Volcanic adventures from one of Indonesia's smoking craters

Volcanic adventures from one of Indonesia's smoking craters

Mount Bromo offers an ash desert, off-road jeeping, horse riding and some of the most spectacular scenery in Indonesia
indonesia travel mount bromo
The smoke and ash from Bromo will hopefully not be blowing in your direction when you visit.

If lazing around on beaches is too boring and hiking rainforest mountains is too much of effort, try a trip to Mount Bromo. It's a perfect option to witness one of the most magnificent sceneries in the world without the excretion of blood, sweat or tears.

Mount Bromo is an active volcano in East Java, Indonesia, 2,329 meters above sea level in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park

Located near to four other mountains, the volcano complex is an adventure travelers’ playground. The series of escapades on offer start in the small hours with a thrilling yet bumpy off-road jeep ride in the dark. This is followed by a stunning sunrise above a live smoking volcano crater, an adrenaline-rushing horse-back ride on a desert of ash, and finally a hike to the crater rim itself. 

The complete combination makes Bromo one of the most-visited destinations in Indonesia. 

indonesia travel mount bromoWrap up warm if you plan to stand on the crater edge in the early hours.

Watching the sunrise

Though the smoking craters are not actually the highest tip of the Bromo complex, this works to the area's advantage since it’s possible to view them from an even higher crater edge. The entrance fee to the peak viewing point is IDR 25,000 (US$2.80) per person. 

Prepare warm outfits as the temperature around Bromo dives down to two degrees Celsius in the morning, even if sea level temperatures down below are in the high 30s. For travelers packing light, jackets for rent can be found around the area.

The easiest –- and most fun -- way to explore Bromo is by renting a four-wheel-drive jeep from the locals in the villages around Bromo for IDR 300,000-500,000 depending on the length of the journey. The adventure needs to begin at about 3 a.m. if you aim to catch the sunrise.

The harrowing drive up Mount Penanjakan is a small price to pay for admission to the sunrise show. Our favorite orange orb could inspire even the blackest of hearts as it rises from behind the volcano's steaming clouds, surrounding desert and savanna.

Less crowded view points also exist on Mount Cemoro Lawang, along the trail to Mount Penanjakan.

indonesia travel mount bromoHiring a jeep to explore the area is the only sensible way to get around.

The adventure continues

The next destination is the valley inside the volcanic ring. The jeep rides some fairly weather-beaten tracks from Mount Penanjakan to the lush savanna that resembles a scene from "The Sound of Music" in Austria. 

Once arriving, jump off the jeep, tell the driver to kill the engine, and close your eyes. Feel and listen to the wind breeze. Then open your eyes. It’s a whole different world compared to the flat black ash desert that could be seen from the top of Mount Penanjakan. 

Further along the winds blow the ash desert to lightly break the silence. The area is known as “The Whispering Sand” (Pasir Berbisik). The volcanic ash and sturdy rocks scattered on the caldera make it feel like you've arrived on the moon. 

Then set off from the lunar landscape via the most popular activity: horse riding around the crater.

indonesia travel mount bromoGet on your spurs and explore at a more leisurely pace on a local steed.

Horse riding on ash

In the middle of the caldera, there are locals renting horses for around IDR 100,000 for an hour's ride. These horses are available to be ridden freely, though the owners will tag along and if given your camera, will have a field day filling it with shots from all angles. 

Majestically standing in front of Mount Bromo is Pura Luhur Poten, a temple used by the native Tenggerese people for the annual Yadnya Kasada sacrificial ceremony. 

After trotting around, there are 253 steps to be climbed up to the sulfuric crater. However, hiking is prohibited if the volcanic activity is considered too dangerous for tourists to come close, as happened in early November 2010.

The complex was formed by repeated eruptions each of which created new volcanoes and calderas. It began with the eruption of Mount Nongkojajar, which reached the height of 3,000m, then continued with the formation of Mount Ngadisari, Old Tengger Mountain, Mount Keciri and finally the current peaks of Mount Cemoro Lawang, Lautan Pasir (Sea of Sand), and Mount Bromo itself. Mount Bromo is now the only active peak.

indonesia travel mount bromoDespite the moon-like environment around Bromo, the valleys below are lush and green.

Tenggerese -- the native people of Bromo

Historical disunity of Muslim and Hindu Javanese people led to most Hindus moving to Bali, but some others settled on a plateau near Mount Bromo. Rara Anteng, the daughter of King Brawijaya of Majapahit, together with her husband, Joko Seger, descendant of Brahmana, led those who stayed in Java. The name Tengger came from the abbreviation and combination of Rara Anteng and Joko Seger.

The Tenggerese now inhabit the villages around Bromo -- Ngadisari, Wonokitri, Ngadas, Argosari, Ranu Prani, Ledok Ombo and Wonokerso.

The Tenggerese have a big annual festival known as the Yadnya Kasada or Kasodo ceremony. The event lasts for about one month, starting from the 14th of the 12th month of the Javanese calendar, or December into January. 

In this ceremony, the Tenggerese sacrifice rice, vegetables, fruits, flowers and livestock by throwing them into the Bromo crater to ask for blessings from Ida Sang Hyang Widi Wasa and the Trimurti gods (Siwa,Brahma and Visnu). This ritual originated from Rara Anteng’s and Joko Seger’s sacrifice of animals and plants in order to replace their 25th child -- who was supposed to be thrown into the crater.

indonesia travel mount bromoMount Bromo, with Mount Batok in the foreground, looks like something from another planet.

The most dazzling easy-to-reach volcano

There are several options available to reach this jewel of East Java. The starting point is one of the big cities around Bromo -- Surabaya or Malang. Flights to Surabaya are frequent from other cities in Indonesia, while flights to Malang are only available from Jakarta.

From Surabaya, take a bus to Probolinggo then change to a mini-bus to Cemoro Lawang (two to three hours). Alternatively head to Pasuruan, then a minibus to Tosari (1.5 hours).

From Malang, the routes are more adventurous. A microbus runs to Tumpang (30 minutes) then a four-wheel-drive takes you to Ngadas (1.5 hours). From Ngadas to the caldera, the route will directly pass Mount Bromo. Alternatively head to Purwodadi (30-minute bus ride), change to a minibus to Tosari (1.5 hours) then to Wonokitri, which is 14 kilometers away from Bromo.

If you have your own transport, it’s possible to drive the whole route yourself.

Other things to see

Madakaripura waterfall is located at the lower part of the park. There are five waterfalls to see with an adventurous track along the river to reach them.

For those with a more adventurous soul, Mount Semeru is a must-hike mountain. Semeru is the highest mountain in Java, towering up to 3,676 meters above sea level. It is also known as The Mahameru (The Great Mountain). A high level of physical fitness and a pre-obtained permit are required to climb this mountain.

Lake Ranupane is the usual starting point for Mount Semeru hiking and something to be seen in itself. The atmosphere around the lake is serene due to the eternal mist surrounding the area.