a very early start to make it in time for sunrise and you’ll need a good torch.
Bromo is located in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park in east Java, about 4 hours south of Surabaya or 1.5 hours south-west of Probolinggo. There are countless tour companies offering one day or overnight Bromo tours from either city but if you’re travelling independently get yourself to Probolinggo by bus from Surabaya or Banyuwangi if you’re coming from Bali by ferry.
Access to Mount Bromo is via the village of Cemoro Lawang which can be reached by public minibus, ojek or private transport from Probolinggo, all of which you can arrange at the Probolinggo bus station. Minibuses depart throughout the day when the driver has enough passengers and cost 30.000-50.000Rp depending on the number of passengers. If you prefer private transport, there are always plenty of drivers touting for business just outside the bus station. Be sure to haggle hard. As a guideline, a reasonable price for an ojek to Cemoro is 75.000-150.000Rp or 450.000-550.000Rp for a jeep.
Be aware that at Probolinggo bus station is notorious for scammers selling fake bus tickets to unsuspecting tourists so only purchase tickets at the ticket window. Also, keep your luggage with you right up until you reach the minibus and keep watch whilst it’s being loaded as there have been reports of luggage being stolen by thieves posing as employees.
For the return trip to Probolinggo, angkots depart at 9:00AM daily from the roundabout just down the hill from the entry gate and cost similar to the inbound journey. If the bus isn’t full the driver may charge extra to make the trip worth his while.
Entrance fees to the park are payable at the main gate at Cemoro Lawang and cost 200.000Rp weekdays or 320.000Rp on weekends and holidays for foreigners. Indonesians pay 10.000Rp any day. You’ll also be hit with an additional fee if you intend taking your own car or scooter into the park. Jeeps can be easily arranged on arrival and cost around 350.000-450.000Rp. They can take up to 6 passengers so try to get a group together to split the costs. If you’re on a tour, be sure to ask if the entry fee and jeep hire is included in the price before booking.
The village of Cemoro Lawang has a good range of lodge or bungalow style accommodation but expect to pay extra for luxuries such as a hot shower. Most lodges either have or are within easy walking distance of a small restaurant. The nearby villages of Sukapura and Tosari/Wonokitri tend to offer a little more up-market accommodation, mostly favoured by tour groups.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can camp of the Sea of Sand for free. Overnight temperatures at that elevation can be freezing though so you’ll need plenty of winter woollies and buy a bundle of firewood on your way through Cemoro Lawang so you can keep warm by a campfire. There’s also a campsite up on the caldera rim near Cemoro Lawang (ask a local for directions).
There are no ATM’s in the village of Cemoro Lawang and most accommodation places will expect payment in cash so be sure to bring enough cash for your entire time in the area. The best time to visit Bromo is during the dry season from April to November as the Sea of Sand can become flooded and boggy during the wet season closing access to the Bromo crater. Weekdays are best as the weekends and holidays are often crowded with local visitors.
One last thing, Bromo is very active and has erupted four times since 2004. The latest eruption in November 2015 closed all access to the caldera floor including the Sea of Sand and Bromo crater itself. Access to the caldera rim and the Mount Penanjakan viewing point via the trekking trail remained open. For the latest updates on Bromo check the Indonesian Centre for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (you’ll need to use Google Translate).