Sunrise at Mount Bromo is undoubtedly one of the most popular things to see in East Java, Indonesia.
Volcano hiking is the most inexplicable highlight of any Indonesia trip, and Mt. Bromo in particular is a relatively easy, accessible hike. Plus, when you go to Bromo, you get five volcanoes for the price of one, as you can see from this picture:
Morning views over a smoky Mount Bromo and all his volcano pals. Got to the lookout point and decided there were too many people there, so we climbed up the bank of the hill to get a better, less crowded view. • Off to Sumatra just now! Two weeks of jungles and hiking and wildlife spotting – can't bloody wait. And the biggest miracle of all is that I managed to get my backpack to weigh less than 15kg for Air Asia's ridiculously stingy baggage allowance. #bromo #mountain #volcano #hikeeveryday #girlswhotravel #borntotravel #womenwhowander #girlslovetravel #gltlove #instatravel #travelgram #mytinyatlas #getoutdoors #naturephotography #hikersofinstagram #sunrise #igpassport #instago #neverstopexploring #travelstoke #adventure #girlswhohike #wonderfulindonesia #java #indonesiaparadise #indonesia #travelblogger #mytinyatlas #exploremore #liveauthentic
So you’re sold, right?
The thing is, most of the time people take a (relatively) expensive tour to see the volcano – from what others have told me, costing around 350,000 rupiah (£17 / $24.50US / $35AUD).
For some, this just isn’t feasible in the ol’ backpacker budget. Even if you don’t take the tour option, the entry fee alone for Bromo Semeru Tengger National Park is a hefty 220,000 rupiah (£11.50 / $15US / $19AUD) or 320,000 rupiah (£17 / $22US / $27AUD) on weekends.
I know that doesn’t sound like loads, but once you get into the Indonesia mindset, you’ll understand that this seems astronomical.
Plus, I personally am against comfortable four-by-four rides taking me right to the place I want to go, and tours with pleasantly air conditioned vehicles that allow me to get several hours more sleep…
Yep, I’m all about the teeth-grindingly early mornings, sweaty hikes through darkness, etc etc.
My point is, you can see the Bromo volcano for free. And not just the sunrise from a distance part, either. You can (if you’re sneaky and underhand and don’t mind disregarding a sign or two) also climb up to the crater itself without paying a hefty fee.
And the thing is, as you will no doubt notice when you struggle to see over all the selfie sticks at sunrise, there are plenty of people supporting the official tourist route, so you don’t need to feel too guilty about it.
PS, side note – some guys on motorbikes said that if we paid them to give us a lift on the back of their bike, we’d be able to bypass the ticket office. No idea if this was legit but could be a fun alternative!
Tell me more about Mount Bromo!
Bromo is located in Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, a staggeringly expansive 800 kilometre stretch of land, encompassing not just Bromo, but also Mount Semeru and three other nearby stratovolcanoes. Gunung Bromo isn’t the tallest of these volcanoes, at 2,329m, but it’s the most famous (maybe because you can climb it, I don’t know).
These volcanoes actually stand inside a larger caldera (a caldera is basically a big-ass crater), which is 16 kilometres wide.
That’s right, it’s a jumble of volcanic craters inside a bigger volcanic crater. Aaaaall the craters.
These volcanoes are surrounded by the Segara Wedi, or Sea of Sand – I guess inevitably if there are that many volcanoes in one place, several of which are active, there’s gonna be a bit of ash about.
In practice, this means that you’re going to get a whole lot of the stuff in your shoes if you walk across it. And if you’re seeing Bromo independently, you’re going to walk across it.
Is it active? Hell yeah it’s active (it last erupted in 2016, and to be honest it was very rumbly and smokey and a bit scary when I visited in late 2017). So is Semeru. Yay for Indonesia.
Here! Have some budget tips for Indonesia
How to get to and from Bromo
There are a few options for getting to Mt. Bromo, depending on which direction you’re travelling in and how much time you have. The volcano is accessed from the little village of Cemoro Lawang, whose whole infrastructure is basically framed around this volcano, so that’s the place you’re aiming for.
From the East
If you’re coming from the East, you’ll want to head to Probolinggo first, which is easily accessed by train from Banyuwangi, your probable previous stop.
