Hiking up an active volcano – Mount Bromo

Adventure , , , ,

My fascination to see active volcanos drew me to Indonesia and planned a 10day trip covering Mt Ijen, Mt Bromo and Yogyakarta to see Borobudur Temple.
Easiest way to reach Mt Bromo is to fly into Surabaya and then taking a cab. It takes about 7 hours by road to reach depending on traffic. Just a word of caution English is very limited and you will finally know how it feels like to be a foreigner in India! Everybody is out to make money off you! Though, like India, it is not true of the entire country, but in Bromo be prepared to be over charged.

We headed to Bromo the morning after trekking the entire night to catch the sunrise at the crater of another stunning volcanic mountain – Ijen. (Can’t resist the temptation to share a photo of Mt Ijen. It has the world’s biggest Sulphur acid lake on its crater!!!)


We were as sleep starved as possible and the entire journey from Ijen to Bromo was a negotiation with self, convincing the body and mind to be awake for just one more night to see the Bromo at sunrise. At Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, we ended up staying up for another 2 nights!! That is the charm and stunning beauty of Bromo.

Best time to visit Mt Bromo is between April to October when it is dry season in Java, Indonesia. Also, if you are keen to watch/photograph the milky way, then plan your trip around no moon/crescent moon. Smaller the moon, darker the sky. Try and spend at least 2 nights there.


Day 1 – Sunrise from Penanjakan 1 view point.

You need to take a Jeep to visit this view point which overlooks Mt Bromo and the caldera from a height. Most Jeeps pick you up at around 4am to reach the view point at around 5am and then you wait for sunrise which is at about 5.30am. But us being us, we paid extra and got a personal Jeep to pick us up at 2am so that we can hoard the best spot and also have enough time to set up our tripods etc.

So, armed with our star spotting app on phone (after all we were in the one of the best milky way spotting sites in the world!), 15Kg of camera gear, portable stools, compass (it was pitch dark and we wanted to know exactly where to sit for the best view!), jackets and hand warmers we reached Penanjakan view point and patiently waited for the sun to rise while admiring the milky way!

Milky Way – I think it is safe to say if you haven’t seen the Milky Way on a clear, no moon night, you have not seen the night sky. The stars are denser than the LED lights of an Indian wedding! The photo of sthe milky way below is taken by a Bromo obsessed friend of mine and this was his third trip there!
Milky Way

                                            Milky Way at Mt Bromo. (Image Copyright Avinash G Bahirvani)

BTW the peace and quiet of a starry night did not last for too long as hordes of tourists armed with chips/biscuits and cell phones with flash descended. After some unsuccessful explaining, followed by pleading and then screaming at them to be quiet and stop using absolutely useless (and destructive for the serious photographers) flash, we gave up. (BTW if you don’t know why a flash won’t help in pitch dark and when the mountain is 100s of meters away, please read up, and be a responsible traveler!)

Bromo Sunrise – Once in a lifetime experience!
It was that moment in life where you gasp and realize that you have never seen anything like that in your life! The sky had every shade of color imaginable and ground below looked straight out of planet mars – red with craters, volcanoes and smoke! Never imagined a landscape like this existed on earth and that too so easily accessible! The sunrise took my breath away.

Tip: At the view point, if you are facing the railing, Bromo will be on your 2’O clock, so try to get a spot on the right front.
Bromo Sunrise

Sunrise – Mt Batuk (in front) Mt Bromo (center with smoke coming out), Mt Sumeru (Back)

Tearing ourselves away from the sight we got back to our Jeep, went for breakfast and then post a short nap (we hadn’t slept in 2 nights!) and lunch (finally some hot food!!), we took a short trip to Madakaripura waterfalls. It is a nice short hike of about 4km and totally worth it. The cool water of the falls rejuvenated us to prepare for another sleepless night!

Madakaripura waterfalls

                                                                   Madakaripura waterfalls

From the waterfall, we rushed back to Cemoro Lawang (the village near Bromo) and found a secluded spot on the side of an off beaten road overlooking Bromo to see the sunset.

Cemoro Lawang (Village near Bromo)

                                                                  Cemoro Lawang (Village near Bromo)

It was a stunning sunset and an even more stunning milky way!

waiting for sunset

Mt Bromo (left) & Mt Batuk (right) – waiting for sunset

Star Trail at Mt Bromo

Star Trail at Mt Bromo. (Image Copyright Avinash G Bahirvani)

Day 2 – Yet another sunrise!

We still hadn’t had our fill of the mountain, so reached our hotel post-midnight and ventured out again at 3am to climb Mt Bromo itself and see the sunrise from there! It was a spine-chilling experience. We started climbing at 4am, not a soul around, could hear the mountain rumbling (it’s an active volcano!) and it was pitch dark, even our torches and headlamps did not help. But we marched on onto what felt like a path through volcanic ash till we reached some cemented stairs and that’s when we knew that we were on the right track!

Smoke coming out of Mt Bromo crater

                                                               Smoke coming out of Mt Bromo crater

The 200 stairs to the summit started getting progressively harder, not because we were carrying a lot of stuff or were unfit, but because the sulphur fumes made it very difficult for us to breathe. Though it took every iota of determination to reach the top, we were aptly rewarded by the view – We were on top of a roaring, smoke spewing volcano overlooking a layer of clouds and when the sun finally emerged through that layer of cloud, it turned the sky into every shade of red, blue and purple. If the previous sunrise figuratively took our breath away this one both literally and figuratively blew our minds!

Sunrise from Mt Bromo crater looking at Mt Batuk

                                                            Sunrise from Mt Bromo crater looking at Mt Batuk

I have a policy of never going back to the same place again, as there is so much to see in the world and so little time. I am definitely going to make an exception for Mt Bromo & Mt Ijen.

Mt Batuk next to Mt Bromo

Mt Bromo climb up                                                                                          Mt Bromo climb up

Grassland within the caldera
Grassland within the caldera

Author: Ishani Niyogi

Ishani loves to travel and loves to eat, doesn’t know in which order though. Having traveled to 30+ countries and eaten everything from scorpions to horses and snails to shark, she still feels there is so much to explore in the world and not enough time, hence she has never traveled to the same country, on a holiday, twice. If she is not on a holiday, she is planning her next holiday!

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