To visit Mount Bromo, the active volcano in East Java, Indonesia, you will encounter the Tengger Sand Sea. Mount Bromo has a caldera of 10 kilometres surrounded by a vast plain.
If you end up deciding, visiting it for free and without a tour, you will have the time of your life walking through it. To get to Bromo’s crater edge you must cross this landscape of fine volcanic sand.
As a vegan, I strong campagn for responsible animal tourism and I disencourage anyone from taking a ride from one of the horses there. Walking is healthier, kinder and so much fun. I can’t count how many pictures and videos I did of my feet, touching the mixture of sand and ashes. It was definitely an experience I will cherish till the end of my days.
When you put your foot on the ground you will see fine sand rising up around your foot, creating a translucent blanket of dust. Its also really cool to feel hollow spaces underground, that were created by lava.
To have the place to yourself and avoid the crowds, climb the volcano late morning or in the afternoon because all the organized trips go early in the morning.
Make sure you take all the time you need to cross the sea of sand, enjoy the moon like landscanpe, and climb to to top of the volcano.
Visiting the Mount Bromo, contemplate the sunrise or sunset, can be done easily for free and without a tour.
First, you need to reach the small town of Cemoro Lawang, find a room and overnight there. If you arrive during the day, I recommend visiting the Bromo crater that day, after the tours left.
I woke up at 3.20am and left to the hike to the top of Mount Penanjakan, by myself, and could be easier. The trek uphill is about 5km long so you need some good 2 hours.
It’s important to have a good torch, proper shoes and warm clothes, its frizzing cold during the night, remember that you are at 2,217 meters above sea level.
Hiking to the top of Mount Penanjakan during the night
First, you walk on the concrete road for half of the journey and then you go into a rocky mountain trail, The hike is not difficult but you need to have a reasonable level of fitness. Its deep dark but using the offline map app – maps-me makes the tasks pretty easy, as long as you have a light source with you.
It’s amazing to stop occasionally to look at the starts here, the visibility is just superb.
On the day I did my hike, I only pass through a couple of small moving light points from other travellers. This is not the same route taken by the jeeps (tours) and there are not many people climbing up this way.
After a while, I reached a viewing point that I liked (you will find many) and waited there for the sunrise. Slowly started to get brighter and brighter… It was magical, such a stunning and magnificent view over the caldera with Semeru volcano in the background.
I contemplated the sunrise wrapped in a blanket and stayed a bit longer having breakfast (that I carried in my backpack) looking at the views.
The weather was getting warmer and I went down to town, sat for a coffee, rest and finish an amazing morning.
Going close to a volcano was for a long time on my bucket list, and I finally had the opportunity to visit one in Indonesia. My favourite one was by far the Mount Bromo.
If you are planning to visit Mount Bromo, remember that you can do it for free, and without joining a tour. Here is how to do it.
How to get to Cemoro Lawang
Wherever you are in Java you need to head to Probolinggo. That can be done by bus, taxi or train.
In Proboling they are quite good at scamming tourists, so be careful and go to the bus station. Don’t believe if they say that there are no buses and that the only way to go is by joining a tour.
Outside the bus station, you have the minivans (called Bemos) that will take you to Cemoro Lawang (a village right next to the crater of Mount Bromo).
Unfortunately, there is only one option here. These minivans don’t have a schedule neither depart regularly so you need to wait for sufficient passengers to arrive. They charge Rp.35.000 ($2.50) if the bemo is full with 15 people, but they are happy to leave early without waiting to have 15 people as long as you pay the difference.
The ride from Probolinggo to Cemoro Lawang takes approximately 1 hour and a half always up the hill. Sometimes felt like the minivan wasn’t going to be able to go further up, but in the end, we arrived safely.
To go back to Probolinggo it’s the same route you came, find a bemo in the centre of the village, and wait for more people to arrive.
At Cemoro Lawang
Once at Cemoro Lawang its easy to find a place to spend the night, it felt that everyone in town had a room to rent. Just make sure you have hot water because it’s really cold there, and you will not want to take a cold shower when is 5ºC outside. Cemoro Lawang is a village high up in the mountains, 2217m above sea level, so you can imagine how chilly it is.
Cemoro Lawang doesn’t have great food at all neither accommodation options, and because of the lack of offer, the prices are a bit higher than in other places in Java. We paid Rp.200,000 ($14) per night for a basic mouldy room. We didn’t struggled to find plant-based options.
How to Hike Mount Bromo for Free, Without Using a Tour or a Guide
It can’t be easier to visit the Bromo for free. Just find the passage next to hotel Cemara Indah. Walk through a narrow passage near the hotel, and this way you don’t pay any entrance fee (Rp.350,000~$25). The path is quite straightforward, you go down the path, cross the sea of sand and then go up the volcano. It took me around 1hour and a half to get to the crater.
I recommend using the free offline map app – maps.me so you don’t get lost.
Both crossing the sea of sand and peeking inside the crater was definitely an experience of a lifetime.
How to avoid the crowds
Mount Bromo isn’t the highest peak of Indonesia, but it is very popular among touristand locals. If you don’t plan your visit carefully, you might end having your experience ruined.
Avoiding the tours is the key and the only way to have a nice time exploring the area. So keep in mind that all tours go to see the sunrise first and then visit the volcano, so from late morning and afternoon the place is empty, there will be close to no people around it, and you can thoroughly enjoy your walk on the moon like landscape in the company of the wind and some clowns.
Be kind to all kinds
You will get a lot off offers for a horse ride up to the volcano, please don’t use the poor horses to transport you, they look sick, malnourished and tired. These horses are severely mistreated, and they are too small for riding up slopes with people on their backs… Please don’t support animal abuse 🙏 be kind 💚