Economy class from Banyuwangi to Probolinggo costs 27k rupiah; executive class is 120k.
Banyuwangi is the jumping off point for doing the Ijen volcano climb – which you can find out about here.
From Probolinggo you can get a bemo/angkot (public minibus) from the station – which may take a little while. Show up early to the station and be prepared to wait a bit (I think we waited for like two hours). The buses tend not to go until they’re full, or until an agreement is made among the passengers when they get sick of waiting. If the bemo is full it’ll be 35k per person; if there are a few spaces it might be around 50k. The journey takes about ninety minutes to two hours.
We stayed the night in Probolinggo as we’d just done the sunrise hike up Kawah Ijen. There’s not loads to do in Probolinggo but it would be pretty hectic and tiring to attempt to do Ijen then go straight to Cemoro Lawang and do another sunrise hike the next day. It’s an option though, and many people choose to do this!
From the West
If you’re coming from the West, there’s an option to get a bus straight from Yogyakarta to Cemoro Lawang for about 200k, which takes 13 hours, or you can again get the train to Probolinggo (8 hours) and the bus from there.
You might also want to come from Malang – trust me you want to visit Malang, look how pretty it is:
However, it will then be a bit tricky to get to Cemoro Lawang from Malang unless you get a private driver of some sort. This might work out all right if you get a group together, but otherwise think about going to Malang after Bromo, from Probolinggo.
You could also do a tour straight from Malang, which will sort out your transport for you – might be worth thinking about!
A final option is to come straight from Surabaya, although it will be quite a trek and potentially expensive to get to Cemoro Lawang quickly. Again, you’ll have to transfer through Probolinggo to get there. The train to Probolinggo from Surabaya is about two and a half hours.
Cemoro Lawang accommodation
There is quite a lot of accommodation available in Cemoro Lawang, so you can definitely just show up and find somewhere, especially if you’re headed there during monsoon season as I was. I won’t lie: the standard may not be great.
(Except we accidentally showed up the day of the Bromo ultramarathon, so basically everywhere was booked up, but that’s another story).
By far the most popular place to go is a hostel/hotel called Café Lava – potentially the only place in Cemoro Lawang that is halfway decent and not horrendously expensive. Another decent option is Ana Tengger homestay which is just a little way down the hill from where the bus drops you off.
Otherwise just wait for people to come to you – as soon as you get off your minibus you will doubtless be approached by a bunch of people with guesthouse offers.
Make sure you bargain hard, though, as the rooms are unlikely to be luxury and you might not even get a shower included!
We paid 250k rupiah between five of us for a slightly strange guesthouse room, which was actually like a mini-apartment: three rooms, with two double beds and a single, as well as a sofa, and the bathroom was outside. Like I mentioned, though, this was on an unexpectedly busy weekend so you could definitely find something better if you time your visit well!
How to see sunrise at Bromo for free (and find the best spot)
Sunrise at Bromo is actually not at Bromo. Most people climb (or drive) up nearby Mount Penanjakan, to get the panoramic view of all those volcanoes in the tranquillity of the early morning light.
Except obviously it’s actually not tranquil because tourism. There will be layer upon layer of tourists (some Indonesian, some foreign) all clamouring for the best view. Prepare to stand on your tiptoes if you want to stand at the most obvious viewpoints.
However, there are still some less-crowded vantage points up for grabs. Here’s how to get an epic view of Bromo and all its volcano pals, for free:
1. Get the Maps Me app (free), available either on iPhone or Android
2. Download the East Java maps when you’re at a Wi-Fi hotspot (if you’ve left it until you’re in Cemoro Lawang, Café Lava is your best bet for reasonable Wi-Fi).
3. From Cemoro Lawang, if you’re facing up the hill there is a fork in the road. Left is towards Café Lava, right will take you to Cemara Indah (a fancy restaurant). You want to take the right hand fork to head up for the sunrise view. The left hand fork takes you to the ticket office and the entrance to the caldera, sea of sand and so on – that’s not where you’re going to actually see the sunrise.
4. Search for King Kong viewpoint on the map: this is the most popular lookout for the sunrise. Then all you have to do is follow the road and then the little dotted line to the top! FYI it is a bit ‘off-road’ once you get further up the hill, past Seruni sunrise point 2 (marked on the map). Like you’ll be tramping through the bush, pretty much.
