If you make it to Indonesia, then you’ll want to explore at least one volcano. The famous ones are Mt. Bromo and the Ijen Crater (known for it’s blue sulfur flames). We were on our way from Singapore to Bali and so in between these two destinations you can travel through the island of Java and make your way eastward.
It was easy enough for us to travel on a bus directly after arriving at Surabaya International Airport. You’ll hop out of the airport and then get to the bus station looking for a bus that travels to Probolinggo. At this bus station, you’ll then ask around to find the next bus that heads up to Cemoro Lawang bus station. I recommend trying some Soto Ayam soup while waiting at the bus station. It was some of the best soup I had in Indonesia. There’s only a few each day, but someone will be heading up the mountain to take you, which may end up being around 35,000 to 50,000 if split between enough people. It takes around 2 hours to drive up to the small village and from there you can easily find a guesthouse to stay. I would recommend booking ahead if you know you’re in peak tourist season.
Bromo is located on east Java. Most people will fly into Surabaya and then take a short bus ride to the central bus station in Surabaya. From there, you catch a bus to go to Probolinggo Bus Station. You can get a mini bus up to the village of Cemoro Lawang, which is Bromo itself. Finding the bus from Probolinggo to Cemoro Lawang may take a few hours, so be prepared for a short wait or plan for an overnight stay at Probolinggo to rest and catch the morning shuttles going up. This is a good stop anyway because it is a four hour journey from Surabaya.
What To Expect:
Once you’re at Cemoro Lawang, you have the ability to do anything you want. You could do a tour to the inner crater and see the ash fields and inner volcano. You could even walk it on your own (there’s a small entrance fee to pay as well). Just note that you’ll want to use clothes that can get dirty as the volcanic ash tends to get into everything – especially electronics. My recommendation and the activity that we did was to walk along the crater trail to the Bukit Prau view point. This trail will have the best viewpoint, if you’re lucky enough to not have clouds or volcanic ash coming down on you. Note that with the higher elevation here, it makes everything colder, so bring some warm clothes and even a rain jacket. That being said, it’s a nice break from the hot temperatures of South East Asia.
Once you’re at the guesthouse, then it’s only a short 10-15 minute walk till you start to get to the crater edge. Be prepared for an hour or two hike farther up the crater to get views like this. The best is to look at Maps.me or any other map guide to see the best photo lookouts.
On a clear day, you will see this volcano and one directly behind it in the distance. That mainly happens during the dry/high season. We were there when it was raining, which seems disappointing, but we were also in the low season which meant that we only saw a few other tourists here and most of the hiking was with ourselves. Also, when we were here, the volcano was spewing much harder than normal, which is impressive as far as nature goes, but also meant more coverage. I’d try to make sure you can find cover if the wind starts to switch and blow towards you. The ash will engulf you for a few minutes or an hour till it settles. As a reminder, this is an active volcano and that comes with its natural hazards. There’s ash flowing thousands of feet into the air, and the rumbling of something ominous. I think that’s why we were happy not traveling on the crater floor or near the caldera where you can see the ash rising. It’s a long run through deep sand fields, if you need to escape.
At the top of the ridge hike, you can see the crater floor and caldera. It feels like another planet down below. And as long as the wind is traveling in the right direction, you’ll have a great view of the volcano itself. We were quite happy.
While we were far away from the crater, I would also recommend bringing a mask and you worst pair of clothes as you will get covered in the fine silt. We were fine for these few hours till the wind and ash turned towards us at the end of our hike back down.
Apart from the volcano, there’s a lot of humble villages and fertile fields full of agriculture. You’ll likely see some locals picking some of the best looking cabbages and other produce straight from the ground. That was another highlight.
Hopefully you get to experience Bromo on your own. A note that getting from Bromo to Bali is a long journey, so be prepared for another long travel day, but in this way you can see some of the true Indonesia before getting to Bali. We stayed at Banyuwangi town on the east end of Java and stayed at Rose Homestay, which was super nice.