Indonesia is the most geologically volatile place on earth (especially at the moment), but if, like me, you have a thing for volcanos, there really is nowhere better. Here’s my guide to climbing Bromo, and why it’s best to do it on two wheels.
1 – FLY INTO SURABAYA
Surabaya ain’t the prettiest city in the world but it’s home to the largest airport nearest to Bromo, one which is fairly accessible internationally, and it has a bunch of good hotels and hostels, depending on your budget.
2 – RENT A BIKE
Finding a decent off-road motorbike in Surabaya is not an easy task. After a lot of research, ignored emails and several phone calls, I found a company that claimed to have off-road bikes in what looked like good condition. Their website was in Bahasa but I found a mobile number (+62 85733311117), discovered they could communicate fairly well in English using WhatsApp, and the price was good. 200,000IDR (14USD) per day for the rental, plus 50,000IDR ($3.50USD) to deliver the bike to my hotel. Not bad at all. My anxieties about being handed a terrible bike quickly faded when a nice bloke arrived bang on time on a literally brand new Honda CRF 150. A small but spritely bike and perfect for the bumpy roads I’d mostly be on. And then it was time to hit the road!
3 – THE DRIVE TO CEMARA INDAH
Cemara Indah is the closest starting point to Mount Bromo and it has a quite a few accommodation options (not of the highest quality mind). You can drive there via Probolinggo (3 hours) but to me it looked like the route up the West side of the mountain looked far more picturesque, so I went for that.
I headed South for about 2 and a half hours from Surabaya then took a left and headed up the mountain. I won’t lie – main roads in Indonesia suck. They are busy, polluted, and full of constant hazards. But as soon as I turned off into the hills, it all became worth it. Defo still keep an eye out for potholes, lizards and kids, but that drive up the mountain is generally pretty awesome.
3 – WAKE UP EARLY & BATTLE THROUGH THE CROWDS
I stayed at Cemara Indah Hotel, one of the better-looking places in a town where, tbh, you don’t have a huge amount of choice. The room was comfortable and clean, and anyway – I was gonna need to be up at like 4.30am anyway so it’s not like I was going to be spending much time there.
There’s a viewing point up the top of one of the nearby hills from which to watch the sunrise (around 5.30am), and most people will walk up (which takes around an hour) or get a taxi, before heading to Mount Bromo itself. This is where a motorbike comes in handy. I got up nearly an hour after everyone who was walking, drove past the crowds of people and parked in the car park which is a short walk from the viewing point.
Bromo is the most popular volcano hike in Indonesia. And it shows. So many frickin people. But when I got to the viewing point, it didn’t really matter. Seeing the sun peak through the clouds with the volcano smouldering in the foreground is a sight I’ll never forget.
4 – TO THE CRATER!
After the sun has fully risen, time to head to Bromo itself. This basically involves driving back down the hill, past Cemara Indah, and across the “Sea of Sand” which surrounds Bromo itself. I was giving a lift to a lovely woman I’d met in Surabaya and I was a bit nervous about driving over the sand (I’ve driven off-road before but never for long distances on sand and never with a passenger) but it turned out to be totally fine and massively fun.
5 – SCRAMBLE UP BROMO
By the time you get across the crater and reach the base of Bromo, it actually looks pretty small. Even by 7am, there were already queues of people climbing up but just next to the main stairway there is a kinda rough walkway that you can climb up, so I took that and legged it up as fast as I could (it’s the Jon way). The ridge itself that goes around the volcano is totally exposed and there is nothing to stop you falling in. I saw so many people taking what looked to me like way too much of a risk to get a selfie and I couldn’t help wondering how many people must fall in every year. But anyway – the view from the top is really unique. A smoking volcano on one side and an expanse of volcanic grey sand on the other. What an experience!
After Bromo I rode on to the incredible Mount Ijen. Follow TRAVELIST to be updated when I post about that part of the trip!
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