From down in Cemoro Lawang it will take about two hours hiking to get up to the top of King Kong viewpoint – it’s a pretty easy hike but make sure you take a torch and warm clothes (I’m talking hats and gloves)! Make sure you set off earlier than you think you need to, because otherwise the best spots will have been taken (or you might miss the start of the sunrise).
Below you can see the general direction you need to take. The left hand circle is a zoomed-out version of the above map (screenshots from Maps Me!).
5. There are several potentially better viewpoint options for a less crowded view of the caldera. Honestly King Kong is way overcrowded.
One option is to stop off at one of the clearings on the way up – that is, between Seruni sunrise point 2 and King Kong. There aren’t all that many people doing the self-hike option so you won’t be competing with as many people for the view, and some of the vantage points are excellent.
Another good option is to literally climb up the bank of the hill once you’re past the wooden railing. There’s no denying you get a good view from there. We did this a bit after the sun rose, and it was pretty great.
Finally, you can attempt to make it all the way to sunrise point 1, marked on the map (it’s further on than is shown by the screenshot). This will be a really good, quiet spot to watch from, but it is quite a bit further (like, add maybe forty minutes to an hour to your walking time). We tried to get there but didn’t make it due to some well-meaning but ill-advised directions from a few stallholders. They might try to point you to another viewpoint, on top of another little hill, but that one will be real crowded too, and most of the view is obscured by bushes.
Once you’ve picked a spot, settle down and let the magic happen! I would highly recommend paying a few thousand rupiah for a coffee or tea – you’ll need that sugar boost.
All the tours, after the sun has risen, will then pack off into their jeeps and drive round to the crater
How and when to climb Bromo’s crater
Okay so clearly seeing sunrise for free is a piece of cake. All you have to do is know where to walk. And inevitably, there’s an app for that.
Getting over to Bromo to climb the actual crater itself is a tiny bit more involved… and potentially morally questionable (as in, you’re deliberately avoiding paying an entrance fee to the thing). Again, it’s all about using Maps Me.
I would recommend saving a trip to the crater for sunset – because there will be barely anyone else there. Which also means there are fewer people to ask questions. Nobody ever asked us to see a ticket or anything like that.
So here’s how you do it:
1. Get your Maps Me map of Cemoro Lawang up.
2. Head down the right hand fork again, towards Cemara Indah (that posh restaurant).
3. Walk past Cemara Indah, towards the dotted line that says ‘Villagers trail to Bromo’. Before the path, you’ll see a telltale sign that says something along the lines of ‘go back and pay you sneaky buggers’.
4. Ignore the sign.
5. Head down the track – it’s reasonably steep and windy but only takes about fifteen minutes to get down if I remember rightly.
6. At the bottom of the track you’ll be faced with a long ol’ walk across the sand sandy sea. You’re aiming roughly in the direction of the temple, but there’s not particularly a designated path.
7. Past the temple you’ll be able to see the steps – yep, that’s right, there is a staircase up this particular volcano.
8. Hopefully at the top you will get some sick views but it all depends on clouds and weather. Also pro tip: it’s not that nice up there (i.e. it stinks and is quite smokey, owing to the fact that it is of course a volcano) so time your visit well – get up, take a pic, get down again.
9. You can walk round the crater to get better views and pictures but pls pls do not fall in and if it rains it will be slippy so be careful (yes yes I know I’m not your mother).
That’s it! Then the sun will set and you’ll have to do the whole thing in reverse, in the dark yay.
You can choose to get a lift back (for a fee of course) off one of the many guys hovering around the sea of sand and the crater – with a choice of vehicle (horse or scooter).
NB: an alternative way to do this whole thing is to head up to the crater for the sunrise itself (using the same route as above) and then scarper before all the jeeps arrive. You could then feasibly do sunset at any of the Penanjakan viewpoints and have it to yourself. However, this would likely mean an extra night in Cemoro Lawang – and there’s not a whole lot to do in the village.
For more of the best places in Indonesia, check out my guide to Sumatra (IMO the BEST island in Indonesia), my tips for climbing Mount Rinjani in Lombok, or the Lombok to Flores boat trip (ft. dragons).
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